Back Pain Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on October 17, 2020

Self-Care at Home

General recommendations are to gradually increase your activity to tolerance as soon as possible. Bed rest is usually not advised for more than a day or two. Stretching or activities that place additional strain on the back are also discouraged.

  • Sleeping with a pillow between the knees while lying on one side may increase comfort. Some doctors recommend lying on your back with a pillow under your knees.
  • No specific back exercises have been found that improve pain or increase functional ability in people with acute back pain. Exercise, however, may be useful for people with chronic back pain to help them return to normal activities and work.
  • Nonprescription medications may provide relief from pain.
    • Ibuprofen (Advil, Nuprin, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) are excellent medications for the short-term treatment of low back pain. Because of the risk of ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding, talk with your doctor before using these medications, especially if you have any medical problems or take any other medicines.
    • Acetaminophen can also be effective in relieving pain.
    • Topical agents such as “deep heating rubs” may provide relief for some people.
    • Some people seem to benefit from the use of ice or heat. Take care: Do not use a heating pad on "high" or place ice directly on the skin.
  • Most experts agree that prolonged bed rest is associated with a longer recovery period. Further, people on bed rest are more likely to develop depression, blood clots in the legs, and decreased muscle tone. Very few experts recommend more than a 48-hour period of decreased activity or bed rest. In other words, get up and get moving to the extent you can.


Medical Treatment


Initial treatment of low back pain is based on the assumption that the pain in about 90% of people will go away on its own in about a month. Many different treatment options are available. Some of them have been proven to work. Others are of more questionable use.

For any given person, it is not known if a particular therapy will provide benefit until it is tried. Your doctor may try treatments known to be helpful in the past.

If back pain is associated with sudden loss of bladder or bowel control, weakness, or paralysis it is important to seek immediate medical attention.

WebMD Medical Reference



Cleveland Clinic: "Treating Back Pain Conservatively: Medication and Bedrest."

UpToDate: "Approach to the diagnosis and evaluation of low back pain in adults."

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Low Back Pain Fact Sheet."


© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Click to view privacy policy and trust info
Scroll Down for the Next Article