Finding relief during an episode of back pain can feel impossible. There are several techniques that could help alleviate some pain, and there are several activities that could just be making things worse.
DO Treat Back Pain With Ice and Heat
For short-term relief of back pain, both ice and heat can help—though not at the same time. An ice pack is only effective within 48 hours of when the pain begins, as it helps reduce inflammation. Use an ice pack for 20 minutes every two hours for the first 48 hours, and then switch to a heat treatment to help soothe muscles and facilitate stretching.
DON'T Rest Too Much
During a period of acute back pain, your first inclination may be to lie down and rest. However, resting too much can mean longer healing times, as the inactivity could cause additional inflammation and muscle tension. Experts recommend a moderate level of activity—no more than your usual level—to keep the blood and nutrients flowing to the back and help it heal more quickly. For severe pain, resting for the first two days is reasonable but any longer can slow your recovery. If the pain is so severe that you can't get out of bed after two days, see your doctor.
DO Use Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers
For moderate acute pain, over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) can help temporarily ease the pain so you can continue with your day-to-day life. Take the medicine immediately when you begin to experience pain to help reduce swelling and inflammation. If you have kidney disease, discuss use of these medications with your physician as medications like ibuprofen and naproxen (known as NSAIDs) can cause kidney damage if used in excess of recommended dosages.
DON'T Sleep On Your Stomach
Sleeping on your stomach can cause additional strain to the spine, even if it feels fine when you first go to sleep. Preferably, sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees. If you can't get comfortable that way, sleep on your side with your knees bent slightly.
DO See Your Doctor if Things Get Worse
Back pain is common, but this doesn't mean it has to be a regular part of life. If self-management techniques are not working for you, don't be afraid to ask your doctor for help finding new ways to make the pain go away.