Effective ways to help back pain

There are ways to relieve acute low back pain and help your recovery.

  • Stay active — start with gentle activity, keep moving
  • Be positive — don’t allow the pain to take over
  • Control the pain — use a simple pain reliever to help you stay active.

Stay active

Stay active and move about to speed your recovery

Acute low back pain can be severe and you may need to reduce your activities for a couple of days. Resting longer than this in bed or on the couch is not going to help you recover more quickly.

Keep moving

The sooner you start moving naturally again, the sooner your back is likely to start feeling better. Move about and stretch regularly. Avoid staying in one position — for example sitting at your computer, watching TV or lying down — for more than 20–30 minutes at a time.

Start slowly

With each day, try to move a little further or faster; slowly build up your level of activity within your normal day-to-day routine. Experiencing some pain when moving is normal, just take it slowly.

Return to work

Most people who experience acute low back pain do better if they return to work fairly quickly. This may mean returning to your job before your back feels completely better. You may need to modify the way you normally work until you feel better. Speak to your employer or doctor before your return.

Be positive

Pain can leave you feeling tired, frustrated, sad, worried, angry, or generally in a bad mood. This can make your pain feel worse.

If you are feeling like this you are less likely to want to be active, which may slow your recovery. Don’t allow the pain to take over. You may find using relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises help you to stay calm and cope with the pain. Try to remember that although the pain may be severe it is likely to be temporary and you should be back to normal within a few days or weeks.

Control the pain

Pain medication

Use pain medication to reduce the pain enough for you to stay active. For most people it is best to start with a simple pain reliever, those that you don’t need a prescription for.

Other treatments

There are other non-medicine treatments available for back pain, but many have not been studied in detail and so it is not known how helpful they are. This does not mean they will not help you manage the pain. Speak to your health professional about other treatments that might be right for you. Some examples include:

  • hot or cold packs, such as a warm blanket, wheat pack, hot water bottle or bag of frozen peas
  • manual therapy, such as spinal manipulation, spinal mobilisation and massage
  • acupuncture, sometimes called dry-needling.

Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if your low back pain does not improve, you are concerned or you develop any unusual symptoms.