Ask the expert: What is chronic back pain and how do I deal with it?

Musculoskeletal problems including back pain, neck and upper limb problems are the second most common reason for not turning up to work, behind the common cough and cold. Registered Chiropractor, Emma Hellard explains more about how to diagnose and deal with chronic back pain

Senior woman suffering from low back pain. Chiropractic, osteopathy, Physiotherapy. Alternative medicine, pain relief concept.

Suffering with back pain? You are not alone

Back ache, pain and discomfort are extremely common and something most of us have experienced at varying levels of seriousness. Most cases are termed ‘simple’ or ‘mechanical’ back pain. But how do we know when it is considered chronic and what can we do about it?

At the most common level, simple back pain isn’t related to any serious underlying condition although it can involve muscles, joints and ligaments. It can be brought on by consistent poor posture or muscular tension. Wear and tear during the natural ageing process also falls into this category as the shock absorbing pads between the bones in your back naturally narrow. This can cause stiffness and affect mobility.

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Less commonly, nerves in your back can become irritated, compressed or trapped. This carries symptoms such as persistent pins and needles, tingling, numbness and weakness in your legs and feet. Disc bulges or wear and tear can lead to sciatica – which is pain spreading down the leg.

All cases of back pain are at best uncomfortable and at worst debilitating. According to NHS
Choices, over 28 million adults in the UK suffer with chronic back pain, a term they use to reflect a condition that has lasted for more than three months. 62% of these are aged over 75 which is not unexpected. However, recent British Chiropractic Association statistics revealed that the Midlands had the highest percentage of back and neck pain sufferers under the age of 30!

the Midlands had the highest percentage of back and neck pain sufferers under the age of 30

There are many things that we can do to protect our backs. Posture is key and it’s quite an eye opener when a professional corrects our position which can feel quite alien and awkward if we have developed a bad posture over many years. With today’s increasingly sedentary lifestyle we can inadvertently spend a lot of time hunched over a computer during the day and slumped on the sofa during the evenings. Good posture can be difficult to relearn but it is essential to avoid future health issues and ongoing pain. Keeping active is key; it is important to avoid prolonged periods spent sitting, you should break every 20 – 30 minutes.

How we approach bending, lifting and exercise also impacts on the health of our backs. A good exercise coach will advise as you develop routines so you don’t fall into bad habits. If you have a physical job, again it’s important to take advice on how you perform any regular tasks you undertake to ensure you are not aggravating your spine. You may not notice it at first but we guarantee that any consistent irregular movements will manifest themselves in discomfort at some point. The UK government’s Health and Safety Executive ( ) estimated that 8.9 million work days were lost in 2017 due to musculoskeletal disorders.

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If you experience back problems of any sort, at any level, we recommend you see a chiropractor for advice and treatment. A chiropractor understands the importance of gentle, non-invasive treatment to balance your body and realign your spine and joints. It also provides you with the opportunity to discuss your individual work and lifestyle circumstances and talk through your symptoms.

No one is immune to back pain and our busy lifestyles mean that any early warning signs can often go unnoticed. However, with the help of a health care professional back problems can be easily managed. A good chiropractor can provide you with relief from back pain and, longer-term, can give you effective solutions and strategies to avoid future discomfort.


Emma Hellard is fully registered with the General Chiropractic Council and a member of the British Chiropractic Association and Royal College of Chiropractors. Emma is also owner of Stafford Chiropractic Clinic.



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