What is backache?

Backache is a pain in the back caused by degenerative changes, injury, swelling or rarely, cancer. Usually the lower part of the back is involved and the pain worsens when a person bends forward. The muscles of the back may become weak and tender. Backache because of age-related changes may radiate to the legs due to pressure on the spinal nerves.

How is it caused?
Backaches usually indicate a strain of the back muscles. There are nearly 200 muscles in the back that maintain the upright posture. The triggering event could be the carrying of a heavy weight, lifting from an awkward position, or overexertion of the back muscles. A direct injury to the back or degenerative changes in the bones of the spinal cord, due to age, could also cause backache.
How long does the pain last?
The pain and discomfort usually take a couple of weeks to disappear. Recurrences are common and require a combination of rest, medicines and physiotherapy.
What is the treatment?
Pain relief medicines like ibuprofen or paracetamol, reduce the swelling and are usually given three to four times a day. Local application of heat by a hot water bottle or heating pad helps to relieve pain. Physiotherapy in the form of diathermy or ultrasound may help in pain relief.

Complete bed rest is not required but exercise and exertion must be avoided until completely well. The sleeping position that is most comfortable is usually on the side. The mattress or bedding should provide a firm support or should be reinforced with a board.

How can backaches be prevented?
The best way to prevent backaches is to care for the back by keeping the back muscles in excellent physical condition. This requires back and abdominal exercises as a daily regiment. Sit-ups, leg raises, flattening the back and tucking the legs to the chest strengthen the muscles. These exercises should be avoided during active back pain, but the stretching exercises can be continued.
How should things be lifted?

  • Heavy objects must be held close to the body rather than away from it.
  • The feet must be about shoulder-width apart. A wide, solid base of support is important. Holding the feet too close together will be unstable; too far apart will make movement difficult.
  • Legs must be bent at the knees while lifting weights from floor level and the back must be kept straight. The stomach muscles must be pulled in. This will support the back in a good lifting position and will help prevent excessive force on the spine.
  • Push up with the legs. The legs are much stronger than the back muscles.
  • If an object is too heavy, or awkward in shape get someone to help you lift.


  • Sudden and awkward movements while holding something heavy must be avoided.
  • The back should never be bent to pick something up.
  • Don’t twist or bend. A person should face in the direction he or she is walking.