Managing back pain by leading neurosurgeon, Dr Richard Parkinson

80% of Australians will experience back pain at some time in their lives, and in 10% it will be severe and disabling. It has been designated a National Health Priority by the Australian Government and is the most expensive health condition in Australia, costing around 1.2 billion dollars a year.

The leading causes of back pain are degeneration, disc injury, muscular injury, and more rarely nerve injury. Degeneration is the most common cause and can lead to spinal narrowing as well as pain.

So why is the lower back so prone to injury:
Studies have fund lower back pain is a result of pressure in the lumbar disc with different physical activities. The more active you are, the less pressure on your disc – so bottom line is to get active.

If you walk, the pressure in your disc is a lot less than if you sit and the pressure in the disc is amongst the highest if you’re sitting for long periods of time, than if you are upright.
It’s important to have regular breaks from sitting down – I recommend everybody have a set break from sitting every hour, to get up stretch your legs and perhaps do some basic exercises.


Top five tips for managing back pain:

  1. If the pain persists more than a few days then see a doctor.
  2. Avoid weight lifting, bending and twisting if you have a sore back.
  3. If you have any leg pain, weakness or pins and needles you need to see a doctor.
  4. Rest for a few days, anti-inflammatories and over the counter pain relievers is usually effective.
  5. Try not to sit for long periods.


Six tips to prevent back pain:

  1. Be careful how you lift – Don’t lift more than 10 or 15 kg out in front of you and try to keep the weight as close to your centre of gravity as you can, rather than reaching out.
  2. No twisting – Don’t twist your body at the waist while lifting. Avoid forcible bending, twisting or pulling as much as you can while carrying heavy weights (this includes children – try to keep them close to you and lift them when they’re in front of you).
  3. Don’t wing it at the gym – Get as much help as you can, especially if lifting more than 10 to 15 kg. Ensure lifting aids are available to you. Don’t lift big weights straight off the get-go.
  4. Look after yourself – Maintain your health, weight and lifestyle – excess weight and body fat puts unnecessary pressure on the back and increases the risk of injury.
  5. Stop smoking – The silent killer for backs, smoking increases the risk of degeneration in the lumbar disc and it increases the risk that you will herniate the disc again, if you’ve had a disc herniation. In the event you need a lumbar fusion, smoking increases the risk it won’t work as it reduces the amount of oxygen to the disc and releases toxins into that disc.
  6. Ask someone – Before embarking on a new fitness or strength training regime, seek out a physiotherapist or an athletic trainer to help.

About Dr Richard Parkinson

Dr Parkinson is a highly trained neurosurgeon who has performed ground breaking and complex surgery on some of Australia’s elite sportspeople and recognised as a leading expert in sports injuries. Dr Parkinson has attained internationally esteemed qualifications from both the USA and Australia and is a highly respected specialist at the forefront of neurosurgical science and development.

Dr Parkinson was the first to be trained in neurointervention in Australia and his expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of sports and neurological injuries is highly sought after by elite sportspeople throughout Australia.

Dr Parkinson is also involved in the rehabilitation of NRL and ARU players who have suffered brain and spinal injuries. He regularly contributes to medical publications, and consults major sporting bodies as an authority on spinal and neural conditions. He offers unequalled expertise on their prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation.


Dr Parkinson is a highly qualified neurosurgeon with extensive experience in neurosurgery. He has studied under, and worked with leading neurosurgeons in the USA performing ground breaking surgeries. He is also involved in developing educational tools for both surgeons and patients.