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Back injury treatments

You can help ease injuries to your back by:

  • using cold compresses (such as covered ice packs) for 20 minutes at a time every 3 to 4 hours for the first day – these will ease pain and swelling
  • using warmth after the first day – showers, baths or hot moist towels can help ease pain and help recovery
  • avoiding activities bending, lifting and twisting until you feel better
  • avoiding staying in bed for too long.
  • continue to move and stay active

It is important that you continue to stay active.

Depending on your job, you may need time off work to allow your back to heal.

Simple painkillers may help, like paracetamol or anti-inflammatories. You can talk to your doctor or pharmacist, or call healthdirect for advice on 1800 022 222.

You should see your doctor if:

  • you have a fever
  • you have numbness or pain in your buttock, leg or foot
  • lose control of your bladder or bowels
  • your problems have not improved at all within a few days
  • your problems have not improved completely within 6 weeks.

Your doctor may be able to help you manage any pain and may refer you for physiotherapy or other investigations.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists recommends that an X-ray in response to low back pain is only needed if you have other significant symptoms as mentioned above. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your back injury, check your symptoms with healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: July 2017

Recommended links

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Multidisciplinary treatment for back pain

Is treatment involving a team of therapists from several different clinical professions helpful for people with long-term back pain?

Read more on Cochrane (Australasian Centre) website

Low back pain

A significant loss of wellbeing and a reduced quality of life affects those experiencing persistent low back pain.

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Lower back pain (backache) information video | myVMC

Lower back pain is the most common type of back pain or backache. Simple pain relief or treatment includes a back rub and pain killers.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Low Back Pain (Acute)

This article tells you about acute low back pain and how it is diagnosed, including what imaging tests you may need to have.

Read more on Diagnostic Imaging Pathways website

Lower Back Pain | myVMC

Lower back pain occurs in the area known as the of the lumbar spine. It may be acute or chronic depending whether it persists for longer than three months.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Managing low back pain and sciatica :: SA Health

Simple advice on managing low back pain or sciatica to assist your recovery

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Therapeutic ultrasound for chronic low-back pain | Cochrane

Ultrasound is a treatment that uses vibration to deliver heat and energy to parts of the lower backincluding spinal muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones. Its goal is to reduce pain and speed healing. Chronic low back pain is low-back pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks.

Read more on Cochrane (Australasian Centre) website

Acupuncture and dry-needling for low back pain | Cochrane

Thirty-five RCTs covering 2861 patients were included in this systematic review. There is insufficient evidence to make any recommendations about acupuncture or dry-needling for acute low-back pain. For chronic low-back pain, results show that acupuncture is more effective for pain relief than no treatment or sham treatment, in measurements taken up to three months. The results also show that for chronic low-back pain, acupuncture is more effective for improving function than no treatment, in the short-term. Acupuncture is not more effective than other conventional and "alternative" treatments. When acupuncture is added to other conventional therapies, it relieves pain and improves function better than the conventional therapies alone. However, effects are only small. Dry-needling appears to be a useful adjunct to other therapies for chronic low-back pain.

Read more on Cochrane (Australasian Centre) website

Pilates for Back Pain | myVMC

Pilates and Back Pain: Pilates is a particularly good exercise for many people with back pain as it is designed to strengthen the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Pilates has been found to reduce chronic back pain and the disability associated with back pain. Read on for more info on Pilates and Back pain.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Combined chiropractic interventions for low-back pain | Cochrane

Low-back pain is one of the most common and costly musculoskeletal problems in modern society. About 80% of the population will experience low-back pain at some time in their lives. Many people with low-back pain seek the care of a chiropractor. For this review, chiropractic was defined as encompassing a combination of therapies such as spinal manipulation, massage, heat and cold therapies, electrotherapies, the use of mechanical devices, exercise programs, nutritional advice, orthotics, lifestyle modification and patient education. The review did not look at studies where chiropractic was defined as spinal manipulation alone as this has been reviewed elsewhere and is not necessarily reflective of actual clinical practice. Non-specific low-back pain indicates that no specific cause is detectable, such as infection, cancer, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, fracture, inflammatory process or radicular syndrome (pain, tingling or numbness spreading down the leg).Twelve randomised trials (including 2887 participants) assessing various combinations of chiropractic care for low-back pain were included in this review, but only three of these studies were considered to have a low risk of bias.

Read more on Cochrane (Australasian Centre) website

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