Home Care Tips for Relieving Pain
- Resume normal activity as soon as possible. Bed rest is no longer recommended and may delay recovery. Activities should be done without strain or stretching.
- Avoid intense exercise and physical activity, particularly heavy lifting and trunk twisting, if there is acute back pain.
- Try an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory such as aspirin or ibuprofen, or an analgesic such as acetaminophen. These medicines often provide significant benefits.
- Apply heat (104 °F) to the painful area.
- Try alternating between hot and cold packs. Some doctors recommend changing from hot to cold every 3 minutes and repeating this sequence three times. Others believe ice packs should be applied first. This routine should be done two or three times during the day. (Note: Heat or cold treatments do not have much effect on sciatica.)
- Supportive back belts, braces, or corsets may help some people temporarily, but these products can reduce muscle tone over time and should be used only briefly.
- Get plenty of sleep. Healthy sleep plays a vital role in recovery. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening, and unwind before bed by taking a warm bath or practicing relaxation techniques. It is often difficult to get a good night's sleep when suffering from back pain, particularly because the pain can intensify at night. Some people may need medicine to help manage nighttime pain or treat sleeplessness. Lying curled up in a fetal position with a pillow between the knees or lying on the back with a pillow under the knees may help.
- Yoga relieves low back pain better than conventional exercise or self-help books, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. For the study, 101 adults with low back pain were randomly assigned to one of three groups. One group attended yoga classes and lessons; the second did aerobics, weight training, and stretching; the third group read a self-help book about back pain. After 12 weeks, those who took yoga could better perform daily activities requiring the back than those in the other two groups. After 26 weeks, those who took yoga had less pain and better back function, and used fewer pain relievers than the others.
- Exercise, diet, stress, and weight all have a significant influence on back pain. Changing certain lifestyle factors can help reduce, and possibly prevent, backaches.
Smokers are at higher risk for back problems, perhaps because smoking decreases blood circulation. The link may also be due to an unhealthy lifestyle in general. A British study found that young adults who were long-term smokers were nearly twice as likely to develop low back pain as nonsmokers were.
Exercise and Obesity
Review Date: 04/07/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.