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Common Ailments

Many common aches and pains can be treated simply at home without the need to consult a doctor. North Shore Surgery have listed some of the most common ailments reported by our patients, with advice on how to identify the symptoms, treat the ailment at home, and in some cases listed preventative measures that can be taken to safeguard against such illnesses and ailments. However, if you are in any doubt then please get in touch to arrange an appointment with the practice, or alternatively call 111 for healthcare guidance.

Back Pain

Back pain, such as pain in the lower back or pain spreading from the back of the thigh to the ankle (sciatica), affects thousands of people, but in most cases is not serious and medical treatment is not always necessary. Most back pain is caused by:

  • Stiffness or spasm of the muscles caused by sleeping in an uncomfortable position
  • Doing activities you are not used to

However, there are other causes of back pain, such as:

  • Being overweight
  • Pregnancy
  • Incorrect lifting techniques
  • A disc between the base of the spine moving out of position or pressing on a nerve

There are a number of preventative measures you can take to avoid any injury or pain occurring in the back, including:

  • Keeping active
  • Keeping to a healthy weight
  • Sleeping on a firm mattress
  • Lifting heavy weights correctly – crouch down, straighten knees and keep your back straight

If you are suffering from back pain then there are a number of remedies that you can apply at home:

  • Stay in bed, but no longer than one or two days
  • Massage the painful area; apply heat
  • Take painkillers
  • Exercise gently

Visiting an osteopath

Osteopathy is an established and recognised system of diagnosis and treatment, which lays its main emphasis on the structural and functional integrity of the body. It is distinctive by the fact that it recognises that much of the pain and disability which we suffer stems from abnormalities in the function of the body structure as well as damage caused to it. The 1993 report from the British Medical Association ‘Complementary Medicine – New Approaches to Good Practice’ recognised osteopathy as a discrete clinical discipline. Osteopathy is the first complementary health care profession to be accorded statutory self-regulation. Since 9th May 2000 it is an offence for anyone to describe themselves as an osteopath and practice as such, unless registered with the General Osteopathic Council.

Visiting your chiropractor

Treatment consists of well defined manipulation techniques which are aimed to improve joint pain and muscle spasms. Chiropractic is currently the second most frequently consulted complementary therapy.

The Medical Research Council have found that chiropractic is more effective than hospital outpatient treatment for lower back pain.

Chiropractic treatment is particularly favoured for easing back pain, sciatica, tension, neck, shoulder and arm pain.

Muscle & Joint Pain

Stiffness and pain in your muscles or joints, especially with movement, can be caused by:

  • Strain due to overexertion
  • Injury
  • Inflammation
  • Wear and tear

There are a number of treatments you can apply at home to ease pain and stiffness withing the joints or muscles, including:

  • Massage affected part and keep it warm
  • Rest
  • Take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen

If you have strained or sprained a muscle, then we recommend following the RICE procedure, which is to:

  • Rest the injured part
  • Ice wrapped in a cloth – or a bag of frozen peas – can be used to reduce the swelling. But do not apply for longer than 15 minutes at a time
  • Compress the injury gently with a bandage
  • Elevate the injured part

Pain in muscles and joints are common and seldom need to be treated by a doctor, but there are cases where we recommend consulting your GP. These include:

  • If the pain in the joint or muscle does not improve after three days
  • If the joint looks deformed
  • If there is swelling
  • If mobility is badly affected


Do you turn up the volume on the television louder than normal; fail to hear the telephone or doorbell ring; know people are talking but cannot understand every word or have difficulty hearing in noisy surroundings? There are a number of factors that can attribute to poor or impaired hearing, including:


We all produce wax in our ears and when it blocks the outer ear canal our hearing is dulled. If you think you have this problem, make an appointment to see your doctor who will check your ears. You will then be given advice and asked to make an appointment with the practice nurse.


As we get older our hearing becomes poorer as the hearing mechanism deteriorates and is sometimes associated with noises in the ear (tinnitus). Nothing can be done to repair the damage but the incoming sound can be amplified by a hearing aid. These are available both on the NHS and privately and vary both in size and performance with some of the latest designs being able to be individually tuned to suit your particular hearing loss. Take your time in deciding what suits you best and try and speak to existing users to find out how well they work.

Noise-induced Deafness

People working in noisy environments should take precautions to protect their ears from the long-term effects of noise. Wear ear-defenders where necessary. Consult your health and safety or environmental health officer if worried.


Children with frequent colds and ear infections may develop fluid within the middle ear cavity. This condition often improves with time, but your doctor may refer your child to the ENT clinic to see if a grommet is required. This is a small tube which is fitted into the eardrum under a general anaesthetic and allows the middle ear to be aerated.

Eye Care

Look after your eyes you only get one pair! This is good advice to heed. Everyone – young and old – should have regular eye checkups to detect any problems.

It is natural for eyes to change over the years and become affected by various disorders which an optician can quickly and easily detect, so it is important that signs of potentially serious conditions are recognised and if necessary given immediate medical attention.

There are a number of common eye problems we see at North Shore Surgery, including:

  • Conjunctivitis – watery bloodshot eyes with sticky discharge
  • Dry eye – bloodshot eyes with gritty feeling
  • Stye – a red lump on the eyelid, which may itch or cause slight pain

These common eye problems can be treated at home, using the following procedures:

  • Conjunctivitis – bathe with warm water. Drops and ointments from your pharmacist can be used
  • Dry eye – use lubricating eye drops from your pharmacist, but if the condition continues, see your doctor
  • Stye – bathe with warm water using a separate piece of cotton wool each time you wipe the eye

Minor eye problems can often be prevented by following these good practice guidelines:

  • Avoid exposure to irritants
  • Make sure everyone uses separate face flannels and towels
  • Have your sight tested every two years

Advice for using contact lenses

  • Don’t use contact lenses if you have an eye infection
  • Don’t rub irritated and sore eyes
  • Follow cleaning instructions carefully

If you fall into one of the following groups, then you may qualify to receive free NHS tests: if you have a low income; if you or your partner get income support or family credit; if you are under 16 or under 19 and in full time education; if you are partially sighted or registered blind; if you are diagnosed diabetic or suffering from glaucoma or you are over 40 and have a brother, sister or child diagnosed with glaucoma.

Whether you do or don’t qualify for free tests is not really the issue. The real question is: Do you really want to take unnecessary risks with one the greatest gifts you possess? – Your eyes!

Coughs & Colds

Even in this day and age there is still no magic cure for the common cold. Go to bed, take plenty of drinks. If you have a headache or are feverish, take aspirin or paracetamol. Do not bother to take antibiotics as these will have no effect!


In adults, diarrhoea is usually caused by a viral infection and is therefore unable to be treated directly. The symptoms can usually be eased by the traditional kaolin and morphine mixture or by medicines containing codeine.

Holiday diarrhoea is often due to bacteria. Again, kaolin and morphine can be taken.

Consult your doctor if the symptoms persist for more than a few days.

Diarrhoea in very young children and babies needs careful attention. Most babies have loose bowel action during their first six months due to their predominantly liquid diet. Sudden bouts of unusually watery diarrhoea should be treated by taking the baby off solids and feeding them a cooled solution of boiled water with a teaspoon of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt to the pint. If the symptoms persist for more than 24 hours, or are accompanied by vomiting or weakness, consult your doctor.

Bed Sores

Bed sores are far easier to prevent than cure. They are caused by prolonged pressure to certain parts of the body when lying in bed for long periods. They can be prevented by encouraging the patient to shift position as often as possible. Take care to smooth out creases in the bottom sheet to avoid irritation. If red marks appear at the pressure points such as heels, elbows, buttocks and hips, inform the doctor before they get worse.


This is an unpleasant illness characterised by high temperature, aches and pains. The best treatment is plenty of rest and fluids with paracetamol to relieve aches and temperature. Antibiotics have no effect. If you are elderly or have a chronic health problem (eg heart disease, chest disease or diabetes) we would recommend an annual flu jab.


Gastroenteritis describes a group of diseases affecting the stomach or part of the intestine. Symptoms are often diarrhoea, sickness and stomach ache. Because the lining of the stomach is likely to be inflamed medicines are often immediately vomited up.

Large quantities of water, orange juice, milk or thin soup should be taken to counter the effects of dehydration. Consult your doctor if symptoms persist for more than a day or, in the case of babies or young children, six hours.

Stomach Ache

Most attacks are not serious and are usually caused by indigestion or wind. A hot water bottle will often relieve the symptoms and, in the case of indigestion, a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in half a glass of water will help.

If the pain lasts for longer than eight hours or increases in intensity you should consult your doctor.


Treat with a cold compress, containing ice if possible, for 15 to 30 minutes to reduce the swelling. Then apply, firmly, a crepe bandage and give the sprain plenty of rest until all discomfort has subsided.

Further strain will inevitably lead to further swelling and a longer recovery period.


Sit in a chair, lean forward with your mouth open, and pinch your nose just below the bone for approximately 10 minutes, by which time the bleeding should have stopped. Avoid hot drinks or hot food for 24 hours. If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.

Minor Cuts & Grazes

Wash the wound thoroughly with water and a little soap. To stop bleeding apply a clean handkerchief or dressing firmly to the wound for about five minutes. Cover with a clean dry dressing.


Treat as for other burns with cold water to remove the heat. Calamine lotion will relieve the irritation whilst paracetamol will also help.

Children are particularly susceptible to sunburn and great care should be taken to avoid overexposure to the harmful effects of the sun.

Insect Bites & Stings

Antihistamine tablets can be obtained from the chemist without prescription and will usually relieve most symptoms.

Note: bee stings should be scraped away rather than ‘plucked’ in order to avoid squeezing the contents of the venom sac into the wound.

Head Lice

These creatures, contrary to popular belief, prefer clean hair and are, therefore, not a sign of poor personal hygiene. Medicated head lotion can be obtained from the chemist without prescription.

Minor Ailments Scheme

Pharmacists are qualified to give advice on Common Complaints and can also answer questions about medicines and other issues. They are bound by the same Confidentiality as a Doctor and cannot discuss your treatment with anyone. They can give advice without an appointment and are often closer to your home or workplace than your Doctors Surgery.

With the introduction of the Minor Ailment Scheme, you do not have to visit your Doctor for treatment and advice for Minor Ailments. Pharmacy Direct is a Minor Ailment Scheme now operating in Pharmacies across Blackpool. The Scheme has been set up for Patients who have a good idea what they are suffering from and just need advice and sometimes medication.

The Minor Ailments Scheme recognises that Patients do not always need to visit their Doctor, and incorporates the Professional help of local Pharmacists who are trained in the advice and treatment of Minor Ailments. This means that Patients may not have to see their Doctor, as the Pharmacist will normally be able to see them within a few minutes without an appointment being necessary.

Pharmacy Direct is available to all Patients who are registered with a Blackpool GP, although age restrictions may apply. Any Patient who is entitled to receive prescriptions free of charge will not be charged by the Pharmacy for items that would normally be available on prescription. Minor Ailments that can be treated under this Scheme include:

  • Pain relief and fever for children aged under 12 years
  • Threadworm
  • Products for bites and stings aged under 12 years
  • Headlice – combs

Medicines Use Review

Some Pharmacies in Blackpool offer a free Medicines Use Review service. This is an opportunity for Patients to sit down with the Pharmacist and discuss any issues or worries they may have with regard to their Medicines. A review will help Patients find out more about the Medicines they take, how the Medicines work and how to take their Medicines in the most effective way. It will also help the Pharmacist to pick up any problems Patients may be experiencing such as side effects or interactions with other Medicines. The Medicines Use Review will be held in a private consultation area of the Pharmacy and the Patient will need to bring with them all the Medicines they are currently taking. Ask your local Pharmacy if this service is available for you.

For more information on Pharmacists in the Blackpool area, please visit the NHS Choices website.