Emergency Advice

The following advice is appropriate for anyone who is suffering from generalized back pain, neck pain or any kind of muscular pain that is due to tight aching muscles or a strain. However, if you are experiencing acute lower back pain with weakness or numbness in the legs, or a loss of bowel or bladder control, then it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

Whichever part of your body is affected, you will probably be experiencing one or both of the following symptoms: - restricted movement and pain in a specific area.  The two are often linked as certain movements elicit the onset of pain. Consequently, your body’s innate self preservation mechanism will kick in and restrict your range of movements so that you don’t continue to aggravate the affected area.

Specific Instructions for Most Common Emergencies


If an area is hot and inflamed your GP may well advise you to take anti-inflammatory medication that can either be bought over the counter or prescribed for a stronger dosage.  If you follow this advice you need to be aware of the pitfalls of taking painkilling medication and then continuing with activities that may still aggravate your problem without you being fully aware of doing so.  Pain is the body’s way of communicating that something is not right.


You need to give the affected area a chance to rest and recover in as neutral a position as possible so that you are not placing any further burden on the area.

Back & Neck Pain

If you are experiencing lower back pain then it is advisable to lie on your back with pillows under your legs, or to lie on your side with a pillow between your knees.  For neck pain the neck must be supported by pillows or rolled up towels so that the area is supported in a neutral non-weight bearing position.

Ice and Heat

When you first have an injury, blood rushes in to the damaged area – this is part of the inflammatory response.  This onset can be coupled with heat and swelling in the affected area and it may well feel to you that applying heat to an area is soothing and of benefit. But this may well aggravate the problem as it prolongs the inflammation.

As a rule of thumb you should use an ice pack for the first 48 hours after an injury.

Wrap an ice-pack, frozen peas or ice cubes in a tea towel and apply to the area for 10 minutes at a time at half-hourly intervals.  This can reduce inflammation, alleviate spasm and generally accelerate the healing process. It can also numb some of the pain.

Once the acute pain has subsided a little you can move onto hot and cold therapy. For this you’ll need a hot pack or hot water bottle and a cold pack as described earlier.   Apply the heat for 3 minutes. Remove the heat pack and immediately follow with the cold pack for 1 minute.  You repeat this process 3 times, alternating between 3 minutes hot and 1 minute cold. (So that’s hot for 3 minutes followed by cold for 1 minute x 3 = 12 minutes).  This can be repeated on a hourly basis if necessary.

Summary of Key Instructions

  • Don’t aggravate the injury any further.
  • Give the muscles a chance to recover.  Support and rest.
  • Apply a cold pack for 10 minutes every half hour.
  • Apply hot and cold pack every hour.
  • Obtain a diagnosis from an expert as soon as possible.
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