​​​​​​Living with back or neck pain

It is estimated that around eight in ten people will be affected by back pain at some point in their lives.  Neck pain is also very common. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to help yourself to recovery from these painful conditions​

Back pain

Back pain may be triggered by bad posture while sitting or standing, bending awkwardly, or lifting incorrectly. It's not generally caused by a serious condition. 

Backache is most common in the lower back (lumbago), although it can be felt anywhere along your spine, from your neck down to your hips. 

In most cases back pain will improve in a few weeks or months, although some people experience long-term pain or pain that keeps coming back. 

Neck pain 
Neck pain or a stiff neck is a common problem and generally nothing to worry about. 
You can get a painful or stiff neck if you sleep in an awkward position, use a computer for a prolonged period of time, or strain a muscle because of bad posture.

Anxiety and stress can also sometimes cause tension in your neck muscles, which can lead to pain in your neck. 

You can normally manage your symptoms at home by following the advice below.

Managing back and neck pain at home

For most back and neck pain conditions, the advice is generally the same: carry on with your normal daily activities, keep active, and take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve the symptoms. 

Activity can range from walking around the house to walking to the shops. You will have to accept some discomfort but avoid anything that causes a lot of pain. Going back to work will also help you return to a normal pattern of activity, and it can distract you from the pain.

Regular exercise and being active on a daily basis will help keep your back strong and healthy. Activities such as walking, swimming and yoga are popular choices. The important thing is to choose an enjoyable activity that you can benefit from without feeling pain.

The following apps can help you manage your muscle or back problems.
You can also try the following: 
use hot or cold compression packs – you can buy these from your local pharmacy, or a bag of frozen vegetables and a hot water bottle will work just as well.
check your sleeping arrangements. Too many pillows can cause neck pain. A poor mattress or cramped sleeping position can result in a painful back  

And, remember, common causes of back pain include being overweight, poor posture and stress.  If you can address the underlying causes of your back pain, you may be able to prevent further episodes.

When to see the GP

Back pain: If you are still in pain after six weeks  

Neck pain: If the pain or stiffness does not improve after a few weeks, or if you cannot control the pain using ordinary painkillers 

Your GP will examine you and ask some questions to help identify any underlying condition. They may also prescribe a stronger painkiller, such as codeine, to take with your usual over-the-counter painkillers.
Depending on the diagnosis, your GP may also refer you to a specialist service such as the Croydon Community Integrated Musculoskeletal Service.

Back and neck care in Croydon

The Croydon Community Integrated Musculoskeletal Service (CIMS) is an integrated and streamlined service that is designed to offer patients a single point of access to specialists offering care for musculoskeletal conditions (which affect the bones, joints and muscles). 

This service is designed to offer you a quicker and more efficient service. It aims to ensure that patients see the right clinician and get the right service – first time around.
If you are referred to the CIMS you can expect to see a named physiotherapist who will offer you education and clinical advice, and care in a group setting, so you can benefit from the support and advice of other patients with similar or related problems.

The CIMS team manages and cares for patients until the point of discharge, arranges all physiotherapy, education groups, rehabilitation classes, imaging and consultant management.
The service has hub sites at Croydon University Hospital and Purley War Memorial Hospital, but also offers appointments at six community locations across the borough.