Lower Back Pain: What to Do
—Robert Djergaian, MD, Southwest Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Back pain may come from a breakdown or rupture in one of the disks that act as cushions between the bones in the spine. Tense muscles or muscle spasms can also be a cause, as can arthritis, bone spurs, infections and tumors.
People are more likely to have back pain as they get older. Others at greater risk include smokers, overweight people and those in poor physical condition.
Your job can also contribute to your back pain. For example, if you work at a desk and have poor posture, you're at risk. Likewise, people whose jobs require lifting, pushing, pulling and twisting actions are more likely to have sore backs.
Most back pain can be treated without surgery. For example, your healthcare provider may offer these recommendations:
- Take it easy for a few days.
- Try over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including aspirin.
- Apply heat packs (to reduce muscle spasms and pain)or cold packs (to help reduce swelling.
The best way to recover from an acute injury and have a healthy back is to try to achieve an ideal body weight and to follow a regular exercise program. Be sure to include conditioning, flexibility, exercise and core strengthening while using good lifting techniques.
For severe pain, your healthcare provider might prescribe a muscle relaxant or narcotic pain reliever for a brief time. Some people try back massage, electrical stimulation or traction. Others find relief by wearing a back brace. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best options for your situation.
Published September/October 2009, Southwest Health