Most often, back pain can be treated at home with self-care measures like rest, ice therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications. However, there are times when seeking care from a health care professional due to back pain symptoms may be necessary. Explore different options below to treat and alleviate back pain.
Self-Care for Back Pain
Self-care techniques can be used for symptom management of both acute and chronic back pain. Giving your body the proper care at home can alleviate your symptoms and assist in the healing process. Explore the techniques below for at-home relief. Check with your provider before starting a self-care routine.
- Cold Therapy
- After a injury or at the first sign of back pain, applying an ice pack can help the pain by reducing the inflammation and swelling around the nerves.
- Use a towel between skin and ice pack to protect skin. Do not use ice therapy for longer than 15-20 minutes at a time.
- Stay Active
- Participate in low-impact exercise (i.e. walking, swimming, cycling) and avoid high impact exercise (i.e. running/jogging, tennis, hiking)
- Bed rest can cause you to become stiff and weak while slowing the healing process
- Heat Therapy
- Heat therapy promotes continued healing in acute and chronic back pain by stimulating blood flow to injured tissues. Providers recommend using heat intermittently within 48 hours of injury.
- Use a towel between skin and heat therapy to protect from burns. Do not use heat therapy for more than 15-20 minutes at a time.
- Anti-Inflammatory Medications
- Examples: ibuprofen or naproxen
- Important: Use as directed by your health care provider
Where to Seek Treatment for Back Pain
Your Primary Care Provider (PCP) should usually be the first place to go when you have back pain.
A PCP is the most affordable option and will guide you to the best treatment based on your individual needs. Your PCP can:
- Assess your back pain and perform certain diagnostics
- Send you for labs and/or imaging as necessary
- Place a referral to a specialist, if needed
- Provide you with temporary symptom relief, or
- Give you treatment options to use at home, if specialist is not recommended
GatorCare members can find a PCP on our care guide.
While a Primary Care Physician (PCP) should be the first choice when seeking medical treatment, there are some situations where back pain may require immediate attention. Review the different levels of care below to see which back pain symptoms are usually most appropriate for each.
Note: This section is not a substitute for medical advice and the following is not a comprehensive list. If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
– A recent increase in back pain that does not improve with over-the-counter medication
– Back pain that travels down the hip and/or leg
– Back pain with unexplained weight loss
– Back pain for more than 2-4 weeks
– Recent onset of back stiffness
– Back pain associated with nausea and/or vomiting
– Back pain that worsens with specific movements (coughing, twisting, bending)
– Muscle contractions or spasms in the back muscles
– Fever with back pain
– Weakness, loss of sensation, numbness, and/or tingling in one or both legs, and/or pelvis
– Sudden inability to walk, stand, or control bladder or bowel movements
– Back pain after trauma or injury, especially in elderly
UF Health Spine Specialists
Note: A referral from your PCP is preferred, or in some cases, may be needed before making an appointment. Check with the clinic or have your PCP send a referral.
The UF Health Comprehensive Spine Center in Gainesville is equipped to handle common and complex back and neck pain. Their multidisciplinary team will find a solution right for you, whether that is neurosurgery, orthopaedic surgery, pain management, neurology, spine rehabilitation and physical therapy or a combination of care. With quick and easy appointment options, many patients can be seen next day!
The Comprehensive Spine Center at UF Health North in Jacksonville treats common and complex conditions of the neck and back. They offer the most advanced surgical and minimally invasive techniques to provide the highest quality care. Appointments are flexible with the option of in-person or virtual to meet your needs.
The UF Health Leesburg Neurosciences team provides patients with access to advanced treatment options and state-of-the-art technology. This team opts for choosing minimally invasive spinal treatments whenever possible to decrease the pain level and recovery time patients experience.
Additional Treatment Options
Chiropractors are health care professionals that perform manual adjustments of the spine and other parts of the body. These adjustments correct and restore the body’s natural alignment which can relieve acute and chronic pain. Chiropractic services are a covered benefit for GatorCare members.
Ask your health care provider for a referral.
Want a movement expert? A physical therapist can provide you with the best core and strength exercises to prevent or treat back pain.
The UF Health Fitness and Wellness Center offers a medical fitness program. This is a supervised fitness/wellness program that treats individuals with on-going medical conditions or have a physician referral.
Massage therapy is considered an integrative part of medicine. Massage therapy can improve blood circulation, relaxes muscles, and increase endorphin level. For a more holistic treatment option try massage therapy!
Acupuncture is a p
Discuss acupuncture with your doctor first.
Acupuncture uses fine needles into specific spots to stimulate the body to promote healing. For a more holistic treatment option try acupuncture. This service may or may not be covered under insurance plan.
Once you know what kind of pain you are experiencing and find the appropriate treatment plan, maintenance is the next step. Prevention is essential for long-term care solutions.
Living with chronic pain can be devastating and effective pain management is critical. Prescription opioids can relieve pain in the short term but comes with serious risks. If you can relate click below for resources and help.
Unsure of how serious your back pain is. Find a provider in your network. Click here for more information about Primary Care, Urgent Care, or the Emergency Room.