What can I do About Low Back Pain?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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Low back pain is frequently caused by minor injury, usually while lifting. Some people may suffer from what is termed chronic nonspecific back pain, in which case a cause can’t necessarily be identified. Others may have true injuries or certain medical conditions that require more extensive care. Thus the first step in treating low back pain is to talk to a doctor about what may be causing it.

When the cause is minor injury, there are many ways to address low back pain. Most often the approach taken is a conservative one. A lot of people who go to their doctors in pain do experience symptom improvement within a few weeks to a month, and sometimes sooner.

Some suggested early treatments include medication, especially non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium. If pain is more significant, medications like muscle relaxants or opiates like hydrocodone, may be more appropriate. Another thing that can help reduce low back pain is to alternate ice and heat treatments. Heat may help relax muscles, and using a heating pad for about 20 minutes can prove effective. Ice treatments for fifteen to twenty minutes can reduce swelling and may also promote freedom from discomfort.


Certain body positions address low back pain. One of the best requires a person to lie down on the floor and place the feet up (as perhaps on a chair or couch) so the knees are bent at an approximate 90-degree angle. This position helps to reduce pressure on the back. If this seems uncomfortable, lying flat on a bed or the ground with a pillow under the knees is another choice.

Some people benefit from special guided exercises as taught by a doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor that gently stretches the back. Doctors may recommend a corset or back brace that supports the lower back in seating and standing positions. Gentle massage can also help ease muscles and improve the condition.

Another way to attack the pain is to look at situations that may be creating it. Improper seating can foster significant lower backaches and these may improve if seats are ergonomic or when people remember to adjust their posture. Those who could lose a few pounds may find back conditions improve with weight loss. Regular exercise may lower risk for lower back pain too. People should also be mindful of safe lifting tactics to make sure they don’t cause additional back injury.

Though movement and exercise are important, so is rest, especially in the first days after pain appears. Under doctor’s guidance, people should avoid activities that are likely to risk more injury or make pain worse. Most are usually able to return to a normal schedule of activities within a few days, yet this can vary depending upon cause of the pain.


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