Most people experience back pain at some points in life. Every ache drives us wild and upset, and a desire for treatment is reasonable. There are some options for managing your pain.
Depending on the type of back pain you have, your doctor might recommend the following:
- Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®, others) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin IB®, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve®), might relieve acute back pain.
- Muscle relaxants;
- Topical pain relievers;
- Narcotics. Certain drugs, such as codeine or hydrocodone, may be used for a short time with close supervision by your doctor.
- Antidepressants. Low doses of certain types of antidepressants — particularly tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline — have been shown to relieve some types of chronic back pain, independent of their effect on depression.
- Injections. If other measures don’t relieve your pain and if your pain radiates down your leg, your doctor may inject cortisone — an anti-inflammatory medication — or numbing medication into the space around your spinal cord (epidural space).
There’s no commonly accepted program to teach people with back pain how to manage the condition effectively. So education might involve a class, a talk with your doctor, written material or a video. Education emphasizes the importance of staying active, reducing stress and worry, and teaching ways to avoid future injury.
Physical therapy and exercise
Physical therapy is the cornerstone of back pain treatment. A physical therapist can apply a variety of treatments, such as heat, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and muscle-release techniques, to your back muscles and soft tissues to reduce pain.
As pain improves, the therapist can teach you exercises that can increase your flexibility, strengthen your back and abdominal muscles, and improve your posture. Regular use of these techniques can help prevent pain from returning.
Few people need surgery for back pain. If you have unrelenting pain associated with radiating leg pain or progressive muscle weakness caused by nerve compression, you may benefit from surgery. Otherwise, surgery usually is reserved for pain related to structural problems, such as narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis) or a herniated disk, that hasn’t responded to other therapy.
Other tips manage your back pain
- Chill it. Ice is best in the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury because it reduces inflammation. After 48 hours, you can switch to heat if you prefer. Whether you use heat or ice – take it off after about 20 minutes to give your skin a rest. If pain persists, talk with a doctor.
- Keep moving. Regular aerobic exercises like swimming, bicycling, and walking can keep you — and your back — more mobile. Just don’t overdo it. There’s no need to run a marathon when your back is sore.
- Stay strong. Having strong hip, pelvic, and abdominal muscles also give you more back support. Avoid abdominal crunches, because they can actually put more strain on your back.
- Stretch. Don’t forget to also stretch your legs. Some people find relief from their back pain by doing a regular stretching routine, like yoga.
- Think ergonomically. Design your workspace so you don’t have to hunch forward to see your computer monitor or reach way out for your mouse.
- Watch your posture. Never bend over from the waist. Instead, bend and straighten from the knees.
- Wear low heels. Exchange your four-inch pumps for flats or low heels (less than 1 inch). High heels may create a more unstable posture, and increase pressure on your lower spine.
- Kick the habit.
- Smoking can increase your risk for osteoporosis of the spine and other bone problems.
- Watch your weight. Use diet and exercise to keep your weight within a healthy range for your height. Being overweight puts excess stress on your spine.
When you need call your doctor?
- Your low back pain is severe, doesn’t go away after a few days, or it hurts even when you’re at rest or lying down.
- You have weakness or numbness in your legs, or you have trouble standing or walking.
- You lose control over your bowels or bladder.
These could be signs that you have a nerve problem or another underlying medical condition that needs to be treated.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: June 8, 2017 | Last Modified: June 8, 2017
Back pain. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/back-pain/basics/treatment/con-20020797. Accessed December 26, 2016.
10 Ways to Manage Low Back Pain at Home. http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/features/manage-low-back-pain-home?page=2. Accessed December 26, 2016.
Back Pain? 7 Simple Fixes. http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/7-ways-lessen-your-back-pain#4. Accessed December 26, 2016.