How is back pain treated?

Non-surgical treatment with limited rest and over the counter pain relievers is sufficient treatment for most patients. In some persons, a supervised physical therapy program for persistent mechanical pain may be recommended. Talk to your doctor to see which treatment is right for you.

Bed rest: Short-term bed rest may be recommended for a few patients with severe back pain and muscle spasms. Bed rest for more than 48 hours is rarely recommended.

Physical activity: In some cases, doctors recommend early physical activity to promote rapid recovery from back pain. For moderate to mild back pain, some patients are encouraged to maintain a near-normal schedule from the onset.

Ice and heat application: Applying heat and ice alternately to the back is helpful to relax the muscles and decrease muscle inflammation. In general, people are encouraged to apply heat for 20 minutes, and then to, apply ice for 20 minutes. If you find that one application is more helpful than the other, then use only that application. Generally, heat and/or ice should be applied 2 to 3 times per day.

Medications: If there is a muscle spasm, a muscle relaxant may be prescribed for a short time (3 to 4 days).

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen are available without prescription and may be used to reduce pain. Stronger prescription pain relievers are rarely required.

Physical therapy: In a few cases, physical therapy may be an essential part of acute back pain rehabilitation. It is important that you work with a physical therapist trained in the exercise approach to promote rapid healing.

Active physical therapy can help shorten recovery time and return you to work and leisure activities as quickly as possible. Active physical therapy is an exercise program that may require home exercises as frequently as every 2 hours while you are awake. The exercises generally take about 5 minutes to do and do not require special equipment, nor do you need to go to a gym to do them.

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