Back pain usually resolves within two to three weeks by taking the simple self-care measures noted below. But contact your doctor immediately if your back pain is the result of a fall or blow to your back, it causes weakness or numbness in one or both legs, or it causes new bladder or bowel problems.
� Apply cold, then heat
Apply ice four times a day - but no longer than 20 minutes at a time. Put ice in a plastic bag, then wrap the bag in a cloth or towel to keep a thin barrier between it and your skin. After acute pain subsides, usually within the first two days, try a heating pad (low setting), heat lamp, warm compress or take a warm bath. Limit each heat application to 20 minutes. To avoid burns, don't fall asleep while using a heat source. Consider setting a timer to turn off the heat source or to awaken you if you do happen to fall asleep.
� Use over-the-counter medications if needed
Acetaminophen may help control pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, also can reduce inflammation. Read labels and use the recommended doses unless your doctor advises otherwise. Check with your doctor if you're taking other medications.
� Combine rest with gentle movement
Get plenty of rest, but avoid prolonged bed rest. Staying in bed more than two days may slow your recovery. Moderate movement keeps your muscles strong and flexible. Avoid heavy lifting, pushing or pulling.