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Low Back Strain, Ambulatory Care

Low back strain

is an injury to your lower back muscles or tendons. Tendons are strong tissues that connect muscles to bones. The lower back supports most of your body weight and helps you move, twist, and bend. Low back strain is usually caused by activities that increase stress on the lower back, such as exercise or injury.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Low back pain or muscle spasms
  • Stiffness or limited movement
  • Pain that goes down to the buttocks, groin, or legs
  • Pain that is worse with activity

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • A pop in your lower back
  • Increased swelling or pain in your lower back
  • Trouble moving your legs
  • Numbness in your legs

Treatment for low back strain:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Muscle relaxers help decrease muscle spasms pain.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask how to take this medicine safely.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Rest in bed after your injury. Slowly start to increase your activity as the pain decreases, or as directed.
  • Apply ice on your lower back for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain. You can alternate ice and heat.
  • Apply heat on your lower back for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms.

Prevent another low back strain:

  • Use proper body mechanics.
    • Bend at the hips and knees when you pick up objects. Do not bend from the waist. Use your leg muscles as you lift the load. Do not use your back. Keep the object close to your chest as you lift it. Try not to twist or lift anything above your waist.
    • Change your position often when you stand for long periods of time. Rest one foot on a small box or footrest, and then switch to the other foot often.
    • Try not to sit for long periods of time. When you do, sit in a straight-backed chair with your feet flat on the floor. Never reach, pull, or push while you are sitting.
  • Exercise regularly. Warm up before you exercise. Do exercises that strengthen your back muscles. Ask about the best exercise plan for you.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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