LittlePeopleLogo     Low Back Pain

How does it occur?

Low back pain is usually caused when a ligament or muscle holding a bone that makes up the spinal column is strained. Low back pain can occur if you lift and carry heavy objects, or if you spend a lot of time sitting or standing in one position or bending over. It can be caused by a fall or by unusually strenuous exercise

How is it treated?

The following are elements of a program for treating low back pain:

• Applying heat from a heating pad or hot water bottle.

• Taking ibuprofen, or other anti-inflammatory medications; muscle relaxants; or other pain medications if recommended by your doctor.

• Having your back massaged.

• Wearing a belt or corset to support your back.

• Beginning a program of physical therapy, or exercising on your own. Begin a regular exercise program to gently stretch and strengthen your muscles as soon as you can. Your doctor or physical therapist can recommend exercises that will not only help you feel better but will strengthen your muscles and help avoid back trouble later.

When the pain subsides, ask your doctor about starting an exercise program such as the following:

• Exercise moderately every day, using stretching and warm-up exercises suggested by your doctor or physical therapist.

• Exercise vigorously for about 30 minutes two or three times a week by walking, swimming, using a stationary bicycle, or doing low-impact aerobics.

Participating regularly in an exercise program will not only help your back, it will also help keep you healthier overall.

How long will the effects last?

The effects of back pain last as long as the cause exists or until your body recovers from the strain, usually a day or two but sometimes weeks.

How can I take care of myself?

In addition to considering the elements of a treatment plan given above, keep in mind these suggestions:

• Apply an electric heating pad on a low setting or a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel to avoid burning yourself. Some people are helped by applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel for 20 minutes, one to four times a day. (Set an alarm to avoid frostbite.)

• Put a pillow under your knees when you are lying down.

• Sleep without a pillow under your head.

• Lose weight if you are overweight.

• Make it a habit to stand with your head up, shoulders straight, chest forward, weight balanced evenly on both feet, and pelvis tucked in.

• Eat nutritious food.


What can I do to help prevent low back pain?

You can reduce the strain on your back by doing the following:

• Don't push with your arms when you move a heavy object. Turn around and push backwards so the strain is taken by your legs.

• Whenever you sit, sit in a straight-backed chair and hold your spine against the back of the chair.

• Bend your knees and hips and keep your back straight when you lift a heavy object.

• Avoid lifting heavy objects higher than your waist.

• Hold packages you carry close to your body, with your arms bent.

• Use a footrest for one foot when you stand or sit in one spot for a long time. This keeps your back straight.

• Bend your knees when you bend over.

• Sit close to the pedals when you drive and use your seat belt and a hard backrest or pillow.

• Lie on your side with your knees bent when you sleep or rest. It may help to put a pillow between your knees.

• Put a pillow under your knees when you sleep on your back.

• Raise the foot of the bed 8 inches to discourage sleeping on your stomach unless you have other problems that require that you keep your head elevated.