Back Pain – Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Published November 19, 2019

Back Pain can be attributed to many factors for example age, muscle overuse, poor posture and lifting techniques. Understanding your back pain by identifying the cause and symptoms can help you to manage your pain effectively and identify which treatment is best for you.

Why do I have back pain?

Back pain is a very common complaint with an estimate of 1 in 6 Australians reported suffering with back pain in 2017-18. Most of the time, back pain gradually improves within 3 to 6 weeks whereas in some people it can develop into more persistent pain.

What is causing my back pain?

There are many causes of back pain. It might arise from problems with soft tissues of the back (muscles, ligaments or tendons), the bones (vertebrae), the discs in the back or neck or the nerves. 1,2

The following lifestyle factors can be attributed to aggravating or causing back pain 2,

  • Lack of exercise. A weak back or abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine
  • Sitting or standing for long periods
  • Poor posture – such as slouching in a chair or driving hunched over
  • Occupation – physically demanding jobs that require repetitive bending or lifting (such as construction work) may cause injury and so can jobs that require standing for long periods (such as hairdressing)
  • Emotional stress, which can lead to muscle tension
  • Being overweight as this puts added strain on the back
  • Sleeping on a soft or sagging mattress or sleeping on your stomach as these can lead to or aggravate back pain. Sleeping on the stomach changes the curvature of the spine and can put added stress on the back muscles

What are the symptoms of Back Pain?

Back pain can be felt in many ways depending on what is causing the pain and the location of the pain. Besides the pain or the ache that you may feel, you may have the following symptoms:2

  • Muscle aches
  • Limited flexibility and movement of the torso
  • Tenderness when pressure is applied to the spine

How do I treat back pain? How do I manage my back pain?

The aim when managing back pain is to reduce the pain, often using over-the-counter medications. However this may not change the underlying source of pain. Apart from pain relief medication, back pain can be relieved and prevented with lifestyle changes and non-medicated alternatives.

Lifestyle changes to help relieve back pain:

  • Exercise – Staying active with regular low-impact activities such as walking and swimming can increase muscle strength to support the spine. Seek help from a physiotherapist, or exercise physiologist who can tailor an individualized exercise program 2, 4
  • Maintain a healthy weight4
  • Take regular breaks when standing, sitting or driving for long periods. As a general rule, have a break every half hour by walking around or doing some stretches4
  • Be aware of your posture when you sit, stand and lift. Is your desk ergonomically sound? Do you need a footstool or lumbar support? When lifting heavy objects, make sure you squat down, hold the object as close as possible to your body and keep the back straight
Non-pharmacological management:
  • Physiotherapy – a physiotherapist can apply variety of treatments and teach exercises which can help support the back muscles and reduce pain
  • Acupuncture – has been shown to be well tolerated and effective in alleviating lower back pain in some people
  • Chiropractor – manual manipulation of the spine may help improve mobility and reduce stiffness, discomfort and pain 5
  • Massage – massage therapy can help alleviate tense muscles or spasms that may contribute to back pain 5
  • Try heat and cold packs to help with the temporary relief of back pain 2
  • For more Physical Therapy techniques for pain, see here

Over-the-counter medicines

Paracetamol and Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs such as ibuprofen are medicines which can be used to relieve back pain. Paracetamol is an analgesic and it is thought to relieve pain by blocking the ‘pain messengers’ called prostaglandins in the central nervous system.

Ibuprofen is commonly used to manage pain and inflammation associated with minor musculoskeletal disorders. The combination of paracetamol 500mg and ibuprofen 200mg in a convenient single tablet may improve tolerability by reducing the daily dose of the paracetamol and/or ibuprofen.6
For more information about Mersynofen, speak with your local pharmacist or call 1800 818 806.


Find out more here

  1. AIHW, Back Problems[accessed 25/09/19]
  2. Better Health, Back Pain
  3. Mayo Clinic, Back Pain – Treatment
  4. Australian Family Physician. Approach to low back pain – acupuncture [accessed 27/11/17]
  5. Medicine how [ accessed 28/11/17]
  6. Medicine how [accessed 29/11/17]