Backache; Low back pain; Lumbar pain; Pain - back
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.
Review Date: 07/07/2005
Reviewed By: Kevin B. Freedman, MD, MSCE, Sports Medicine, Orthopaedic Speclalists, Bryn Mawr, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.