A common myth about back pain is that you need to rest and avoid activity for a long time. In fact, bed rest is NOT recommended. If you have no sign of a serious cause for your back pain (such as loss of bowel or bladder control, weakness, weight loss, or fever), you should stay as active as possible.
Here are some tips for how to handle back pain and activity early on:
- Stop normal physical activity only for the first few days. This helps calm your symptoms and reduce any swelling (inflammation) in the area of the pain.
- Apply ice to the painful area. One good method is to use ice for the first 48 – 72 hours, then use heat after that. Be careful as prolonged heat can increase inflammation.
- Sleep in a curled-up, fetal position with a pillow between your legs. If you usually sleep on your back, place a pillow or rolled towel under your knees to relieve pressure on the back.
- Do NOT perform activities that involve heavy lifting or twisting of your back for the first 6 weeks after the pain begins.
- Avoid exercise right after the pain begins. After 2 – 3 weeks, however, slowly begin to exercise again (get advice from your chiropractor or physical therapist).