Is the pain unbearable?
Is the patient over 60 years old?
Did the pain start a few days ago, and is not improving?
Are you having trouble walking?
Is the pain causing weakness in your leg(s)?
Is the pain causing numbness in your genital area?
Are you having fever?
Does urinating cause pain?
Are you having to go to the bathroom more often than usual?
Is the back pain a result of a fall or other serious injury?

ACTIVITIES:  Avoid heavy lifting or bending. Bed rest is usually not necessary. Gently massaging sore muscles may help them to relax. Use a heating pad occasionally, but do not fall asleep with it on. Sleep on a firm mattress on your side or back.

MEDICATIONS:  Tylenol, aspirin, or Motrin may relieve some of your discomfort. Take no more than the recommended dosage.

DIET:  If you are overweight and have recurrent back problems, then losing weight will likely lessen the frequency and severity of attacks. Otherwise, you may eat anything you wish.


1. The pain becomes unbearable.
2. The pain lasts longer than a month.
3. The pain is worse when you lie down.
4. You have onset of numbness or muscle weakness.
5. You have trouble walking.
6. You develop fever.
7. You become constipated.
8. There is no improvement in a few days.

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This page was last updated on 19 August 1999.