Is this your symptom?
- Pain in your upper, middle, or lower back
- Lower back pain is a reason that many people go to the doctor and emergency rooms. It is a common reason for people to miss work. More than 8 out of 10 people have back pain in their lives.
- In most cases, the cause of lower back pain is not serious.
- For most people, severe pain does not always mean that there is a serious problem. In fact, a person can have severe back pain from minor problems like lumbar (muscle) strain and arthritis.
- Without treatment, the pain usually gets better within 4-6 weeks. Treatment can help the pain to go away faster. Bed rest is not a good way to treat back pain.
- Herniated disk
- Lumbar strain
- Kidney infection
- Kidney stone
- Spine fracture
- Spinal tumor
What is Lumbar Strain?
- Muscle strain is a common cause of new lower back pain in people 18-50 years old.
- People with muscle strain say their pain is made worse by bending or twisting. They also note that their back muscles are tender to touch.
- A person can strain his or her back by lifting something too heavy. This can also happen by bending or twisting the back in an awkward way.
Does Bed Rest Help?
- People with back pain do not need to stay in bed.
- Keep doing day-to-day activities if it is not too painful. This may help the back get better faster. Staying active is healthier than too much rest.
- None: no pain. Pain score is 0 on a scale of 0 to 10.
- Mild: the pain does not keep you from work, school, or other normal activities. Pain score is 1-3 on a scale of 0 to 10.
- Moderate: the pain keeps you from working or going to school. It wakes you up from sleep. Pain score is 4-7 on a scale of 0 to 10.
- Severe: the pain is very bad. It may be worse than any pain you have had before. It keeps you from doing any normal activities. Pain score is 8-10 on a scale of 0 to 10.
When to Call for Back Pain
Call 911 Now
- Passed out (fainted)
- Very weak (can't stand)
- You think you have a life-threatening emergency
Call Doctor or Seek Care Now
- Severe pain
- Weakness of a leg or foot
- Tingling or numbness (loss of feeling) in the legs or feet
- Blood in urine (red, pink or tea-colored)
- Fever and sudden pain in lower back and side (flank)
- Vomiting and sudden pain in lower back and side (flank)
- Pain or burning with passing urine and pain in lower back and side (flank)
- Pain goes into groin or scrotum
- Pain goes into stomach
- Pregnant and pain does not go away with rest
- You feel weak or very sick
- You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent
Call Doctor Within 24 Hours
- Have cancer
- Have HIV or use intravenous drugs
- Rash or blisters in same area as pain
- You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent
Call Doctor During Office Hours
- Back pain lasts more than 2 weeks
- Back pain lasts more than 3 days and keeps you from working or going to school
- Back pains off and on for weeks or months (are frequent, come and go)
- More than 50 years old and never had back pain like this before
- Pain goes into thigh or down leg
- You have other questions or concerns
Self Care at Home
Care Advice for Mild Back Pain
- What You Should Know:
- Twisting or heavy lifting can cause back pain.
- With treatment, the pain most often goes away in 1 to 2 weeks.
- You can treat mild back pain at home.
- Here is some care advice that should help.
- Cold or Heat:
- Cold Pack: For pain or swelling, use a cold pack or ice wrapped in a wet cloth. Put it on the sore area for 20 minutes. Repeat 4 times on the first day, then as needed.
- Heat Pack: If pain lasts over 2 days, apply heat to the sore area. Use a heat pack, heating pad, or warm wet washcloth. Do this for 10 minutes, then as needed. For widespread stiffness, take a hot bath or hot shower instead. Move the sore area under the warm water.
- Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees. If you sleep on your back, put a pillow under your knees.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
- Your mattress should be firm. Avoid waterbeds.
- Keep doing your day-to-day activities if it is not too painful. Staying active is better than resting.
- Avoid anything that makes your pain worse. Avoid heavy lifting, twisting, and too much exercise until your back heals.
- You do not need to stay in bed.
- Pain Medicine:
- You can take one of the following drugs if you have pain: acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve).
- They are over-the-counter (OTC) pain drugs. You can buy them at the drugstore.
- Use the lowest amount of a drug that makes your pain feel better.
- Acetaminophen is safer than ibuprofen or naproxen in people over 65 years old.
- Read the instructions and warnings on the package insert for all medicines you take.
- The only way to stop future backaches is to keep your back muscles strong.
- Lack of exercise or movement may cause you to have back pain. Staying active is healthy for your back.
- Walking, stationary biking, and swimming can help strengthen your back.
- Being overweight puts more weight on your back. This can cause back pain or make it worse. If you are overweight, work with your doctor to become healthier.
- Good Body Mechanics:
- Lifting: Stand close to the object to be lifted. Keep your back straight and lift by bending your legs. Ask for lifting help if needed.
- Sleeping: Sleep on a firm mattress.
- Sitting: Avoid sitting for long periods of time without a break. Avoid slouching. Put a pillow or towel behind your lower back for support.
- Posture: Sit up straight.
- Strengthening Exercises:
- During the first couple days after an injury, avoid strengthening exercises.
- Here are some exercises that can help strengthen your back. Do the following exercises 3-10 times each day, for 5-10 seconds each time.
- Bent Knee Sit-ups: Lay on your back. Curl forward lifting your shoulders about 6 inches (15 cm) off the floor.
- Leg Lifts: Lay on your back. Lift your foot 6 inches (15 cm) off floor (one leg at a time).
- Pelvic Tilt: Lay on your back with knees bent. Push your lower back against the floor.
- Chest Lift: Lie face down on the ground. Put your arms by your sides and lift your shoulders off the floor.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Numbness or weakness
- Bowel/bladder problems
- Pain lasts more than 2 weeks
- You get worse
And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.
Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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