Nuffield Health: put back pain behind you

Back pain or nerve pain affecting the arms or legs can affect anyone at any time of life, bringing misery to sufferers and seriously affecting their quality of life. Here, Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital offers advice on how to solve your spinal problems.

Affecting over 80 percent of us at some stage in our lives, back pain is the most common cause of absence from work in the UK. It could be the result of a slipped disc, arthritis of the spinal joints, repeated minor stresses, bone deterioration, or an injury. However, by reducing the stresses and strains on the spine during daily activities, the risk of developing back pain or limb pain from spinal nerve compression can be lessened. Therefore, it is important to be constantly aware of maintaining a good posture, both at home and at work.

Daily spinal health checklist:

• Be aware of your posture and ensure your spine is straight and well-balanced.

• Take time to improve core muscle tone, and set aside a few minutes each day for tensing exercises of your stomach, pelvic and back muscles.

• Good exercises for back muscles include swimming, walking, cycling and gentle keep-fit.

• Maintain a good body weight to avoid unnecessary strain on your spinal joints.

• Remember to use correct lifting techniques and distribute the weight evenly while carrying.

• Don’t bend when you could kneel or squat, and never stoop or bend over for prolonged periods, especially for lifting.

• If bending over or sitting for a long time, gently stretch backwards when standing up.

• Avoid sit ups, double leg lifts, and touching toes.

• Always warm up and stretch before sport, and cool down and stretch afterwards.

Many spinal problems can be prevented and some can be self-treated. However, when the symptoms do not settle, or worsen, then professional help and advice may be needed. Patients with persistent or progressive symptoms can benefit from a specialist assessment and diagnostic spinal MRI scanning with a view to offering physiotherapy, injection therapy, and pain management.

Mr Mark Nowell, a Consultant Spinal Neurosurgeon at Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, explains: “Degenerative changes to the spine are very common, and present in almost all adults. If a nerve is compressed, this can cause pain in the arm or leg. In the majority of cases, symptoms are mild or improve with conservative measures. This includes medication, physiotherapy, injection treatments, and education on core strengthening exercise and injury avoidance.

“Occasionally symptoms are severe, have a profound effect on quality of life, and do not respond to non-surgical treatments. In these patients, spinal surgery may provide the best route to pain relief and return to normal life. If we are confident that a compressed nerve is the pain generator, targeted microsurgical decompression of this nerve within an appropriate timeframe has excellent results, with greater than 80% success rate. Duration of symptoms is important, however – a recent study has shown that surgery has lower success rates if the nerve pain lasted over a year, so seeking treatment quickly after first developing symptoms could make a significant difference to a patient’s overall recovery.”

The spinal team at Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital provides comprehensive assessment and treatment for a range of spinal conditions, taking a multidisciplinary approach to ensure they find the right treatment pathway for each individual patient.

In addition to Mr Nowell, also available for consultation are fellow Consultant Neurosurgeons Mr Nitin Patel, Mr Nik Patel and Mr Neil Barua, and Consultant Orthopaedic Spinal Surgeons Mr Ian Harding, Mr Stephen Morris and Mr Michael Katsimihas. The team also includes specialist Consultants in Pain Medicine, Dr Gareth Greenslade and Dr Gaurav Chhabra, who offer non-surgical treatments, along with physiotherapists, radiologists and specialist nurses who ensure a smooth diagnosis and recovery.

If you’ve been suffering from back or neck pain and would like to book an appointment with one of our specialist Spinal Consultant Surgeons at Nuffield Health Bristol Hospital, call 0117 911 6062, or visit our website: