Back Pain Relief

Posted on: 30 July 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Pure Sports Medicine's Director of Performance Steve Nance offers tips and advice on back pain relief.

John Miller asks:

Unfortunately the bottom line is that as you age you are more and more likely to suffer from back problems. 

From the age of 30 people’s backs start degenerating and this is particularly noticeable in people who have played a lot of sport as they are more likely to develop wear and tear in their discs.  The important thing is to keep your lower abdominals and back muscles strong so that the lumbar part of your spine remains reasonably solid. 

Your posture is vital at work.  You could easily be slumping at work which can cause pain in the spaces in between the vertebrae.  This can be alleviated by getting a good chair for work and it would also be very beneficial for you to start a stretching programme or something with a lot of static stretching, like Pilates or Yoga, to ensure that the lumbar spine stays flexible and isn’t tight. 

Your muscles might be going into spasm due to poor spinal alignment so if the pain continues I would recommend going to see a qualified physiotherapist or osteopath who will be able to assess you properly. 

Sportsmen often have poor spinal alignment, especially if they have played a one-sided sport which can lead to a slight pelvic tilt or a difference in leg length, an old knee or ankle injury from playing rugby could potentially have put out your alignment.

You asked about using gels and creams but the majority of these won’t help as they don’t travel below the subcutaneous level and so won’t reach the sight of the pain. 

When people stop playing it’s vital that they keep up a sensible exercise programme which they should continue all the way through their life. 

Finally acupuncture can offer a lot of people relief from their lower back pain but it won’t assess the cause of pain.

I played rugby for over 20 years for my local club in Dorset.

Although I wasn’t exactly injury prone I did have the occasional pull and strain but nothing too serious.

I retired about 15 years ago and my lower back has started giving me some grief when I’m at work.  It’s the lower area and only really pains me when I’m sitting up straight in an office chair.

Is this down to my rugby career or is it from poor posture and general wear and tear on the muscles?  Is there anyway I can improve it? Or are there any gels or creams I could rub in to ease the pain or prevent the pain?

Steve advises:

Back pain is common and the largest single cause of sickness absence in the UK. Although it can be very painful, it is normally not serious.

Lower back pain, also known as lumbago, affects 7 out of 10 people at some time in their lives. Low back pain means a pain, or ache, anywhere on your back, in between the bottom of the ribs and the top of the legs.

The pain can come on suddenly, slowly or be the direct result of a fall or injury.

If you would like to ask any of Pure Sports Medicine's various injury, health and performance experts a question, email us at or leave a comment in the 50connect forums.

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