Maggie Hayward   email:
tel: 020 8337 4410   


Back pain can be excruciating, debilitating, isolating cause, stress, and lack of confidence, loss of independence and often depression. The following symptoms are extremely common, are not life threatening and if dealt with correctly can be kept under control. (see Pain/Self Management)

Frequently heard complaints are:

LOWER BACK: – dull ache – excruciating makes me feel sick – I’ve gone lop-sided – shooting pains in my legs (usually targets one) – feel like I’ ve been stabbed – every movement causes so much pain if frightens me – it’s sitting, it’s so painful - walking kills me, I can only take tiny steps - If I move I’m sure my back will break – they say it’s my back but my knees hurt – the whole bottom of my back feels like a solid block – the pain takes my breath away – my back feels really sore - I can’t sleep because I can’t get comfortable -Sciatica - the list is endless.

UPPER BACK: ( in addition to above) my shoulders and neck ache – I get disabling headaches.


Flare ups can bring on panic, causing muscles to tighten which in turn leads to increased tension. This will prolong the flare-up. Worry and panic serve no useful purpose, so first, calm down!

OK, the panic is over - what next? Try putting some ice on the back by wrapping a gel pack or peas in a tea towel, and placing it on your back. Remember the tea towel though, to avoid ice burns. Do this for 10 minutes at a time, and then do some gentle stretching.

Depending how far along you are in your recovery, cut down all your exercises by half, and keep them at that level for a couple of days - after that, start to gradually build them up again .

Don't stop everything. That's the old way of dealing with a flare-up. Just cut back on what you do - either by a half or a third.

Relaxation is one of the best ways of getting over a flare-up. Remember you don't have to lie down to put relaxation skills into action. It is always a good idea to increase the amount of relaxation when you are in a flare-up.

Make a plan of action for how you are going to get back to your normal routine. Perhaps you could return to your stretching and exercise. Think about what caused the flare-up. Have you been doing too much? Could you have said "No!" to doing something.

Don't blame yourself, we are all learning, including all those who have been on the Think Back Self Management Programme. Please also be patient with yourself - would you scold a child because they are not learning something fast enough?

Don't forget to reflect how you dealt with the flare-up and reward yourself - or as I say "Don't forget to buy yourself an ice cream from time to time." Learning to manage pain can be made fun if you want it to be. Today you are in charge of your pain - not the other way round!