Health.com/CNN—February 28, 2012
Luckily, back issues are easier to resolve than you may think. Use this guide to pinpoint what's causing yours, so you get the right treatment, fast -- and prevent future flare-ups.
Culprit #1: Muscle strains
The lowdown. Muscle strains are actually small tears in, or the stretching out of, muscle fibers. They're also the top reason for back pain.
What it feels like. A stiffness or soreness that worsens with activity (including small movements, like bending over to pick something up).
The cause. Any repetitive or jolting movement -- or even just sitting.
The Rx. Every waking hour for the first 24 hours, then every few hours for the next 24: Ice the strain for 15 minutes to reduce swelling. (Heat will only increase inflammation.)
Every two hours (at least): "Stretch and move gently," says Jennifer Solomon, M.D., a physiatrist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. "Lying down may cause the muscles to tighten up even more," i.e., go into a spasm.
Every four to six hours: Try an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen -- take according to package directions.
After 48 hours: If pain doesn't improve, call your primary care physician to rule out a more serious condition.
Read the full story at cnn.com.