Lower back pain is extremely common; approximately 18 percent of people report having experienced some kind of pain in the lower back during the last 30 days. The symptoms range from slightly annoying to totally incapacitating. This is also among the most common reasons that patients visit their doctors.
Unfortunately for patients, lots of misinformation exists about how to treat lower back pain. The first thing you should do if you have any symptoms of back pain is to visit your doctor to make sure it is musculoskeletal in origin and not due to any other kind of underlying pathology. After you eliminate this possibility, it’s time to focus on relieving symptoms.
It is a relief to know that about 30 to 60 percent of people who have an episode of lower back pain will usually recover within 7 days. And fully 95% will recover within 3 months. Although it is likely that completely recovery will occur, dealing with lower back pain can be very stressful until the recovery occurs.
Following is an overview of what works and doesn’t work with regard to treating lower back pain.
1. Ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is in a group of medicines that are known as anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). Medical studies have proven that this group of medications has greatly helped to control back pain. On a negative note, these medications sometimes have side effects; if you have a peptic ulcer or experience bleeding from the digestive tract, you should not take these medications. If you have some type of kidney disease, you should try to stay away from them as well.
2. Tylenol. Tylenol, or acetaminophen, has been proven to work in the treatment of lower back pain in a number of studies. It is not certain that this medication is as good as Ibuprofen, however, it does have its benefitss which may be useful if you are unable to take Ibuprofen. If you have a history of liver disease, you should not take Tylenol.
3. Muscle relaxants. It has been demonstrated in several medical studies that, when taken within the first two weeks of the onset of symptoms, this class of medications is quite effective in easing the muscle spasms that often accompany lower back pain. As these medications can be addictive, they require a doctor’s prescription. Other side effects may possibly limit their use, including drowsiness, lightheadness, and dizziness; this means they should not be taken if you will be driving a vehicle or operating any kind of machinery.
4. Application of Heat. Applying moist heat to the area of the back that is affected with pain has been said to help with lower back pain. Applying a hot water bottle or a moist heat pack to the affected area a number of times a day has been known to have positive results.
5. Cold application. Unfortunately, cold packs have not be proven to work as well as placing heat on the lower back for relief. You should avoid this type of therapy.
6. Exercise. You might find this surprising. A set exercise program and exercises designed strictly for lower back pain did not prove to work in relieving symptoms, no matter the time frame or the type of exercise that was performed. One thing that did prove beneficial was keeping active rather than staying in bed. Patients who remained active during their bout of lower back pain recovered more quickly than those who treated the pain with bed rest.
7. Alternative Therapies. Several alternative therapies have been studied to determine if they help relieve lower back pain. There has not been enough evidence to prove that either massage or acupuncture are very effective in reducing lower back pain. There was a study that showed patients who had acupuncture used less medications when dealing with their pain symptoms. Until further research has been done, I would stay away from these treatments.
So what should you do if you need some type of lower back pain relief?
After your condition has been cleared by your doctor, my recommendation would be to use Ibuprofen or Tylenol if you can handle them and you do not have a condition that prevents you from using them. You should request muscle relaxants from your doctor for use during the night. You should continue to stay active but also apply heat to the area a few times a day. If your pain continues after a month or if more symptoms develop, see your doctor and ask for another check-up.