5 Ways to Manage Back Pain

How to treat occasional bouts of low back pain.

Peer Reviewed

Low back pain is incredibly common. But what do you do once it starts? Here are 5 ways to manage those occasional bouts of back pain in your lumbar spine.

This article is for people who are experiencing mild low back pain.  For example, if you woke up with back pain or you overdid it at the gym yesterday and now have muscle strain pain, this article is for you.

If you've had low back pain for several days and it's interfering with your daily life, please contact your doctor.

woman sitting on edge of bed with lower back pain

Tip #1. Rest (but just a little). If your back hurts, take a rest. Lie down and avoid overusing your back muscles for a while. This doesn't mean stay in bed for a week. In fact, too much rest can make your back pain worse. After a short break, get up, move around, and stretch. You'll find it actually helps reduce that nagging backache.

Tip #2. Try medications. There are a wide variety of medications to choose from to treat back pain. Some medications relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and relax muscle spasms. Many are available over-the-counter at your local pharmacy. Prescription medications, on the other hand, require your doctor's written authorization. Some medications you can try for back pain: acetaminophen (eg, Tylenol) or non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (eg, aspirin, ibuprofen).

Tip #3. Try cold/heat therapy. Cold therapy can help reduce inflammation, muscle spasm, and pain. Cold therapy may be recommended immediately following a sprain or strain. Apply cold to your back using cold packs, ice cubes, iced towels/compresses, or take a cool bath.

Tip #4. Get a massage. Massage is a popular therapy that can help relieve muscle tension, spasms, inflammation, aches, stiffness, and pain. It can also help improve circulation, flexibility, and range of motion. Massage can be administered by a professional (massage therapist) or you can give yourself a mini-massage using hand-held massagers that can help increase blood flow and relieve pain.

Tip #5. See your doctor. The most important thing to remember about periodic bouts of back pain is that if they occur more  frequently, increase in duration (more than a few days), or the pain starts to interfere with your usual activities, it's time to see your doctor. It could be more than just a minor strain.

The good news is that most lower back problems can be treated with non-surgical treatments. Back pain that goes untreated can progressively get worse, so it's a good idea to deal with your back pain now.  You don't want your little bout of low back pain to develop into a chronic pain.

Updated on: 07/17/17
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Why Back Pain is Uncommon Among Indigenous People
Brian R. Subach, MD
In the above article by Dr. Orr, one of the most common medical questions is addressed. Quite simply, how does one deal with the onset of acute low back pain? The problem affects millions of Americans each year and raises even more questions. Heat or ice on my back? Exercise or bedrest? Anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxants? This article describes standard interventions which form the basis of our initial decision-making. The emphasis is appropriately on conservative management, but do not hesitate to seek the advice of a spinal specialist.
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Why Back Pain is Uncommon Among Indigenous People

Esther Gokhale learned she had a herniated disc and underwent surgical treatment. A year later it happened again and her doctor recommended a second surgery. That’s when she became inspired to search for a better answer to her back pain problem.
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