Back pain, particularly lower back pain, is the most common form of pain. Chronic back pain is a leading cause of disability worldwide and one of the most common reasons for people of working age to drop out of the workforce. Most back pain is non-specific in nature (i.e. a direct structural cause cannot be found upon investigation). Back pain is not usually caused by the way bones, discs, ligaments etc. interact.
In a small number of cases, certain presentations may indicate more serious pathology. Symptoms include pain, spasms and/or stiffness in the back, and pain, tingling and/or numbness in the legs or feet.
The most effective way to manage chronic back pain is with multidisciplinary pain management combined with supported self-management. Appropriate medication in an acute situation, pain education and physiotherapy can all play a role, and staying active with daily exercise is essential. Surgery for back pain is not recommended and may lead to worsening of the condition.
Australia’s first national care standard for low back pain was released by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. The new standard provides a road map for healthcare practitioners to help patients manage low back pain episodes early and reduce their chance of ongoing problems. Painaustralia’s Mary-Lynne Cochrane was part of the working group that helped to develop the standard.