Tips for treating lower back pain


Low back pain (LBP) is a very common ailment. Two thirds of all people will develop LBP at some point in their lives. It is usually temporary, as in 75 to 90 percent of the pain is resolved in two to four weeks. However in about five percent of patients, the pain becomes chronic.

Watch out for these "red flags" that may signal the need for medical imaging:

• Age over 55
• History of HIV, cancer
• IV drug abuse
• Unexplained fever or weight loss
• Traumatic injury
• Symptoms such as numbness in the groin area or loss of bowel/bladder function

In the absence of these "red flags," and normal vital signs and physical exam, treat patients with medication such as an NSAID (Non-steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drug), like ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.

A muscle relaxant can be added, such as valium or flexeril if there is significant spasm found on the examination. Patients should actually avoid bed rest, as it can worsen the symptoms.

If you decide to transport the patient who is lying on the ground, using a longboard or, even better, a "scoop" stretcher to lift them up and place them on the stretcher may be easier. A "scoop" stretcher that comes apart is good because the patient does not have to stay on the hard surface during transport. At the hospital we can use a sheet to transfer them from your bed to the other.

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