Health Checkup: Low Back Pain

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12/31/2008

Most people will experience back pain at least once in their life. The lower area of the back, because it supports most of your body’s weight, is the most frequent site of a backache.

So what self measures can you follow in the hope of alleviating your back pain?

• Although you do not need to rest and avoid all normal activities for a long period of time, you should limit normal physical activity for the 2-3 days.
• Apply an ice pack for the first 48 hours, and then apply heat after that.
• Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin). If you are taking prescription drugs, be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist that it is OK to take these pain relievers with your current medications.
• While sleeping, try lying in a curled-up, fetal position with a pillow between your legs. If you sleep on your back, try placing a pillow or rolled up towel under your knees to relieve pressure.
• After 2-3 weeks from the time you begin to recover from your back pain, you can return to exercising, preferably limited to light cardiovascular training, such as walking, riding a stationary bicycle or swimming.

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following in association with your back pain:

• Unexplained fever.
• Worse pain when you lie down or pain that awakens you at night.
• Weakness or numbness in your legs.
• Uncontrollable loss of bladder or bowel control.
• You have been losing weight unintentionally.
• The episode of back pain has lasted longer than 4 weeks.

Finally, preventative measures you can take to avoid back pain include:

• Avoid standing for long periods of time. If you must for your job, try alternatively resting each foot on a stool.
• When sitting for work, especially if you use a computer, make sure that your chair has a straight back with adjustable seat and back, arm rests and a swivel so you do not have to constantly twist your body to reach for an object.
• Place a small pillow or rolled towel behind your lower back while sitting or driving for long periods of time.
• Lose weight.
• Exercise at least 4-5 times per week.
• Learn to lift and bend properly by following these tips:
• Spread your feet apart to give a wide base of support.
• Stand as close to the object you are lifting as possible.
• Bend at your knees, not at your waist.
• Lift using your leg muscles and hold the object close to your body.
• Do not twist while you are bending for the object, lifting it up, or carrying it.