Health A-Z

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Treatment

Most episodes of back pain are not serious and may be treated with:

  • Limited bed rest (no more than two days)

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) for pain or oral anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), for pain and inflammation

  • Muscle relaxants or prescription pain relievers, if necessary, for a short period

  • Hot or cold compresses

People with back pain are encouraged to return to their normal activities gradually, and to temporarily avoid heavy lifting, prolonged sitting, or sudden bending or twisting.

If you are recovering from back pain, your doctor may ask you to call or return to his or her office for a follow-up visit in about two weeks to confirm that your symptoms are gone and that you can safely resume all of your normal activities.

If your back pain is related to more serious disorders of the vertebrae or spinal nerves or if it hasn't improved over a few weeks, you may be referred to a specialist, such as a pain specialist, an orthopedic surgeon (a doctor who specializes in diseases of the bones), a neurologist (a doctor who specializes in diseases of the nerves and brain) or a rheumatologist (an arthritis specialist).

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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