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.
Help & Resources
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.