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Back Pain

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Summary

Back pain is extremely common amongst people of all ages and backgrounds and is usually characterised as stiffness, tension or an ache in or around the upper or lower back. Often the source of discomfort is related to the muscles, tendons, capsules and ligaments which surround the spine or up or down the kinetic chain and with appropriate care it will usually subside on its own within a couple of weeks or even days. However in some cases back pain can also be a symptom of an underlying condition which requires medical attention, or long-term management.

Active Release Techniques, Musculoskeletal and Fascia Manipulation coupled with appropriate exercises can generally help to ease chronic back pain.

Quick facts

Extremely common
Low difficulty to treat

Did you know?

It is estimated that 70–90% of people will suffer from lower back pain in some form at some point in their lives

source: Australian Institute of Health & Wellness (AIHW)

The spine is one of the most complex structures in the human body, made up of a network of bones, discs, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerve roots. It is made up of three sections, including:

Cervical Spine (the ‘neck’): which starts at the base of the skull and contains 7 vertebrae
Thoracic Spine (the ‘upper back’): which is comprised of 12 vertebrae and is attached to the ribs
Lumbar Spine (the ‘lower back’): which contains 5 vertebrae and connects the spine to the pelvis

The spine also provides protection for the spinal cord, which is a core part of the central nervous system, responsible for relaying messages from the brain to the other parts of the human body. It is for this reason that severe back or neck injury can sometimes result in devastating conditions such as paraplegia, tetraplegia or quadriplegia.

In most cases back pain can be easily managed at home, through the use of hot and cold treatments, pain relief medications, adequate rest and a gentle exercise plan. It is recommended that you seek urgent medical attention if your back pain symptoms develop into issues with bladder or bowel control, numbness or weakness around the pelvic region or in the legs or severe, worsening pain.

Back pain can also be caused by chronic conditions affecting the bones, ligaments, discs, tendons and muscles surrounding the spine. Treatments like Active Release Techniques, Musculoskeletal and Fascia Manipulation coupled with appropriate exercises can help to alleviate long-term back pain caused by these types of conditions.

Risk factors for back pain

  • High stress levels
  • Lack of exercise
  • Slouching
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Smoking
  • Following inefficient training programmes
  • Obesity
  • Bad posture
  • Sitting for long periods of time
  • Driving for long distances
  • Pregnancy
  • Sufferers of depression

Other conditions which may cause back pain

Quite often back pain is not caused by the spine itself, but rather the muscles, joints and ligaments which surround it. Back pain can also be a symptom of anther more serious, or underlying medical condition – some of which may require urgent treatment.

Conditions which can cause back pain include:

  • Isthmic spondylolisthesis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Back muscle strain
  • Osteoporosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Structural problems
  • Sacroiliac Joint Disease
  • Lumbar herniated disc
  • Arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Other types of referred pain

Top tips for back care

  • maintain a healthy weight
  • remain aware of your posture at all times
  • get regular exercise
  • wear supportive footwear – particularly when exercising
  • try to reduce stress and tension
  • practice relation techniques and exercises
  • be careful when lifting and/or carrying heavy items
  • change your mattress if it is too hard or soft
  • avoid sudden movements that may injure the back

Effective treatment of back pain

There are several measures you can take at home to help ease back pain, including:

  • temporarily avoiding activities which place strain on the back (including sports)
  • using hot and/or cold packs
  • maintaining a gentle exercise routine
  • taking muscle relaxant and pain relief medications

For persistent back pain, physical therapies such as Active Release Techniques, Musculoskeletal and Fascia Manipulation coupled with appropriate exercises are known to help ease pain and aid recovery. In severe cases, surgery may also be required.


This page has been produced, reviewed and approved by:

Dr Shermain Wong

BAppSc (Chiropractic), Masters (Clinical Chiropractic)

Photo of Dr Shermain Wong

Dr Shermain Wong is a chiropractor at Jurmaine Health with expertise in general treatment and over 6 years experience.

With a Masters in Clinical Chiropractic from RMIT University, Shermain has provided chiropractic and movement rehabilitation services at international sporting competitions, professional dancers, professional football players and professional athletes.

At Jurmaine Health, she helps patients address and treat common musculoskeletal symptoms and conditions, including back pain, neck pain; shoulder pain; nerve pain, joint pain and many other conditions

She is a member of Sport Medicine Australia, College of Osteopathy and Chiropractic Association, Australian Association of Musculoskeletal Medicine and International Society of Clinical Rehabilitation Specialists.

With her experience in Sports Medicine and treating Sports Injuries, she is a sought after expert for professional athletes and sports clubs. She has worked with the Coburg Lions VFL club, Melbourne Ice Hockey Women, World Ironman Championships, Australia CrossFit Regionals and others.


This document was last updated and reviewed in May 2016.

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