Back strain treatment

Alternative names
Treatment - back strain

Information  

Question
What should be done for a back strain?

Answer:
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 stay as active as possible. Here are some tips for how to handle pain and activity early on:

     
  • Stop normal physical activity only for the first few days. This helps calm your symptoms and reduce any inflammation in the area of the pain.  
  • Apply heat or ice to the painful area. One good method is to use ice for the first 48 to 72 hours, then use heat after that.  
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).  
  • Sleep 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 six weeks after the pain begins.  
  • AVOID exercise in the days immediately after the pain begins. After two to three weeks, however, you should gradually resume exercise (particularly with the guidance of a physical therapist). And remember, getting back to every day activities starts just after a few days.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Martin A. Harms, M.D.

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