World champion Beth Tweddle has added her voice to a new animation as part of a our campaign to help people look after their backs better.

In the UK, the annual total cost attributable to low back pain has been estimated at £12.3billion (2); £1.6 billion on direct healthcare resources. The NHS in England spends about £2 million pounds on spinal surgery.(3).Low back pain is the leading cause of work absence throughout much of the world, imposing a high economic burden on governments, families and the individuals themselves.(4)

Seeking a new approach, The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust, which specialises in spinal surgery, has got together with partners from the NHS, but also the third sector and patients, to form a collaboration and a programme of work called the Neuro Network, which is coming up with new ideas to improve care for patients and making every NHS pound spent count.

The Cheshire and Merseyside Back Pain Campaign led by the Neuro Network collaborative will run throughout Merseyside and Cheshire and is two-fold:

  • Supporting health professionals across Merseyside and Cheshire to use the National Back Pain Pathway (guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) (1).
  • Encouraging the public to follow 7 Golden Rules when they experience back pain.

Beth Tweddle, whose impressive achievements include being an Olympic Bronze Medallist, a triple World Champion, a six-time European Champion, a Commonwealth Champion and seven-times consecutive National Champion provided the voice for an animation that promotes the campaign.

She said: “It is great to see and support the new animation to help people with back pain. There are many ways in which an individual can help with their own treatment by following the 7 golden rules. This is advocating self-management and aims to reassure individuals that for most people back pain can start to fade within two weeks and settle down within six weeks.”

Spinal expert at The Walton Centre, Consultant Neurosurgeon Tim Pigott, said: “What we know is that back pain will fade within six weeks for the vast majority of people. This campaign encourages patients to self-manage their back pain where it is appropriate to do so, so we can see those who do need specialist advice and surgery quicker.”

Julie Riley, Programme Director for the Neuro Network, says the Neuro Network’s programme of work is taking a fresh look at common health problems to see how the whole of the NHS can work with partners to achieve the best results for patients.

She said: “What we are trying to do is to reassure the public and give them advice and help around back pain.

“The Walton Centre is expert in caring for people with spinal conditions and has a long history of providing pain management. If we can work with health professionals to add our input and share evidence about what we have found, we can play our role in ensuring that any patient in Cheshire and Merseyside not only gets the best advice but would get the same advice from any health professional in the region, and is referred appropriately based on NICE guidelines.

“It means those who need to be are referred quicker and those for whom it is appropriate, are managed in the community or are empowered to manage their own care, recognising that the vast majority of back pain doesn’t need any intervention.”

There are many different projects within the Neuro Network programme, including using technology to speed up neurological consultations in district general hospitals and expanding Walton Centre advice lines to make specialist advice more available. The Neuro Network as a programme has been allocated funding from NHS England under the New Care Models Programme; something which was set up under the Five Year Forward View – a blueprint for the future sustainability of the NHS.

The 7 Golden Rules

  • Keep moving even if slowly, at first
  • Keep living and working normally
  • Avoid bed rest during the day
  • Exercise
  • Don’t sit down for too long
  • Don’t be afraid to take simple painkillers
  • Stay active and remember to re-introduce activities like heavy lifting gradually

GET INVOLVED: Organisations and individuals: access the 7 Golden Rules and watch an animation at And/ or tweet you support for the Cheshire and Merseyside Back Pain Campaign by saying ‘I’m a supporter of the Cheshire and Merseyside Back Pain Campaign’ using #cmnhswegotyourback.

(1) Evidence is based on National Institute of Clinical Excellence Guidelines 59
(2) BMJ: Exploring the cost–utility of stratified primary care management for low back pain compared with current best practice within risk-defined subgroups
(3) UK Spine Societies Board
(4)WHO: Global Burden of Disease Study 2010