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First Aid for Back Problems

Back Strain

This is a common condition caused by over-exerting the muscles that surround the spinal column. The most common sites affected are the lower back and neck.

You will notice:

  • Complaints of general aching in the affected area.

  • Increased discomfort when using the back muscles, particularly with leaning forward and twisting actions. Often this type of back problem is recurrent and the first-aider can only provide relief from the worst discomfort.
  • Help the casualty lie down in the most comfortable position.

  • Give simple painkillers like paracetamol. Never exceed the recommended dose.

  • Apply a covered hot water bottle to the affected area.

  • If the discomfort has not greatly diminished after 1 hour, seek medical advice.
When to call a doctor:
  • If the casualty's back has 'locked'.

  • The pain is very severe and the casualty cannot move.

  • Painkillers and rest do not provide relief within 6 hours.

Lifting Injuries

Lifting injuries are very common. It is often more distressing than back strain and in a significant number of cases it is likely to cause increased back damage.

You will notice:

  • Excruciating pain and discomfort.

  • Restricted movement; the casualty will have a tendency to walk slowly, stoop, or hold her back.


  • Help the casualty rest comfortably, preferably on a firm chair.

  • Call for assistance and seek medical help.


This usually follows a minor road accident. A sudden flicking of the head backward and forward causes it, this causes overstretching of the neck muscles, and they then go into spasm.

You will notice:

  • There will be a complaint of neck stiffness and discomfort that becomes progressively more severe.

  • The casualty may hold her head or neck in one position.

  • There may be a tingling feeling in the arms.


  • Help the casualty to support the head and neck in a comfortable position.

  • Seek medical advice.

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