Musculoskeletal problems such as back, neck and hip pain are common and occur often throughout adult life. Many respond to simple treatments/self-management and can improve with time.

Musculoskeletal issues can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • pain
  • stiffness
  • weakness
  • pins and needles/numbness

New onset or a flare-up of a longstanding musculoskeletal problems should settle within 6-8 weeks but can sometimes take longer.

Your musculoskeletal problem can flare-up now and again, often for no reason but there is no need to worry.

Self-Help Stretching

Self help

Keeping active is an essential part of your treatment and recovery and is the single best thing you can do for your health.

Being physically active throughout your recovery can:

  • prevent a recurrence of the problem
  • maintain your current levels of fitness – even if you have to modify what you normally do, any activity is better than none
  • keep your other muscles and joints strong and flexible
  • keep a healthy body weight

It’s recommended you stay at or return to work as quickly as possible during your recovery. You don’t need to be pain and symptom free to return to work, and it can be counter-productive to do avoid doing so. If you require further advice or support to return to work please contact the occupational health team or speak to your GP.

Pain Treatment

Pain treatments

Pain medication can help to reduce the pain and help you move more comfortably, which can help your recovery. Speak to your community pharmacist about medication or other methods of pain relief. It’s important to take medication regularly.​

A hot water bottle or an ice pack wrapped in a towel for 20 minutes can often help with the pain.


Resting or moving?

Within the first 24 to 48 hours after the start of a musculoskeletal problem,  you should try to:

  • Move as able but listen to your body. If pain levels are too high some modification in activity can be helpful.

After 48 hours:

  • Slowly return to normal activity
  • Do whatever you normally would and stay at, or return to work – this is important and is the best way to get better
Healthcare Professional

When to speak to a healthcare professional

You should look to speak with a healthcare professional:

  • When there has been significant trauma such as a fall from a height
  • When your pain is preventing any movement at all
  • If your pain is worsening
  • If you have pins and needles or numbness
GP Doctor

When to speak to your GP

You should look to chat with your GP:

  • If you develop sudden pain and have a history of cancer
  • Feel generally unwell and have developed night sweats of a fever
  • You are losing weight for no apparent reason

Guides for pain:

The following information and guides may be helpful to manage your musculoskeletal problem.

How Are You

Staying Healthy

Did you know that the risk of musculoskeletal issues increases with factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive weight and leading a sedentary lifestyle?

Making better choices can have a direct impact of your health. Making small lifestyle changes such as eating well, drinking less alcohol, stopping smoking and exercising more can double your chances of being healthy at the age of 70.

Not sure where to start? Try the How Are You? Quiz.

Digital weight management programme for NHS staff

Weight Loss

Maintaining a healthy weight is an important part of keeping yourself fit and healthy. You may not be surprised to hear that being overweight is associated with increased rates of low back pain as well as hip and knee osteoarthritis.

Would you like help with losing weight? Try the NHS Staff weight loss plan – a 3 month programme aimed to help NHS staff lose weight.

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Smoking Cessation

You are probably aware that smoking increases your risk of lung and heart disease as well as conditions such as diabetes. But did you know that there are close links between smoking and musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain.

For more advice and support follow the link to the NHS Quit Smoking website. Alternatively, contact our support team on [email protected] or call them on 0191 445 8144 to find out how to access 12 weeks of free support including refillable e-cigarettes and nicotine replacement therapy products.

Beach fitness and exercise


Many people worry that exercise can place undue pressure on thier muscles and joints. This in fact is the opposite with recent research showing rates of osteoarthritis being lower in people that ran on a regular basis.

Exercise is not only good for your musculoskeletal health but it can also help with your weight, help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve your mood.

Adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes of exercise a week spread across 4-5 days – for more information please follow the link the NHS exercise website.

Not sure where to start? Try the NHS Couch to 5k jogging plan or the NHS Fitness Studio website.

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Excessive alcohol consumption can not only affect your wider health and well-being but it can also negatively impact your musculoskeletal health.

Not sure how much is too much? Check out the NHS Alcohol Advice website.

Sleep Insomnia


Over half of people living with chronic pain will have issues with their sleep. Sleep plays a very important role in how the body heals and recovers from injury. For more information on improving your sleeping pattern please visit the NHS Sleep Well website.



It is important to consider our mental wellbeing when dealing with our musculoskeletal system. Stress and low mood can both impact on our musculoskeletal health. For more help with stress and mental health please follow the link to the NHS Better Minds website.

To find out more about the personal support available to you around mental health and stress, visit our personal support area. To self-refer to our in-house counselling capacity, please download and complete the form via the button below and return it to [email protected].


Self-Refer to our Physiotherapy Service

To self-refer to our Occupational Health Physiotherapy service here at Gateshead, please complete the form on the button below and return to [email protected].

Please note that in some cases it may be more benifical to refer to a local provider. For further information, please speak to the Occupational Health team. A full list of providers can be found below.

Local MSK Services