Back Pain

What is Back Pain

Back pain is very common. The pain often gets better over time. The cause of back pain is usually not dangerous. Most people can learn to manage their back pain on their own.

Follow these instructions at home:

Watch your back pain for any changes. The following actions may help to lessen any pain you are feeling:

  • Stay active. Start with short walks on flat ground if you can. Try to walk farther each day.
  • Exercise regularly as told by your doctor. Exercise helps your back heal faster. It also helps avoid future injury by keeping your muscles strong and flexible.
  • Do not sit, drive, or stand in one place for more than 30 minutes.
  • Do not stay in bed. Resting more than 1–2 days can slow down your recovery.
  • Be careful when you bend or lift an object. Use good form when lifting:
    • Bend at your knees.
    • Keep the object close to your body.
    • Do not twist.
  • Sleep on a firm mattress. Lie on your side, and bend your knees. If you lie on your back, put a pillow under your knees.
  • Take medicines only as told by your doctor.
  • Put ice on the injured area.
    • Put ice in a plastic bag.
    • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.
    • Leave the ice on for 20 minutes, 2–3 times a day for the first 2–3 days. After that, you can switch between ice and heat packs.
  • Avoid feeling anxious or stressed. Find good ways to deal with stress, such as exercise.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight puts stress on your back.

Contact a doctor if:

  • You have pain that does not go away with rest or medicine.
  • You have worsening pain that goes down into your legs or buttocks.
  • You have pain that does not get better in one week.
  • You have pain at night.
  • You lose weight.
  • You have a fever or chills.

Get help right away if:

  • You cannot control when you poop (bowel movement) or pee (urinate).
  • Your arms or legs feel weak.
  • Your arms or legs lose feeling (numbness).
  • You feel sick to your stomach (nauseous) or throw up (vomit).
  • You have belly (abdominal) pain.
  • You feel like you may pass out (faint).

Back Pain, Pediatric

Low back pain and muscle strain are the most common types of back pain in children. They usually get better with rest. It is uncommon for a child under age 10 to complain of back pain. It is important to take complaints of back pain seriously and to schedule a visit with your child’s health care provider.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Avoid actions and activities that worsen pain. In children, the cause of back pain is often related to soft tissue injury, so avoiding activities that cause pain usually makes the pain go away. These activities can usually be resumed gradually.
  • Only give over-the-counter or prescription medicines as directed by your child’s health care provider.
  • Make sure your child’s backpack never weighs more than 10% to 20% of the child’s weight.
  • Avoid having your child sleep on a soft mattress.
  • Make sure your child gets enough sleep. It is hard for children to sit up straight when they are overtired.
  • Make sure your child exercises regularly. Activity helps protect the back by keeping muscles strong and flexible.
  • Make sure your child eats healthy foods and maintains a healthy weight. Excess weight puts extra stress on the back and makes it difficult to maintain good posture.
  • Have your child perform stretching and strengthening exercises if directed by his or her health care provider.
  • Apply a warm pack if directed by your child’s health care provider. Be sure it is not too hot.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your child’s pain is the result of an injury or athletic event.
  • Your child has pain that is not relieved with rest or medicine.
  • Your child has increasing pain going down into the legs or buttocks.
  • Your child has pain that does not improve in 1 week.
  • Your child has night pain.
  • Your child loses weight.
  • Your child misses sports, gym, or recess because of back pain.

Get help right away if:

  • Your child develops problems with walking or refuses to walk.
  • Your child has a fever or chills.
  • Your child has weakness or numbness in the legs.
  • Your child has problems with bowel or bladder control.
  • Your child has blood in urine or stools.
  • Your child has pain with urination.
  • Your child develops warmth or redness over the spine.
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