Mechanical back pain

Nov 5 2018

At some point in your life you may have suffered from back pain and know just how painful and debilitating it can be. Today we look at mechanical back pain and how you can both treat and protect yourself in your day-to-day life.

What is mechanical back pain?

From university students to 9-5 workers, doctors to professional athletes, back pain can affect everyone, at any stage of life. There are many different types of back pain, of which mechanical back pain is the most common. Mechanical back pain occurs due to muscle strain or injury and movement can aggravate the symptoms and pain. This factor gives rise to it being known as ‘mechanical’ back pain.

To deal with the struggles and discomfort that mechanical back pain cause there are a few simple yet very effective techniques that you can be mindful of and practise daily.


Pacing is one of the most common strategies advised by professionals to manage back pain and is very effective at alleviating symptoms.

How it works:

  • Make a note of how long it takes during a particular activity for your usual symptoms or pain flare-up.
  • Next time you carry out this activity, time yourself and stop half-way before the pain starts.
  • This approach will prevent your symptoms presenting before they become painfully unbearable.
  • You’ll also benefit from a shorter recovery period which in turn will allow you to be more productive.


Posture is how we position our bodies at any given time; whilst we are working or carrying out a task, and even at rest when we are sitting down. Posture is vital for protecting against injury and pain. When posture is bad, for example when we slouch or slump, our muscles are overloaded with stress. This causes excess strain to muscles and sends unnecessary load through joints, further increasing pain and discomfort.

How it works:

  • If you feel your posture is causing you pain visit a physiotherapist for a postural analysis.
  • Your physiotherapist will give you specific exercises to help stretch and strengthen the areas that may be causing poor posture.
  • If you sit at work a workplace assessment could be highly beneficial for you. Contact your HR team to request an assessment.


Tight muscles increase the stress on and workload around the joint where they are positioned. Tight muscles which cause back pain are usually located around the spine.

How it works:

  • Stretching helps to reduce muscle soreness.
  • Stretching also helps muscles relax, especially if they are weak, overworked or tight and painful due to other factors such as stress.
  • Another benefit of stretching is that it increases the flexibility of tendons and aids smooth muscle movement.
  • Even more benefits include promoting good circulation and increasing blood flow to muscles. This aids in muscle and injury recovery.
  • Your physiotherapist can show you effective stretches to do regularly at home to stretch out tight muscles and alleviate back pain.

Back strengthening

Strength training is important as it builds up muscular strength, improves your posture and endurance of your muscles. This will help you in general day-to-day activities and manual tasks, as well as training for sports and fitness.

How it works:

  • As already discussed, pacing, good posture and regular stretching all work together to help reduce mechanical back pain.
  • We recommend that you include exercises which strengthen your core muscles (buttocks, back and abdominals) into your training programme. Together with stretching out your back and glutes, your symptoms should reduce even more.
  • Visit your physiotherapist for a personalised set of exercises which you can do at home.
  • Precision exercise classes such as Pilates can also be very effective at building core strength.

If you try any of the techniques we recommend and your back pain worsens, please cease the activity which aggravates your pain and seek advice from a medical professional. If your discomfort continues, becomes worse, or if you re-injure yourself it is important to seek further guidance.

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