Back Pain: Discharge Instructions

Back pain is pain in the muscles or bones of the back caused by injury, poor posture, job-related strain or poor body movement. Often, these injuries are some of the most painful and difficult to treat because they involve many muscles and nerves.

Remaining active is the best way to improve your back pain. It reduces back spasms and prevents loss of strength in the muscles. Long periods of bed rest are not advised.

If the pain is severe, bed rest may be needed for one day only. While lying in bed, the most comfortable position may be to lie on your side with your knees bent and a pillow between the knees. Or, you can lie on your back with a pillow below your knees and behind your neck/head.

Heat: Apply heat to the affected area for 10 minutes at a time as needed. Be careful not to burn yourself.

Pain medication: If medication is needed, taking four times a day is better than taking medication once when the pain is severe. Pain medications we recommend include acetaminophen (Tylenol) and/or ibuprofen (Advil). However, the physician may recommend other pain medication for you or provide a prescription. Please take all medication as directed.

Exercise: Continue doing light exercises and activity, such as walking. Do not perform exercises which involve bending and/or twisting of the back while you are still recovering. If certain activities make your back pain feel worse, do not continue.

Ensure you follow-up with your family doctor for further examination and reassessment of your pain.

Return to the Emergency Department if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Inability to control your bowel or bladder
  • Fever
  • Weakness or numbness of your arms/legs
  • Numbness in your peri-anal area
  • Worsening pain, despite taking pain medication

These evidence-based resources provide more information about back pain:

The content on this webpage is to be used as a supplement to the instructions provided to you during your Emergency Department visit. The content, including information and instructions, provided on this website are not to be used as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 9-1-1 or go to the closest emergency department.