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Back Pain Health Center

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What Is Your Back Pain Telling You?

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

Reach for the Meds
Or, if reaching is out of the question, dispatch someone to the medicine chest for an anti-inflammatory — aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). These can be started right away (at the highest dose recommended on the label) to reduce pain and swelling. If you're allergic to these painkillers or they upset your stomach, you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol), but it won't reduce inflammation as effectively. Consult your doctor if you're on other medications or if the OTC pills aren't touching the pain. You may need different or stronger meds, or a muscle relaxant.

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.

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