Back pain

Back pain is common and often doesn’t require a visit to the doctor. Symptoms tend to improve within a few days. The medical term for back pain is “dorsalgia”.

X-rays are generally not needed, unless pain persists for several weeks or is felt along with serious symptoms.


In most cases, back pain is caused by a mechanical problem in the spine, such as muscle contractions. Back pain may be the result of a clumsy movement, unusual physical effort or a fall. Fortunately, serious causes are rare. In people who suffer from osteoporosis, for example, the pain may be due to a vertebra fracture.

Chronic back pain has other causes. It may be a symptom of arthritis for example.


Treatment depends on the intensity of pain and its cause. In most cases, symptoms improve within a few days.

Medicine can help to relieve the pain: this may be paracetamol (Panadol, Dafalgan, etc.), which is sometimes taken along with anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen (Irfen, Algifor, etc.). In the case of severe pain, medicine combining paracetamol and codeine can be taken.

In addition to the use of medicine, it is very important to remain physically active, depending on the pain of course: you will recover more quickly if you are physically active rather than staying seated or lying down all day.

If the pain doesn’t improve after 5 to 7 days, physiotherapy may be suggested.


Some situations require an emergency appointment with your general practitioner or, if that’s not possible, a visit to A & E. This is particularly relevant if you have a fever, unexplained weight loss or a deterioriation in your general health or if the pain doesn’t improve with medicine.

For further information

You can find further information on the Back pain page on the Swiss league against rheumatism website and the How to (finally) treat back pain page on the Planète santé website.


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