use hot or cold compression packs for short-term relief – you can buy these from your local pharmacy, or a hot water bottle and a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth will work just as well
Although it can be difficult, it helps if you stay optimistic and recognise that your pain should get better, as people who manage to stay positive despite their pain tend to recover quicker.
Getting help and advice
Back pain usually gets better on its own within a few weeks or months and you may not need to see a doctor or other healthcare professional.
But it’s a good idea to get help if:
the pain doesn’t start to improve within a few weeks
the pain stops you doing your day-to-day activities
the pain is very severe or gets worse over time
you’re worried about the pain or are struggling to cope
You can see your GP, who will ask about your symptoms, examine your back, and discuss possible treatments. They may refer you to a specialist doctor or a physiotherapist for further help.
Alternatively, you may want to consider approaching a physiotherapist directly. Some GESY physiotherapists accept appointments without a doctor’s referral, or you could choose to pay for private treatment.
Treatments from a specialist
Your GP, specialist or physiotherapist may recommend extra treatments if they don’t think your pain will improve with self-help measures alone.
These may include:
group exercise classes – where you’re taught exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve your posture
manual therapy – treatments such as manipulating the spine and massage, usually carried out by physiotherapists, chiropractors or osteopaths
psychological support, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – this can be a useful part of treatment if you’re struggling to cope with the pain
Some people choose to see a therapist for manual therapy without seeing their GP first. If you want to do this, you’ll usually need to pay for private treatment.
Surgery is generally only considered in the small number of cases where back pain is caused by a specific medical condition.
Causes of back pain
Often it’s not possible to identify the cause of back pain. Doctors call this “non-specific” back pain.
Sometimes the pain may be a result of an injury such as a sprain or strain, but often it occurs for no apparent reason. It’s very rarely caused by anything serious.
Occasionally back pain can be due to a medical condition such as:
a slipped (prolapsed) disc – where a disc of cartilage in the spine presses on a nearby nerve
sciatica – irritation of the nerve that runs from the pelvis to the feet
These conditions tend to cause additional symptoms – such as numbness, weakness or a tingling sensation – and they’re treated differently to non-specific back pain.
Preventing back pain
It’s difficult to prevent back pain, but the following tips may help reduce your risk:
do regular back exercises and stretches – your GP or a physiotherapist may be able to advise you about exercises to try
stay active – doing regular exercise can help keep your back strong; adults are advised to do 150 minutes of exercise a week
avoid sitting for too long when driving or at work
take care when lifting – read some safe lifting tips
check your posture when sitting, using computers and watching television – find out how to sit correctly and tips for laptop users
ensure the mattress on your bed supports you properly
lose weight through a combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise if you’re overweight – being overweight can increase your risk of developing back pain
When to get immediate medical advice
You should contact your GP or GESY immediately if you have back pain and:
numbness or tingling around your genitals or buttocks
loss of bladder or bowel control
a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
unexplained weight loss
a swelling or a deformity in your back
it doesn’t improve after resting or is worse at night
it started after a serious accident, such as after a car accident
These problems could be a sign of something more serious and need to be checked urgently.
Burns are assessed by how seriously your skin is damaged and which layers of skin are affected. Your skin has three layers:
the epidermis – the outer layer of skin
the dermis – the layer of tissue just beneath, which contains blood capillaries, nerve endings, sweat glands and hair follicles
the subcutaneous fat, or subcutis – the deeper layer of fat and tissue
There are four main types of burn, which tend to have a different appearance and different symptoms:
superficial epidermal burn – where the epidermis is damaged; your skin will be red, slightly swollen and painful, but not blistered
superficial dermal burn – where the epidermis and part of the dermis are damaged; your skin will be pale pink and painful, and there may be small blisters
deep dermal or partial thickness burn – where the epidermis and the dermis are damaged: this type of burn makes your skin turn red and blotchy; your skin may be dry or moist, and become swollen and blistered, and it may be very painful or painless
full thickness burn – where all three layers of skin (the epidermis, dermis and subcutis) are damaged; the skin is often burnt away and the tissue underneath may appear pale or blackened, while the remaining skin will be dry and white, brown or black with no blisters, and the texture of the skin may also be leathery or waxy
Preventing burns and scalds
Many severe burns and scalds affect babies and young children. Examples of things you can do to help reduce the likelihood of your child having a serious accident at home include:
keeping your child out of the kitchen whenever possible
testing the temperature of bath water using your elbow before you put your baby or toddler in the bath
keeping matches, lighters and lit candles out of young children’s sight and reach
keeping hot drinks well away from young children
Read more about preventing burns and scalds.
If you need advice about a burn or scald, you can:
An infected wound can usually be successfully treated with a short course of antibiotics.
When to go to A&E
Go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department as soon as possible if:
you cannot stop the bleeding
you’re bleeding from an artery – blood from an artery comes out in spurts with each beat of the heart, and is bright red and usually hard to control
you experience persisting or significant loss of sensation near the wound or you’re having trouble moving any body parts
you have received a severe cut to the face – you may require urgent treatment to prevent scarring
you have received a cut to the palm of your hand and it looks infected – these types of infection can spread quickly
there’s a possibility a foreign body is still inside the wound
the wound is very large or the injury has caused a lot of tissue damage
In A&E, your wound will be examined to determine whether there’s any risk of infection. You may need a booster injection to prevent tetanus, and your wound may be closed with stitches, strips or special glue before a dressing is applied.
If your wound is at risk of infection, it won’t usually be closed because this may trap any infection inside. Instead, it will be packed with a non-sticky dressing before being covered with a protective dressing until it’s safe to close.
Migraines are quite common and if not properly managed can result in significant effect on patient’s lives. It is thus important if you suffer from migraines to know what to do to prevent your migraines and how to ease your symptoms.
It always helps to keep a headache diary to show your personal doctor (please see below). If you are suffering from more than 1 episode of migraine a week please speak to your doctor as you may need prophylaxis. For example riboflavin 400mg which is a type of vitamin B can help prevent migraines. Looking out for trigger factors is also important (see below).
For acute migraine the basis of treatment is use of simple analgesia (i.e paracetamol) especially NSAIDS such as ibuprofen (neurofen) early on (if not contraindicated i.e asthma, stomach/kidney issues), and if it is not working then to use a triptan which helps ease your pain within 30 minutes.
IBS is a common disorder which affects the large bowel causing bloating, wind, abdominal pain and constipation/diarrhoea. The underlying cause is unknown but sometimes symptoms of IBS may result after a previous gastrointestinal infection. Control of triggers such as anxiety and dietary factors (see FODMAP diet below) is very important.
It must be noted that IBS symptoms may mimic more sinister causes such as ovarian or bowel cancer so it is important to see your doctor to discuss and exclude red flags (i.e weight loss, iron deficiency anaemia). Please beware that a diagnosis of IBS should not be made if your symptoms are recent and you are above the age of 50-55.
Haemorhoids are small lumps inside or outside your anus. These are cause by vascular cushions which are pushed out when straining to pass stool. It is a common occurrence given Western diet is constipation inducing. You should not be alarmed as they are benign. The treatment is to use over the counter creams preferably with steroid in it to shrink the haemorrhoid but also to soften your stool using laxatives. If you have any fever, not getting better after 7 days, recurrent or any concern see your personal doctor.
Loosing weight seems daunting however if you follow certain basic principles then it is achievable. It would make you feel much better and be much healthier.
If you had already excluded issues with your thyroid gland (i.e. hypothyroidism symptoms include weight gain, cold intolerance, constipation, fatigue, problems with periods) then weight loss can be achieved through calorie restriction. Exercise does help however with no calorie restriction it will still be very difficult to lose weight.
Please see below for different applications which may help identifywhat your calorie intake should be and how to monitor it.
As UNIC PCC we hope in the near future we have a dietitian offering their services at the centre. We also have a lifestyle department spearheaded by Dr Maria Cecilia Mosquera (US trained Consultant) who will be organising different seminars including how to lose weight.