When you have back pain, even simple tasks can become difficult. An OTC pain reliever may help if you choose one that’s right for you based on your health conditions, age, and other medicines. Once you decide on a pain reliever, never take more than directed or for longer than directed. There are also things you can do instead of or in addition to medicine that may help with back pain treatment.  Talk to your healthcare professional if you have any questions.

Tips for back pain relief

Try to stay active

Simple, nonstrenuous movement like walking can help relieve back pain.

Use ice and heat

Many experts suggest using ice packs for the first 48 hours after pain starts and then switching to heating pads. Apply ice or heat for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day.

Pay attention to posture

Poor posture while standing or sitting can lead to back pain or make it worse.

Strengthen your core muscles

Weak abdominal muscles can put added strain on the lower back. Strengthening them with exercises may help to prevent pain.

Stretch to become more flexible

Tight or tense muscles can cause back pain or make it worse. Stretching exercises may help. Ask your healthcare professional which stretches may be best for you.

Try relaxation techniques

Activities like yoga, meditation, tai chi, and deep breathing can change the way your mind senses pain.

What to ask your doctor or nurse practitioner

These questions can help you understand your back pain and get safe, effective relief.

1. If your healthcare professional is recommending medicine, ask the following:

  • What type of medicine is it?

  • Could it interfere with any other medicines or supplements I’m taking?

  • Could it affect any conditions I have?

  • What are the potential side effects?

  • How long should I take it?

  • What if it doesn’t give me relief?

2. Are there alternative treatments I can try instead of, or in addition to, medicine?

3. Are there things that will make my pain worse? What should I avoid?


Get your pain reliever dose right. Why?

If you take more medicine than the label says, you may increase your chance of serious side effects. To use OTC pain relievers safely:

  • Take the dose directed on the label

  • Wait the right amount of time between doses

  • Don’t take more than the daily limit

  • If your pain lasts for more than 10 days, stop taking the medicine and see your healthcare professional.

Dosing directions for acetaminophen and NSAIDs—all in one place