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Back and joint pain

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Many people suffer from pain in their backs, shoulders, neck, hips and knees from time to time. In most cases this pain does not need medical assistance. This page aims to provide you with advice and guidance to help you benefit from self-care of your aches and pains.

Advice and exercises

Most people do not need to see a doctor, and will get better without a trained physiotherapist, but can benefit from exercises.

Doctors and Physiotherapists in Bristol recommend the following links for advice and guidance on self-care:

Sheffield Aches and Pains
The Sheffield Aches and Pains websites have lots of advice and information to help you treat your aches and pains at home. The websites are dedicated to each of the following topics:

Leaflets and guides
Arthritis Research UK and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy have produced a variety of useful leaflets featuring exercises to help you combat the following common aches and pains:

Keeping fit and eating well

Cover for Start Active, Stay Active - physical activity chart

Start Active, Stay Active - physical activity chart

Physical activity benefits for adults, including recommendations to help you get fit.  

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Back pain myths busted

Leading experts shed some light on back pain. 

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When to see a doctor

If you are worried about your pain, not responding to self-care treatment or are unable to cope you should see your GP or a Physiotherapist. You should seek urgent medical help if you have back pain and any of the following:

  • a high temperature (fever)                                     
  • unexplained weight loss                                       
  • a swelling or a deformity in your back
  • it’s constant and doesn't ease after lying down
  • pain in your chest
  • a loss of bladder or bowel control
  • an inability to pass urine
  • numbness around your genitals, buttocks or back passage
  • it's worse at night
  • it started after an accident, such as after a car accident.

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Understanding and managing your pain

There is a big difference between short-term (acute) and long-term (persistent) pain even though they might feel the same.

Short-term (acute) pain
Short-term pain tends to be more associated with injury to the joints, muscles, ligaments and nerves. For example, if you sprain your ankle it is likely you will feel pain associated with the bruising and swelling. This is the body telling you that you need to reduce your activity for a short time.

Usually this pain will settle as your body heals because the affected part no longer needs protecting. Healing usually takes less than three months.

Long-term (persistent) pain
Long-term pain lasts longer than acute pain and often does not indicate ongoing injury even though we may feel it does. Instead the pain is less to do with injury to our bodies and more to do with the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).

All pain, short and long-term, is produced by the brain but this does not mean the pain is not real. With long-term pain it's like the volume knob on our pain system has been left turned up like a radio stuck on loud.

This video gives some ideas on how to start 'turning the volume' down again:

Useful links:

We have chosen the external web links on this page because Doctors and Physiotherapists in Bristol recommend them to their patients. Exercise leaflets from Arthritis Research UK are beneficial to people with general back and joint pain, not just people with Arthritis.

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