Emergency Department

Lower Back Pain – Prevention & Treatment

Lower Back Muscle Strain

A common medical condition that is seen in the emergency department is back pain.  Recently I lost several weeks of work due to a lower back injury that I incurred while moving a patient from a stretcher to a bed.  During my recovery I did some research on prevention of and recovery from a lower back muscle strain.  The purpose of this article is to share with you some of the things I learned.

It is in everyone’s best interest that we take care of our backs.  Lower back pain is one of leading causes of activity limitation and work absence in the nation costing countless hours of lost productivity as well as thousands of dollars in lost wages.

Some of the best ways to prevent lower back injuries are:

  • Do back strengthening and stretching exercises at least twice a week. Yoga is a good activity that helps accomplish both of these.
  • Stand and sit up straight. When you do this you are engaging both your abdominal and back muscles.   Try not to sit or stand for extended periods of time.  Mix it up a little.
  • Avoid heavy lifting. If you must lift or move something bend your knees and keep your back straight, so your legs do most of the straining.
  • Don’t be a couch potato. Do light exercise, like walking for 30 minutes 3-5 times a week.
  • Reduce your stress level. Stress causes your muscles to tighten which can lead to aches and pains.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts and regardless of age, sex, or occupation, you will end up with a lower back strain.  If you do here are some basic treatment options that can help speed your way to recovery.

Some treatment options for a simple lower back strain are:

  • Apply ice for 15 – 20 minutes several times a day for the first few days
  • Apply heat for up to 15 minutes several times a day a few days after the initial injury.
  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (nsaids) per label instructions.
  • Stretching exercises that focus on the lower back and hamstring muscles at least twice a day.
  • Move as tolerated, inactivity will lengthen your recovery period.

If your back does not start to feel better in a couple of days or if you start to have pain that radiates down either leg, go see your doctor immediately.

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