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Back Problems and Injuries (cont.)

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Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.Actionsets are designed to help people take an active role in managing a health condition.
Back Problems: Proper Lifting
Fitness: Increasing Core Stability
Low Back Pain: Exercises to Reduce Pain

Check Your Symptoms

Home Treatment

Home treatment may help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness related to a back problem.

  • Return to your normal daily activities and work as soon as you can, although you may need to modify or limit some work tasks.
  • Avoid bed rest. Bed rest is not an effective treatment for back pain and may cause you to heal more slowly.
  • Apply an ice or cold pack to the injured area for the first 48 to 72 hours. Apply cold packs or ice for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day or up to once an hour. Cold decreases swelling and pain. Keep a towel between your skin and the ice to prevent frostbite. Do not fall asleep with the ice on your skin.
  • Change position every 30 minutes. Gently massage or rub the area to relieve pain and encourage blood flow. Do not massage the injured area if it causes pain.
  • For the first 48 hours after an injury, avoid things that might increase swelling, such as hot showers, hot tubs, hot packs, or alcoholic beverages.
  • After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat. Use a warm pack or heating pad set on low. Some experts recommend switching back and forth between heat and cold treatments. You can also begin gentle exercise with the aid of moist heat to help restore and maintain flexibility.
  • Avoid sitting up in bed, sitting on soft couches, and twisting or sitting in other positions that make your symptoms worse.
  • Try one of the following sleep positionsClick here to see an illustration. if you have trouble sleeping at night:
    • Lie on your back with your knees bent and supported by large pillows, or lie on the floor with your legs on the seat of a sofa or chair.
    • Lie on your side with your knees and hips bent and a pillow between your legs.
    • Lie on your stomach if it does not increase your pain.
  • Begin moderate aerobic exercise. Take short walks (3 to 5 minutes every 3 hours) on level surfaces as soon as you can to help keep your muscles strong. Avoid hills and stairs. Walk only distances that you can manage without pain, especially pain in your legs. Add to your exercise program every week to continue your progress.
  • Do pelvic tilt exercisesClick here to see an illustration. to gently move the spine and stretch the lower back. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slowly tighten your stomach muscles and press your lower back against the floor. Hold the position for 10 seconds. Do not hold your breath. Slowly relax.

Click here to view an Actionset.Exercises to reduce pain

More home treatment for a tailbone (coccyx) injury

  • A warm sitz bath for 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times per day after the first 48 to 72 hours, can be soothing to the tailbone area. Sitting in a hot tub or warm bath may also feel good, as long as you are not sitting directly on your tailbone.
  • Do not sit on hard, unpadded surfaces.
  • Sit on a C-shaped pillow with the open space under your tailbone to take pressure off the tailbone area.
  • Avoid constipation. Straining to have a bowel movement will increase tailbone pain. For more information, see the topic Constipation, Age 12 and Older.

Do not smoke. Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.

Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
  • Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs):
    • Ibuprofen, such as Advil or Motrin
    • Naproxen, such as Aleve or Naprosyn
  • Aspirin (also a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), such as Bayer or Bufferin

Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.

Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

Home treatment 2 to 3 days after the injury

  • Continue with daily walks, increasing the walks to 5 to 10 minutes 3 to 4 times a day.
  • Try swimming, which is good for your back. It may be painful immediately after a back injury, but lap swimming or kicking with swim fins often helps prevent back pain from coming back.
  • Take a yoga class or get a massage.

Back pain often gets better when you gradually increase your physical activity. Try to get back to your normal routines and activities as soon as possible. Resting and not doing anything may actually increase back pain or make it last longer.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • One or both legs become weak or numb.
  • You lose control of your bowels or bladder.
  • Back pain does not improve or gets worse.
  • Fever develops.
  • Symptoms become more severe or frequent.
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