Taking care of your back at home

Definition

Low back pain refers to pain that you feel in your lower back. You may also have back stiffness, decreased movement of the lower back, and difficulty standing straight.

There are many things you can do at home to help your back feel better and prevent future back pain.

Alternative Names

Back strain treatment; Back pain - home care; Low back pain - home care; Lumbar pain - home care; LBP - home care; Sciatic - home care

Information

A common myth about back pain is that you need to rest and avoid activity for a long time. In fact, doctors DO NOT recommend bed rest. If you have no sign of a serious cause for your back pain (such as loss of bowel or bladder control, weakness, weight loss, or fever), stay as active as possible.

Here are tips for how to handle back pain and activity:

EXERCISE TO PREVENT FUTURE BACK PAIN

Through exercise you can:

A complete exercise program should include aerobic activity such as walking, swimming, or riding a stationary bicycle. It should also include stretching and strength training. Follow the instructions of your doctor or physical therapist.

Begin with light cardiovascular training. Walking, riding an upright stationary bicycle (not the recumbent kind), and swimming are great examples. These types of aerobic activities can help improve blood flow to your back and promote healing. They also strengthen muscles in your stomach and back.

Stretching and strengthening exercises are important in the long run. Keep in mind that starting these exercises too soon after an injury can make your pain worse. Strengthening your abdominal muscles can ease the stress on your back. A physical therapist can help you determine when to begin stretching and strengthening exercises and how to do them.

Avoid these exercises during recovery, unless your doctor or physical therapist says it is OK:

TAKING MEASURES TO PREVENT FUTURE BACK PAIN

To prevent back pain, learn to lift and bend properly. Follow these tips:

Other measures to prevent back pain include:

References

El Abd OH, Amadera JED. Low back strain or sprain. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 48.

Sudhir A, Perina D. Musculoskeletal back pain. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine:Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 47.

Yavin D, Hurlbert RJ. Nonsurgical and postsurgical management of low back pain. In: Winn HR, ed. Youmans and Winn Neurological Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 281.


Review Date: 8/13/2020
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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