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.
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.
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 2015