Back pain is the second most common reason patients visit a doctor. Find out if you need to make an appointment.

You’ve hurt your back and the pain is not going away. Should you wait it out, or is it time to see a doctor?

Consider your symptoms.

  • Do you have leg cramps, a tingling sensation in your legs or pain that radiates or shoots down your legs?
  • Is your back pain accompanied by chills or fever?
  • Do you have trouble with bowel movements or urinating?
  • Have you fallen or experienced trauma?
  • Do you have pain that worsens when you lie on your back?

If you answered yes to any of these warning signs, see your doctor. While it is hard to pinpoint the cause of back pain, these symptoms point to more serious issues with your back.

Gauge your pain.

Has your pain decreased since you first noticed it? Nagging back pain is common and in about 90 percent of cases, it will go away on its own within six weeks if given proper rest and care.

Call for an Appointment
(800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273)

“Mild injuries to the spine are common and affect people at all stages of their life,” said Christopher C. Ornelas, MD, assistant professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in non-operative spinal disorders at Keck Medicine of USC. “The cause of injury varies, but often pain is related to simple strains. Most back pain resolves itself without any treatment and simple treatments such as ice or heat may be the best initial options.”

However, if you are still experiencing the same level of pain or increased pain after 24 hours, see a doctor.

Get some rest.

In the case of back strain, rest is one of the most effective remedies. Lying down takes the pressure off your back, alleviating pressure on nerves and overextended muscles. Hard surfaces like the floor will feel better and more supportive than soft ones.

Try exercising.

It seems counterintuitive, but moving your back muscles can loosen tight muscles, reduce pain and speed recovery. Stretching exercises will help you regain your range of motion. Walking is a low-impact activity that releases back tension without adding any further pressure. Always warm up before you start exercising so that your muscles will be warm and more relaxed.

Take anti-inflammatory medication.

Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen can reduce pain and swelling. If your pain persists, your doctor might prescribe steroids to lessen swelling and inflammation.

Still concerned about your pain? Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss treatment options.

The USC Spine Center at Keck Medicine of USC is staffed with an experienced group of spine surgeons who are committed to providing appropriate and individual spine care. Call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or make an appointment.

By Heidi Tyline King