How OTC Pain Medication and Exercise can Solve 80% of Back Pain

If you want to avoid surgery for back pain, try OTC medication and exercise!

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Low back pain is an epidemic. In fact, 80% of adults report experiencing low back pain at some point in their lives. It's a major cause of lost productivity, affecting the economy as well as your individual well being. Fortunately, most lower back pain resolves itself through time and self-care. However, if your pain lasts longer than 4 to 6 weeks, severely limits your ability to perform daily activities, or comes with troubling symptoms other than pain, you need to seek medical consultation. If your condition doesn't fall into one of these categories, you can try two proven non-surgical strategies on your own.

tai chi for back pain


In the past, you may have been advised to limit your mobility when you had back pain. In fact, becoming inactive can make things worse. You can end up losing muscle, developing poor posture and experiencing even more back pain. No particular exercise has proven better than another for lower back pain, so just choose something you can maintain. Walking has been found to improve your pain and muscle function for up to a year. Aerobic exercise such as biking and swimming work to improve your LBP as does using exercise equipment such as the treadmill or elliptical. You may also benefit from joining a Pilates, Tai Chi or yoga class. These activities stretch the affected muscles and often provide relief as well as strengthening your back. As a plus, they also work to improve your overall health. Your back may hurt more immediately after exercise, but the activity will help alleviate pain in the long-term

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OTC Pain Relief

Over-the-counter pain medication such as NSAIDs can often help reduce your pain while your back heals. The first line medication management for LBP is a two to four-week trial of an NSAID, which serves to relieve inflammation as well as pain. You may take ibuprofen (400 to 600 mg four times a day) or naproxen (250 to 500 mg twice daily) as an initial treatment. If you do not respond to these medications, you may consult with a doctor to find out what other non-opioid options exist. The doctor might prescribe a muscle relaxant, a non-addictive medication that has proven to be effective for short-term LBP. If you experience low back pain, do not take to your bed or turn to prescription pain killers. In most instances, the pain will resolve itself with the help of non-surgical methods. Simply walking or swimming can help improve your back pain while staying immobile can make things worse. Also, OTC medications are often all you need for pain relief until your back heals. Some people end up with severe symptoms or chronic conditions, but for most, time, activity and mild medications are enough.

over the counter pain relief medication chart
April 25, 2022
Eric DePopas, Co-Founder & Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Eric DePopas, MD

Chief Medical Officer
Vascular & Interventional Radiologist

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