Self management is key to effective outcomes during acute and sub-acute back pain and improves the quality of life for patients with persistent pain. There are many good sources of information available to the patient that may be web based or through available literature from the surgery e.g. The Back Book (Roland M et al 2007), or pharmacies. If patients are reluctant to self-manage, especially if they have been referred for specialist management, it is important that they know part of their treatment in specialist pain centres will be self-management. From this the patient should be aware that:

  • most back pain is not due to any serious disease
  • the acute pain improves within days or a few weeks
  • what the patient does in the early stages is very important - rest for more than a day or two does not help and may actually prolong pain and disability
  • the sooner the patient gets back and resumes normal daily activities, the sooner the patient will feel better
  • to help the patient get back to normal daily activities, pain relief in the form of paracetamol is the simplest and safest pain killer, or the patient can use anti-inflammatory tablets like ibuprofen (unless contra-indicated)
  • an ice pack such as a bag of peas wrapped in a tea towel for 5-10 minutes will also help – there are some patients often prefer a hot water bottle, bath or a shower
  • X-rays and MRI scans will not help the patient recover from ordinary low back pain so unless the patient has had a serious spinal injury or surgery is required, it is unlikely that the doctor will send the patient for one – in fact, these tests can lead to chronicity
  • This video provides an introduction to back to work issues for patients with low back painhttp://www.paincommunitycentre.org/article/barriers-work-patients-low-back-pain
  • You may also find this video useful to share with your patients - Understanding Pain 5 minute video- GP Access and the Hunter Integrated Pain Service