Back pain - low
Many people will feel better within one week after the start of back pain. After another 4-6 weeks, the back pain will likely be completely gone. To get better quickly, take the right steps when you first get pain.
A common misconception about back pain is that you need to rest and avoid activity for a long time. In fact, bed rest is NOT recommended.
If you have no indication of a serious underlying cause for your back pain (like loss of bowel or bladder control, weakness, weight loss, or fever), then you should reduce physical activity only for the first couple of days. Gradually resume your usual activities after that. Here are some tips for how to handle pain early on:
- Stop normal physical activity for the first few days. This helps calm your symptoms and reduce inflammation.
- Apply heat or ice to the painful area. Try ice for the first 48-72 hours, then use heat after that.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
While sleeping, try lying in a curled-up, fetal position with a pillow between your legs. If you usually sleep on your back, place a pillow or rolled towel under your knees to relieve pressure.
Do not perform activities that involve heavy lifting or twisting of your back for the first 6 weeks after the pain begins. After 2-3 weeks, you should gradually resume exercise.
Begin with light cardiovascular training. Walking, riding a stationary bicycle, and swimming are great examples. Such aerobic activities can help blood flow to your back and promote healing. They also strengthen muscles in your stomach and back.
Stretching and strengthening exercises are important in the long run. However, starting these exercises too soon after an injury can make your pain worse. A physical therapist can help you determine when to begin stretching and strengthening exercises and how to do so.
AVOID the following exercises during initial recovery unless your doctor or physical therapist says it is okay:
- Weight lifting
- Leg lifts when lying on your stomach
- Sit-ups with straight legs (rather than bent knees)
Call your health care provider if
- Unexplained fever with back pain.
- Back pain after a severe blow or fall.
- Redness or swelling on the back or spine.
- Pain traveling down your legs below the knee.
- Weakness or numbness in your buttocks, thigh, leg, or pelvis.
- Burning with urination or blood in your urine.
- Worse pain when you lie down or pain that awakens you at night.
- Very sharp pain.
- You have been losing weight unintentionally
- You use steroids or intravenous drugs.
- You have never had or been evaluated for back pain before.
- You have had back pain before but this episode is distinctly different.
- This episode of back pain has lasted longer than four weeks.
If any of these symptoms are present, your doctor will carefully check for any sign of infection (like meningitis, abscess, or urinary tract infection), ruptured disk, spinal stenosis, hernia, cancer, kidney stone, twisted testicle, or other serious problem.