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What Is Your Back Pain Telling You?

The First 48 Hours: Self-Help Tips continued...

Rest. A Little.
Naturally, you'll ask your husband to bring the laundry up from the basement and you'll stop doing any motion you think put you in this predicament. Lie down when you need to, but make sure it's in a back-neutral position: Try lying on your back with your head supported but not lifted and your knees bent and supported with a cushion. Another option: Lie on your side with one pillow behind your neck and another between your knees. Bed rest is OK only for the first 48 hours; after that (or even in those first two days), walking around will relieve pain-causing tension in your muscles.

Talk to your doctor if your pain continues to worsen, and seek professional help right away if:

  • You've fallen, been in a car accident, or had another traumatic injury
  • You can't move one or both legs, or you have severe numbness or weakness
  • You lose bowel control or have urinary difficulties, or you lose feeling in the groin (there may be severe nerve involvement)
  • You have fever — it could be an infection
  • You experience severe pain with movement, especially if you have arthritis or osteoporosis — you may have a fracture

Back Pain Remedies
The Good Housekeeping Research Institute assembled a panel of back-pain sufferers to test-drive four soothers, all top sellers from

Tiger Balm
This oldie — the herbal ointment was created about a century ago — is apparently still a goodie, earning top scores for immediate and longer-term relief. It "totally worked," said a panelist. $10.56 for two 4-packs.

Backnobber II
Practice may be key with this acupressure gadget; panelists who kept at it were rewarded with fewer knots and less tension. Better for relief after a bad day than for ongoing pain. $29

Testers liked that they didn't have to wait for the heat to activate with this warm-when-you-open-it wrap (a plus when you're in pain). More effective for right-away relief. $21 for three 2-packs.

Hitachi Magic Wand
Though this is touted as a back massager, if you Google it, you'll find the wand is primarily sold as a sex toy. Maybe that's why our panel — which tested it only on backs — was disappointed. $40


Originally published on November 12, 2009


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