Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common types of pain, affecting 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives. Back pain can stem from several problems, including injuries or long-term habits such as poor posture.

While back pain can be frustrating and debilitating, most people with back pain can improve with minimal care. There are some easy things you can do to get back pain relief.

Causes and Symptoms of Back Pain

People often feel back pain after lifting irregularly shaped or heavy objects with improper form or overexerting themselves during exercise. Muscle strains, arthritis, or other structural issues can also cause or contribute to back pain.

Back pain may come on suddenly or gradually over time. The symptoms can range from a dull ache sensation to a sharp pain that extends into the buttocks, hips, or legs. This can lead to a decreased range of motion, making it difficult to stand up straight or move around without pain.

Treatments for Back Pain

In most cases, back pain gets better without a major intervention. The basic way to treat the injury is to rest and avoid movements that twist or strain your back. But you may want to consider adding more options to your treatment toolkit, including over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and at-home treatments.

At-home Treatments

At-home treatment options include core and stability exercises, hot and cold compresses, and flexibility work such as yoga and stretching. Small habit changes like sitting less and improving your posture can also reduce the stress on your back.

Over-the-Counter Medicines

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers can provide temporary relief from back pain.

OTC pain relievers come in many forms. Some are taken orally in pill, capsule, or liquid form, and include medicines containing acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, magnesium salicylate, and naproxen sodium. Our Pain Reliever Assessment will help you identify personal risk factors which you can discuss with your healthcare professional to find the right oral OTC pain reliever for you.

There are also OTC topical pain relievers that are applied to the skin, which can be used depending on the location and severity of the pain. Common active ingredients for these medicines include benzocaine, capsaicin, diphenhydramine, hydrocortisone, and menthol.

When taking OTC pain relievers, it is important to understand that each medicine has potential side effects and interactions with other drugs. Always read the Drug Facts label on the medicine’s bottle or packaging to determine if you have any risk factors related to the medicine’s active ingredients.

OTC medicines can provide safe and effective relief for mild to moderate pain. They aren’t meant to treat chronic pain conditions on a consistent or long-term basis, unless directed by your healthcare professional.

Find out which oral over-the-counter pain relievers are right for you.

Complete our Pain Reliever Assessment to learn how your personal risk factors can influence which OTC pain relievers you should use.

Take the Assessment

When to Talk to a Healthcare Professional

Although back pain typically goes away with time and rest, some cases may require you to see a healthcare professional.

Talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional if you experience:

  • pain that gets worse or lasts several weeks
  • numbness, weakness, or tingling
  • changes in bowel or bladder function

If you have questions about which OTC pain reliever to take, talk with your healthcare professional about which product is right for you. During your appointment, be sure to mention any risk factors or conditions you have and note the dosage and frequency for all medicines that you are currently taking.

Learn More About Pain Management

There is a lot to consider when choosing a form of pain management that works best for you. Understanding which treatments are appropriate for you is important.

Take our Pain Reliever Assessment to learn about your personal risk factors and which oral OTC pain reliever is right for you.

Read our Expert Advice articles to learn how to use OTC medicines safely and effectively.