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How to Help a Sore Back


woman wakes up with sore back

Fortunately, you can calm many backaches with home treatment like pain relievers, heat and the right combination of rest and exercise. That said, some extreme cases of back pain may require the aid of a healthcare professional such as a physical therapist or surgeon.1 Learn how to ease your back pain at home and when to call your healthcare provider for professional help.

What to Do about a Sore Back at Home?

If you’re wondering how to help a sore back at home, here are a few things to try:

Rest and Exercise

What’s the verdict? Rest or exercise? The right combination is key: rest your back for one or two days only, then move around again. Allow time for the inflammation to subside and your body to heal from the initial strain, then move again.3 While a short rest at the start helps your body heal, staying still for prolonged periods of time can make your back pain worse.1,2

Don’t let the fear of pain keep you from moving as you normally would. Instead, let your pain guide you. If an action causes pain, back off and don’t do that activity for a while. Exercise eases back pain better than most treatments, so continue moving around as much as your pain allows.1,2,3

Ice and Heat

In most situations, ice and heat can effectively reduce back pain. While every situation differs, typically you should apply ice first to reduce swelling and inflammation. If your pain continues after 24 hours, switch to heat. Heat relaxes stiff muscles and encourages tissue healing.3,4 Only apply cold or heat to your back for 20-minute intervals. Do not use heat on open wounds.2,4

Topical and Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

Medicated skin creams, ointments or patches can sooth a stiff back for a short while with cold, heat and numbness. Over-the-counter pain relievers may relieve some of the pain as well, such as Advil Dual Action Back Pain, which contains both ibuprofen and acetaminophen.1

Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), which targets pain at the source of inflammation and can help your sore back immensely. Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and fever reducer. When dealing with a sore back, both can be helpful.2,5

What Can Healthcare Professionals Do to Help a Sore Back?

If you cannot relieve your back pain with home treatment over the course of 2-4 weeks or your pain remains unmanageably severe, seek professional care. Look into the following options:1

  • Physical therapy
  • Narcotics and antidepressants
  • Spinal injections
  • Surgery

Physical therapy might be just what you need to help your sore back. Physical therapists are movement experts and teach you how to stretch and exercise properly to relieve your back pain.1

Your healthcare provider may prescribe drugs containing opioids, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, to use for a short while. Additionally, some types of antidepressants, like duloxetine and amitriptyline, are used for back pain as well.1

You may consider spinal injections. Cortisone injections decrease inflammation around the spinal cord and nerve roots. Pain relief from these injections lasts only a month or two, so while effective in subduing the pain, most people use injections temporarily while pursuing other pain-relieving tactics long term.1

Finally, you may require surgery to fix the underlying cause of your back pain, be it a herniated disk putting too much pressure on your nerves or some other culprit that cannot be fixed without a surgeon.1

In short, start with home treatments like Advil, rest, exercise, ice and heat. If you still cannot mitigate the pain, contact your healthcare professional for additional support.1,3

*To support Advil Dual Action Back launch

*Add to this section and tag with "Backache":

Source Citations:

  1. Back Pain. Mayo Clinic. Accessed March 2023.
  2. 10 Ways to Manage Low Back Pain at Home. WebMD. Accessed March 2023.
  3. Taking Care of your Back at Home. Medline Plus. Accessed March 2023.
  4. Should I Use Ice or Heat to Reduce My Low Back Pain? Orthopedic One. Accessed March 2023.
  5. Tylenol & Advil–When to Use Which. Mercy Cedar Rapids. Accessed March 2023.

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