Chronic Back Pain Self-Care and Treatment

  • Back pain is often preventable and responds readily to self-care and appropriate treatment. Follow these guidelines for back pain relief.
  • Self-Care

    • Moderate activity is most helpful, but avoid anything that makes the pain much worse. Staying in bed for more than 2 days can make back pain worse.
    • Use ice or cold packs for 20 minutes 3 or 4 times a day during the first few days of a muscle sprain or spasm.
    • A hot bath or heating pad can help reduce pain and stiffness. Use heat only after the first few days you feel pain.
    • Take a medication for Chronic pain and inflammation.
    • Maintain good posture to keep your body’s weight aligned and reduce stress on the back muscles.
    • Lying on your back with a pillow under your knees or lying on your side with a pillow between your lower legs can ease Chronic pain so you can sleep.
    • Weight loss is important to prevent future problems.
    • Return to work or your usual daily activities within a few days, with lighter duties or limited hours. This prevents your back from becoming weak and stiff.
    • Avoid lifting heavy objects and repeated bending and twisting. Change positions often during the day and use a chair with good lower back support.
    • Learn to accept and deal with stress. If you have particular stress in your life, discuss it with your doctor.
  • Treatment

    • Muscle relaxers can be used during the first few days to ease muscle spasms, but they often cause drowsiness.
    • In some instances, steroid medications may be injected directly into the epidural space (the space surrounding the nerves within the spinal canal) to ease sciatica pain.
    • Physical therapy may be prescribed by your doctor if you have severe incapacitating pain for more than 1 week, no improvement after 2 weeks of home therapy, or you are unable to return to work (limited activity) within 1 week.
    • Surgery is rarely needed for back pain or sciatica. It is considered only after months of treatment.
  • Prevention

    • Good posture is important for keeping the spine healthy. Stand straight. Keeping your body aligned takes stress off your back muscles.
    • Avoid lifting heavy objects. When you do lift, bend your knees and keep your back straight.
    • When working while seated, choose a chair that has good support for your lower back.
    • Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, you will put more stress on your lower back.
    • Try not to reach for objects that are above your head. Use a step stool or a device that helps you reach objects on higher shelves. Store items that you use often on lower shelves.
    • Avoid repeated bending or twisting.

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