Back Pain – Home Treatment

Home Treatment
Postures For Acute Pain Relief
Which exercises are for you? – Back Stretches
Exercises To Avoid
First Aid For Back Pain

Home Treatment

The goals of self-care are to relieve pain, promote healing and avoid re-injury.  For the first two or three days: Immediately after an injury and for the next few days, the most important home treatments include:

  • Ice pack or cold massage applied to the low back  for 15-20 minutes three or four times a day / up to once an hour. Cold decreases inflammation, swelling and pain.  Ice is used for :
    • ACUTE PAIN (Acute -sudden onset of pain).  Ice is always used following trauma such as a car accident or cases of severe leg pain x 2-3 days.
    • NEUROLOGICAL LEG PAIN  may benefit from ice x several weeks.  This type of pain is described as deep ache, numbness, tingling or feelings of weakness in the leg and is usually associated with back pain.  (Ice is used on the back not the leg as the back is the source of this type of leg pain.)
  • Rest in positions that are most comfortable and reduce your pain, especially positions that reduce leg pain.
  • Heat applied for 15 -20 minutes while resting in a comfortable position with heating pad or hot water bottle for back tension  – low grade ache.  This is best for long term chronic, (Chronic= slow onset(over months or years) or low grade pain dull ache). conditions.  Use caution with heat as this can increase swelling and cause increased pain. If you are not getting relief with heat you may respond better to ice.  
  • Use a firm mattress (place a bed board under the mattress if needed)
  • Wear a  back support with stressful activity.
  • Learn stress reduction techniques.
  • Take breaks if you have to stand or sit for long periods.
  • Do not sit up in bed, and avoid soft couches and twisting positions. Avoid positions that worsen your symptoms, such as sitting for long periods of time. Avoid bending from the waist.
  • Bed rest can help relieve back pain but may not speed healing. Stick with what makes you feel better. Unless you have severe leg pain, one to three days of rest should relieve pain. More than three days is not recommended and could actually delay healing. Try one of the following:

Postures For Acute Pain Relief

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and supported by large pillows, or on the floor with your legs on the seat of a sofa or chair.
  • Lie on your side with your knees and hips bent and a pillow between your legs.
  • If you have to sit add a small pillow to support your lower back.
  • How big should the pillow be? Exactly where do I put the pillow?  Use what gives you the best pain relief (we are all a little different).
  • Good posture means ear, shoulder & hip are in a straight line – this is the same for standing, sitting & lying down.

Which exercises are for you?

  • If you have injured your back within the last two weeks, or you have more pain in you leg than in your back or buttocks, see First aid for back pain.
  • Discontinue any exercises that increase pain or that causes pain to move towards the foot (i.e.: pain moves form buttocks to thigh or thigh to feet).
  • Gradually increase any exercise that helps you feel better. 

Exercises To Avoid

Many common exercises actually increase the risk of low back pain. Avoid the following:

  • Straight leg sit-up.
  • Bent leg sit-ups during acute back pain (may be safe if back is kept neutral ).
  • Leg lifts (lifting both legs while lying on back).
  • Lifting heavy weights above waist (military press, biceps curls while standing).
  • Any stretching done while siting on floor – legs extended bending “nose to knees”.
  • Toe touches while standing.

First Aid For Back Pain

Stop any exercise or treatment that increases your pain. When you first feel a catch or strain in you back, try these steps to avoid or reduce expected pain. These are the most important home treatments for the first few days of back pain.

First aid # 1 ICE As soon as possible, apply an ice pack to the injured area. (10-15 minutes every hour). Cold limits swelling, reduces pain and speeds healing.

First aid # 2 MEDICATION Some medications are available without a prescription.  If the non-prescription dose does not relieve your pain CALL YOUR DOCTOR.  Take aspirin or ibuprofen regularly as directed on the bottle (call your doctor if you’ve been told to avoid anti-inflammatory medication). Acetaminophen  (Tylenol) may also be used. Take these medications sensibly;  never exceed the dosage suggested on the bottle, the maximum recommended dose will reduce the pain. Masking the pain completely might allow movement that could lead to re-injury.

First aid # 3 TAKE SHORT WALKS (three to five minutes every three hours) on level surfaces (no inclines) as soon as you can to keep your muscles strong. Only walk distances that you can manage without pain, especially leg pain. Remember, this is part of your exercise program. Don’t try to do two things at once. Shopping, carrying packages or walking your dog (unless the dog does not pull on the leash at all) will strain your back.

First aid # 4 RELAX YOUR MUSCLES Listen to soft music – Practice deep breathing – try one of the commercially available relaxation tapes.

First aid # 5 STRETCHES – Click here to go the Back Stretch Page

After two or three days of Home Treatment:

  • Resume / begin daily walks ( increase to 5-10 minutes three to four times a day)
  • Try swimming DO NOT DO ANY EXERCISES THAT INCREASE YOUR PAIN. Start with floating on your back (no more than 5 minutes your first time in the pool) Lap swimming or kicking with swim fins is often helpful to prevent back pain from recurring.
  • When your pain is gone slowly resume normal activities.  Continue to use caution with lifting, bending, sitting & sports for 6 – 8 weeks, after the pain is gone, to allow the back to heal.  If you have a regular exercise program begin easy exercises that do not increase your pain. Start with  2-5 repetitions twice a day and increase to 10 as you are able.


  • Continue with daily work or school schedules to the extent possible. Use care in resuming normal activities.  Stop activities that cause increased pain.
  • A gradual stretching/strengthening  program can help reduce pain. (Use caution  – sometimes you don’t feel pain until the day after you exercise.)
  • Avoid strenuous activity for 6-8 weeks.
  • After healing, continued use of good body mechanics (good posture with sitting, standing, bending, driving and resting) can prevent future problems.  A physical therapist can instruct you in a basic program of back care including maintenance

Possible Complications

Chronic low back pain and restricted lifestyle.





  • You have mild, low back pain that persists for 3 or 4 days after self-treatment .
  • Back pain or leg pain is severe.
  • Back pain or back and leg pain that goes away for short periods but keeps coming back.
  • New or unexplained symptoms appear.
  • Physical therapy should be prescribed when you have been treated by your M.D. but pain persists beyond 1-2 weeks or if you have had multiple episodes of pain over the past year.

Probable Outcome

Gradual recovery, but back troubles tend to recur. A home program can prevent continued back problems.
Physical therapy can help you prevent long term problems.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.