When You May Need Medicine
If non-drug interventions dont help, the ACP recommends first trying non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, indomethacin or meloxicam. While NSAIDs provide some pain relief, they may put you at risk for GI bleeding or kidney damage.
As second-line drugs, the ACP recommends duloxetine or tramadol .
Due to their serious side effects and addictive nature, opioid medications should be used only as a last resort when patients fail all other therapies, the ACP advises. The rule of thumb: Use the lowest possible dose of opioid for the least amount of time.
If youve been suffering with long-term low back pain, its worth exploring these non-drug treatment options before resorting to pills. Youre likely to find your quality of life improving.
Bonus Tip: Soothe The Pain With Cold And/or Hot
Don’t underestimate the pain reduction of simply applying cold packs and/or hot packs to help reduce your lower back pain.
- Cold therapy helps reduce inflammation and pain. Some examples include wrapping ice in a cloth, a pack of frozen peas from the freezer, or a cold gel pack. Always keep at least one layer between your skin and the ice/cold pack.
- Heat therapy helps improve blood flow, relaxation, and pain relief. Heat therapy can come in many forms. It’s best to try several to find what works best for you. Taking a warm bath or shower, soaking in a hot tub, or using a heating pad or heat wrap are all ways to bring warmth to your lower back.
Whether applying ice or a heat pack, limit applications to 15 or 20 minutes with at least 2 hours of rest in between to protect your skin. Never sleep with a heating pad or frozen pack as this can lead to permanent skin damage.
Hopefully these overlooked remedies can help you try some new approaches to better manage your lower back pain and find lasting relief.
Common Causes Of Chronic Back Pain
Chronic back painis usually age-related, but can also result from a prior injury. The mostcommon causes include:
- Arthritis of the spine the gradual thinning of the cartilage inside the spine
- Spinal stenosis narrowing of the spinal canal that may lead to nerve pain
- Disc problems, such as a herniated or bulging disc
- Myofascial pain syndromeunexplained muscle pain and tenderness
In some cases, its difficult to pinpoint the cause of chronic back pain.If your doctor has exhausted all diagnostic options, its time to seek asecond opinion from a back pain specialist, recommends Nava. Itsimportant not to make rushed decisions or undergo extensive medicalprocedures until the origin of the pain is found. Not only may they nothelp they could make the pain worse, warns Nava.
If the source of the pain is not known or cant be treated, your bestoption may be to work with your doctor on reducing the flare-ups and makingthe pain manageable with nonsurgical treatments.
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Pain In The Back Of The Head When Lying Down
Cluster headaches are rare but extremely painful. They get their name from the cluster periods in which they occur. People with cluster headaches experience frequent attacks. These periods or patterns of attack may last weeks or months.
Cluster headaches may cause pain in the back of the head or the sides of the head. They may get worse when lying down. Other symptoms to watch for include:
- sharp, penetrating, burning pain
Treatment is most effective when its based on the exact cause of your headache.
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Remedies Less Likely To Help
Cleveland Clinic spine specialists generally do not support the use of passive treatments for low back pain.
Chronic use of low-level laser therapy, ultrasound, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and spinal manipulation may only help in the short term, Dr. Mayer points out. We dont want you to waste your money on treatments unlikely to provide more than a day of benefit.
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How Long Will It Take For Sciatica To Go Away
The answer to this question will depend on the root cause. Most people find that with effective treatment, their pain subsides substantially within a few weeks. Some even experience sciatica relief in minutes with the right treatment.
If the pain becomes chronic due to a health condition, such as spinal stenosis, then pain can merely be controlled and cannot be cured.
This is why getting a proper diagnosis from a health care professional matters so much!
Expert Q& a: Back Strain Or Arthritis
Understand the difference between spinal arthritis and other types of back pain, and try these pain-relieving tricks.
Question: I am a 35-year-old man who has had pain in my lower back for the past couple of weeks, and Id like to know some methods for low back pain relief. Because my mother and an aunt both have arthritis, Im also wondering if I’m developing arthritis, too.
A: It’s possible, but very unlikely, that you have arthritis of the spine. The most common cause of acute low back pain in people your age is back strain. This condition is caused by strain to the muscles or ligaments supporting the spine or a herniation of the lumbar disks . It is not always possible to differentiate between the two causes, nor is it necessary. In the vast majority of cases, the pain improves and subsides over several weeks.
Assuming your problem is simple back strain , the following advice can help you achieve low back pain relief:
Doyt Conn, MD
Emory University School of Medicine
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Sensations That Might Indicate A Medical Emergency
1. Sharp pain rather than a dull ache: This could indicate a torn muscle or ligament, or a problem with an internal organ in the back or side.2. Radiating pain: This pain “moves” or shoots to the glutes or legs, which could indicate a nerve compression condition.
3. Sudden weakness in the legs: Limb weakness can be caused by compressed nerves in the spine due to conditions like sciatica or spinal stenosis. However, sudden leg weakness could also indicate a stroke.4. Incontinence: Back pain paired with inability to control the bowels or bladder might be a sign of serious nerve compression or a spine infection, such as discitis or meningitis.5. Numbness or pins and needles in the groin or glutes: This is known as saddle anesthesia and is also a sign of a serious nerve or spine condition.
If you have leg weakness, incontinence, and numbness together, you might have cauda equina syndrome, a serious illness characterized by spinal cord nerve damage. This is a medical emergency, and patients usually need surgery immediately to decompress the nerves and reduce permanent damage.
Related reading: Get help for back, neck, and leg pain caused by spinal stenosis
Help Ive Got Back Pain
Back pain is a problem we need to solve. Treatment costs are almost A$5 billion every year in Australia, and it is the main health condition forcing older people to retire prematurely. In the United States, loss of workdays due to back pain cost US$100 billion annually.
So, if the most commonly used medications and interventions for managing back pain do not work, what should people do instead?
First, there needs to be a stronger focus on preventing back pain. We know education and exercise programs can substantially reduce the risk of developing a new episode of back pain. In addition, we also know what can trigger back pain, such as manual tasks involving heavy loads, awkward postures and being fatigued or tired during an activity.
Second, once people have back pain, they should be given tailored advice and information to help them self-manage their condition. Patients should be reminded of the benign nature of back pain. Most of us will have some pain in our lower back but very rare cases will be associated with more serious causes . Reminding people of the importance of keeping active within their own limitations is also crucial. This includes going for a short walk or avoiding prolonged sitting.
Back pain has many causes and presentation scenarios, and a quick fix is not the answer. Although we would all like back pain to be resolved with painkillers, evidence points us to a different direction.
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Take A Relaxing Epsom Salt Bath
Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, works its way through the skin and into sore muscles. Soaking for about 20 minutes can help to ease sore back muscles, especially after exercise.
When taking an Epsom salt bath, youll want to make sure the water is warm. Hot water can cause muscles to swell and cold water can cause muscles to cramp. The Arthritis Foundation recommends a temperature between 92 and 100°F . Temperatures higher than 104°F arent recommended, especially if you have heart problems.
You can also enhance the soothing results by bringing a tennis ball or other rubber ball thats similar in size, with you in the tub. Put it on the small of your back or midback and move side to side. The effect is like a massage to your back, and it further loosens up tight muscles.
An added benefit of Epsom salt is that its great for your skin. Epsom salts can exfoliate dead skin cells, soften the skin, and reduce areas of itchiness.
Dont Rest An Achy Back
Doctors used to prescribe bed rest for back pain. But now we know that lying still is one of the worst things you can do. It can make back pain worse and lead to other complications. Donât rest for more than a day or two. Itâs important to get up and slowly start moving again. Exercise has been found to be one of the most effective ways to relieve back pain quickly. Try swimming, walking, or yoga.
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What If I Just Wait For The Pain To Go Away
Unfortunately, sciatica pain is so common that many people have come to believe that they can either just wait it out, self-treat the problem, or take advice from non-qualified persons about how they fixed their sciatica.
While most people have similar pain sensations, everyone is different. Some describe the pain as intermittent and annoying, while others find it intense and absolutely debilitating.
Sciatica rarely goes away on its own without some type of medical assistance and healing program.
Damage to the nerves can happen if the problem is not addressed. Nerve damage can lead to a permanent loss of sensation or even a loss of bladder or bowel control.
Seeing your chiropractor to determine the cause of your sciatic pain is the best possible option to avoid complications and to prevent a small problem from becoming more severe.
What Are The Most Common Types Of Headaches
The Third Edition of the International Classification of Headache Disorders is a tool used by physicians to diagnose headaches. It sorts primary headache disordersheadaches that cant be explained by a condition, illness, or injuryinto these four categories:
- Tension-type headache : This is the most common type of headache, and typically only causes mild to moderate pain. They strike on both sides of the head and are described as a dull, pressing, or band-like tightening.2
- Migraine: Migraine is a neurological condition that can cause head pain thats often described as throbbing and may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, smell, or touch. Migraine attacks affect around 12% of people.3
- Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias : TACs are rarer than migraine and TTH. They include cluster headache, which causes excruciating pain near the eye or temple that intensifies within minutes and lasts up to three hours, according to an older study published in the journal Neurology.4
- Other primary headache disorders: While rare, other primary headache disorders include primary stabbing headache, which causes sudden, stabbing pain, and new daily persistent headache, which appears out of the blue, is daily and continuous, and lasts for more than three months.
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Gently Stretch Your Joints And Soft Tissues Through Yoga
Yoga is an effective way to stretch your back, improve the health of muscles and joints, enhance distribution of healing nutrients through blood circulation, and increase the flexibility of the spine.12
When you start, perform the stretches slowly and advance only if you feel comfortable without pain. Gradually, you will be able to add more stretches to your routine. An ideal time for yoga is early morningto help loosen your spine and also reduce stiffness and aches in your back.
Who Gets Back Pain
Anyone can have back pain. You may be more likely to have back pain because of the following:
- Fitness level: Back pain is more common among people who are out of shape. You may also get back pain if you exercise too hard after not being active for a while.
- Obesity: If you are overweight or obese, it can put stress on the back and cause pain.
- Job-related risk factors: Jobs that require heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, or twisting can injure the back. A desk job may also play a role, especially if you slouch or sit all day in an uncomfortable chair.
- Age: You may have more back pain as you get older, particularly after you turn 45.
- Family history: Your genes play a role in some disorders that cause back pain.
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Managing Low Back Pain
Manage back pain with regular exercise and professional help as requiredIf you have an attack of lower-back pain that is severe, continuous and not improving, assessment and treatment by a health care professional who focuses on the back or other musculoskeletal problems may help. These practitioners may use both active and passive techniques to help you feel better. Examples of passive techniques that may be used to get you moving include:
- Heat or ice
An active approach, like walking or water aerobics is usually the most effective. Exercise is often the best way to relieve lower-back pain.
Check with your health care provider before starting an exercise program.
Work with an expert. It may help to work with a health professional who can explain which activities are right for you.
Choose exercises you enjoy. Many activities can help relieve back pain. Try to include activities that strengthen the muscles around your trunk, your abdominal muscles as well as those in your lower back. Studies show the following activities help relieve back pain:
- Lifting light weights
When To See A Doctor About Headaches
Dont power through regular head pain solo. See a doctor if youre experiencing headaches once per week or more or if they interfere with your everyday life. Not only can healthcare providers prescribe you medication, but they can also identify a potential underlying medical condition. Major red flags include:
- Headaches with an explosive onset
- Headaches that come on during certain activities
- Headaches with fever or stiff neck
- Headaches associated with changes in cognition
- Headaches with weakness or numbness
- Headaches that start after age 50
Play it safe and always seek out professional help if you have any concern about your health. The American Migraine Foundation offers resources for how to talk to your practitioner about headaches in order to help you find the best plan of action.
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When Is Not Helpful
Back pain is one of the most common reasons why people visit a health care provider. The good news is that the pain often goes away on its own, and people usually recover in a week or two. Many people want to stay in bed when their back hurts. For many years, getting bed rest was the normal advice. But current studies recommend no bed rest at all and stress that staying in bed longer than 48 hours not only wont help but it may, in fact, actually delay your recovery. Heres why:
Staying in bed wont help you get better faster.If youre in terrible pain, lying down for a day to help ease the distress may seem like a good idea, but moderating your activities and staying active in a limited way is a more effective way to control your symptoms. Research suggests that if you can find comfortable positions and keep moving, you may not need bed rest at all.Research shows that:
- Lying down longer than a day or two day isnt helpful for relieving back pain.
- People can recover more quickly without any bed rest.
- The sooner you start moving, even a little bit, or return to activities such as walking, the faster you are likely to improve.
When To Contact A Medical Professional
Some headaches may be a sign of a more serious illness. Seek medical help right away for any of the following:
- This is the first headache you have ever had in your life and it interferes with your daily activities.
- Your headache comes on suddenly and is explosive or violent. This kind of headache needs medical attention right away. It may be due to a ruptured blood vessel in the brain. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
- Your headache is âthe worst ever,â even if you regularly get headaches.
- You also have slurred speech, a change in vision, problems moving your arms or legs, loss of balance, confusion, or memory loss with your headache.
- Your headache gets worse over 24 hours.
- You also have a fever, stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting with your headache.
- Your headache occurs with a head injury.
- Your headache is severe and just in one eye, with redness in that eye.
- You just started getting headaches, especially if you are older than 50.
- Your headaches are associated with vision problems, pain while chewing, or weight loss.
- You have a history of cancer or immune system problem and develop a new headache.
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