There are many treatments for low back pain. However, some have more science behind them than others. There are actually a number of simple strategies you can try at home to help relieve your pain. If you don't have any of warning signs above, try the treatments in the top table first. If your back isn't feeling any better after a few days, work with your doctor to explore other options.
Try These First:
Moving your body gently is one of the best ways to manage back pain. Avoid activities that make your pain worse. Bed rest can slow the healing process and make your muscles weaker, tighter, and more painful.
Try using a cold pack (or a bag of frozen peas) at the first sign of a backache. Ice helps to stop muscle spasms, reduce inflammation, and calm the nerves sending pain signals to your brain. You can switch between a cold pack and a heating pad if you find it helpful.
Use a damp towel between your skin and the cold pack. Don't use a cold pack for longer than 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
Heat can sometimes work for back pain, but try using ice first. Heat might make inflammation worse at first. Use a heating pad, heated blankets, or even a hot shower.
Don't use a heating pad for more than 15 to 20 minutes or fall asleep while using one.
Over the counter pain relievers
If your doctor gives you the ok, you may want to try over the counter pain relievers:
NSAIDS, such as naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Motrin):
NSAIDS may help your back pain. Make sure to read the warnings on the bottle and to carefully follow the instructions. Keep in mind that NSAIDS can cause stomach bleeding/ulcers, heartburn, GI upset, or constipation and prolonged use can lead to kidney damage, heart attack, or stroke. It’s also important to avoid NSAIDS before certain medical procedures. NSAIDS cannot be taken with certain medications and should not be taken by people who have three or more alcoholic drinks per day.
The effectiveness of acetaminophen for back pain is not well supported, but it may be helpful for some. Make sure to read the warnings on the bottle and to carefully follow the instructions. Acetaminophen can cause permanent liver damage if you take too much at a time, and in rare cases may cause serious skin reactions, in which case it’s important to seek medical treatment right away. Acetaminophen is often an ingredient in other medications, such as cough syrup, allergy, or sleep medications, so be sure you thoroughly check the label of all other medications you are taking to make sure you are not getting too much acetaminophen. Avoid acetaminophen if you have three or more alcoholic drinks per day.
Not Recommended in Most Cases
Narcotic (opioid) pain relievers
Research does not show narcotics/opiods (like Vicodin, norco, etc.) to be effective for back pain. They also have high risks of side effects, such as drowsiness, nausea, constipation, and high potential for addiction.
Back belts, braces or corsets
Research has not shown these to help people with low back pain. Only use one if a doctor or therapist recommends it.
Definitely Not Recommended
Does this work? No. Traction has not proven to help people in the first 4-6 weeks of back pain.
Bed rest is less effective at reducing pain and improving function at 3-12 weeks than advice to stay active. Resting too long can also lead to stiff joints and weaker muscles.