Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > First Aid for Low Back Pain
Use these tips when your back aches.
If you can, walk for 10 to 20 minutes at a time every 2 to 3 hours. Walk on level surfaces, not on hills or stairs. Walk quickly if you can, and swing your arms as you walk.
Lying down for too long can make back pain worse. Sitting can make it worse too. Change positions every 30 minutes. If you must sit for long periods of time, take breaks. Get up and walk around, or lie flat to gently stretch your back.
Exercise helps low back pain. Learn about some exercises you can try:
When you do lie down, protect your back on the way down. And learn the sleeping positions that protect your back.
Ice and heat
There is no rule about using heat or ice for back pain. You can try each to see which works best for you.
Medicine for pain
Pain medicine can help you recover from low back pain by controlling pain during rest and activity. For best results:
Ask your doctor if you can take over-the-counter pain medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, for example) or ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (such as Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
If you have been prescribed a muscle relaxant or an opiate for severe pain, carefully follow your doctor's advice.
Is it an emergency?
Most of the time you'll be able to handle low back pain at home. But there may be times when you need to call your doctor, or even 911. For more information, see the When to Call a Doctor section of the topic Low Back Pain.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Current as ofJune 30, 2016
Current as of:
June 30, 2016
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.