Are you regretting that decision to help a friend throw away that Plasma TV? Chances are you and 84% of Americans will experience acute lower back pain in their lifetime. The good news is that most patients improve without care or with conservative management within few weeks of onset.
While acute lower back pain in a healthy young person is unlikely to indicate a serious medical issue, certain risk factors as well as co-existing medical problems could put some population groups at higher risk for something more than just a “back sprain.”
Please see your physician immediately if any of the following applies to you:
- Over the age of 50
- Inability to control bowel or bladder function
- Numbness or “pins-and-needles” sensation around the anus
- Significant weakness, numbness, or pain in the legs and feet
- Weight loss, history of cancer (particularly cancers of the prostate, lung, breast, thyroid, kidney, or multiple myeloma)
- Fevers, chills, or a history of bone or blood stream infections
- History of IV drug use
- Trauma to the back
- Certain medications that include blood thinners (ex: Warfarin) or steroids (ex: Prednisone)
- Pain that does not improve or gets worse over the course of four weeks
If none of the above applies, there are plenty of evidence-based, home remedies that could alleviate some of the pain while the body heals itself. For example, heating pads have been found to significantly reduce pain. Early mobility can strengthen the back muscles and reduce the duration of symptoms.
Cautious, short term usage of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen have shown to improve symptoms. Acetaminophen can also be used if there are contraindications to taking NSAIDs. Despite being over the counter, many of these medications have significant side effects and are not suitable for people with various pre-existing conditions.
As your partner in health, your primary care physician is always happy to discuss any concerns regarding back pain. At the visit, your doctor may order imaging, labs, or refer to a specialist based on your history and physical findings. Working with your doctor will ensure you are on the quickest road to recovery.