If this is your first episode of back or back related leg pain and it has been present for more than a few weeks or if you have a particular reason to be worried about your symptoms such as a known history of osteoporosis, you should check with your health care provider. This could be your family doctor, a physiotherapist or a chiropractor (see Know When to Seek Professional Advice). Most of the time you can manage the symptoms on your own. Whether you seek help or go it alone, here are some tips to start you on the road to recovery:
Balance rest with activity.
When you feel pain, it’s natural to start cutting back on physical activity. But it’s important that you stay as active as you can. Rest for short periods when you really feel the need, but avoid long stretches of lying or sitting down which can actually increase your pain and prolong your recovery.
Take pain-relieving medication regularly.
If you’re managing your pain with non-prescription medicine or if your doctor has prescribed a stronger pain reliever, it’s good to take your medication regularly, based on time and not on how much you hurt. Follow the directions on the package or the advice from your doctor or pharmacist. This will help you remain more active and allow you to sleep more comfortably. Better sleep will help speed your recovery. When you’re feeling better, you should stop taking any medications soon as you can.
IMPORTANT: Don’t stop taking or start to decrease your dose of a prescription drug without direction from your doctor or pharmacist.
Review your daily activities and make changes if necessary.
Consider whether your daily activities might be contributing to your pain or slowing your recovery. For example:
- Are you doing too much lifting, bending or repetitive activities?
- Are you sitting for long periods of time at home or at work without changing positions?
- Is your back well-supported when you’re sitting down or lying in bed or on a sofa?
- Could you re-organize your environment so what you need is closer at hand without you having to reach or bend frequently?
- If you have to carry items, are you dividing the load to prevent stress on your lower back (i.e., carrying two smaller bags, one in each hand, rather than one large bag in one hand or on one shoulder)?
Do what you can to limit stress and anxiety.
Anxiety and stress contribute to back symptoms while at the same time the pain and its effects, such as sleeplessness and not being able to function normally at home and work, cause you to feel anxious and stressed out. It is a vicious circle.
- Educate yourself about your symptoms by talking to your doctor or health care provider.
- Get information and support from others who have experienced similar symptoms.
- Consult reliable back care resources, including books and websites, to learn more about your condition and how best to manage it.
- Recognize your feelings and expectations. Fear and other negative emotions can slow recovery and lead to greater disability.