mid or lower back pain that occurs mainly in the midline.
- Lower back
pain is the cause of countless visits to doctors' offices and emergency rooms.
It is the second most common cause of lost workdays, after cold and flu symptoms.
Over 80% of Americans experience lower back pain at some point in their lives.
- In most cases, the cause of lower back pain is not serious,
and the pain usually subsides within 4-6 weeks, without special treatment.
See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) If
if the pain is in the part of the upper back that overlies the rib cage rather
than the spine.
WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR FOR BACK PAIN
Call 911 Now (you may need an ambulance) If:
- Very weak (can't stand)
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If:
- You feel
weak or very sick
- Severe pain
- Visible sweat on face, or sweat is dripping down your face
- Associated abdominal pain
- Weakness of a leg or foot
- Tingling or numbness in the legs or feet
- Numbness in groin or rectal area
- Unable to urinate and your bladder feels very full
- Blood in urine
- Fever and pain over lower ribs of back (flank)
- Vomiting and pain over lower ribs of back
- Pain or burning with urination and pain over lower ribs of back
- Pain goes into groin or scrotum
- Pregnant and pain is not relieved with rest
- You have a history of cancer, HIV, or intravenous drug abuse
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am
and 4 pm) If:
- You think
you need to be seen
- Rash or blisters in same area as pain
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If:
- You have
other questions or concerns
- Back pain lasts more than 2 weeks
- Back pain is a recurrent, ongoing problem
- Over 50 years old and you have not experienced similar back
- Back pain lasts more than 3 days and it interferes with normal
activities or awakens you from sleep
- Pain radiates (shoots, spreads) into the thigh or down a leg
Self Care at Home If:
- Mild back
pain and you don't think you need to be seen
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR MILD BACK PAIN
Heavy lifting or excessive twisting can cause lower back pain. With
treatment, the pain usually goes away in 1 to 2 weeks.
Local Cold Or Heat: During the first 2 days after a mild injury, massage
the sore muscles with a cold pack or ice pack for 20 minutes four times a day.
Wrap the cold pack in a towel to prevent frostbite. After 2 days, apply
a heating pad or hot water bottle to the most painful area for 20 minutes whenever
the pain flares up. Wrap hot water bottles or heating pads in a towel
to avoid burns.
Sleep: Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees. If you
sleep on your back, place a pillow under your knees to reduce stress on your
lower back. Avoid sleeping on your abdomen. The mattress should be firm
or reinforced with a board. Avoid waterbeds.
Activity: Continue ordinary activities as much as your pain permits.
Continued activity is more healing for the back than rest. Avoid any activities
that significantly increase the pain. Avoid heavy lifting, twisting, and strenuous
exercise until completely well. (Note: complete bed rest is unnecessary.)
Pain Medication: For pain relief, take acetaminophen every 4-6 hours
(Adults 650 mg) OR ibuprofen every 6-8 hours (Adults 400 mg).
- Do not take ibuprofen if you have stomach problem, kidney disease,
are pregnant, or have been told by your doctor to avoid this type of anti-inflammatory
drug. Do not take ibuprofen for more than 7 days without consulting your doctor.
- Do not take acetaminophen if you have liver disease.
- Read the package instructions thoroughly on all medications
that you take.
- The only way to prevent future backaches is to keep your back
muscles in excellent physical condition.
- A sedentary lifestyle (lack of exercise) is a risk factor for
developing back pain.
- Walking, stationary biking, and swimming provide good aerobic
conditioning as well as exercise for your back.
- Being overweight puts more weight on the spine and thus increases
the risk of back pain. If you are overweight, work with your doctor to develop
a weight-loss program.
- Good Body Mechanics:
Lifting: Stand close to the object to be lifted. Keep your back
straight and lift by bending your legs. Ask for lifting help if needed.
Sleeping: Sleep on a firm mattress.
Sitting: Avoid sitting for long periods of time without a break.
Avoid slouching. Place a pillow or towel behind your lower back for support.
Posture: Maintain good posture.
- During the first couple days after an injury, strengthening
exercises should be avoided.
- The following exercises can help strengthen the back. Perform
the following exercises 3-10 times each day, for 5-10 seconds each time.
- Bent knee sit-ups: Lay on back, curl
forward lifting shoulders about 6 inches off the floor.
- Leg lifts: lay on back, lift feet 6
inches off floor.
- Pelvic tilt: lay on back with knees
bent, push lower back against floor.
- Chest lift: lie face down on ground,
place arms by your sides, lift shoulders off the floor.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Numbness or weakness occur
- Bowel/bladder problems occur
- Pain persists for more than 2 weeks
- You become worse or develop any of the "Call Your Doctor"
This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical
advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full
responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Adult HouseCalls Online. Copyright © 2000-2004
David Thompson, M.D. FACEP
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