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How to Live With Chronic Lower Back Pain

By Meadow Milano ; Updated August 14, 2017

Lower back pain is common--nearly everyone has experienced back pain that has interfered with routine daily activities, work or recreation at some point, states the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. These experts go on to say that chronic back pain is measured by its duration. This means that pain persisting for longer than three months is considered to be chronic in nature. Lower back pain needs prompt treatment because it can quickly worsen.

  1. See your doctor. Before you can begin treatment for chronic lower back pain, the underlying cause needs to be determined. Your doctor will conduct a physical examination and take a thorough medical history. As you describe the severity of pain, site, onset and duration of symptoms, your doctor will be able to determine the nature of your pain and suggest appropriate treatment. In addition, blood tests and imaging studies to rule out tumors or neurological causes might be recommended.

  2. Try over-the-counter medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are effective in relieving the stiffness, swelling and pain of chronic lower back pain. Similarly, topical analgesics, those that are applied directly to the affected area, can reduce pain. Although over-the-counter medications are considered safe, they should only be used as directed on the label and you should discuss taking them with your doctor. Certain over-the-counter medications can be contraindicated with other medications you are taking or certain medical conditions.

  3. Ask about prescription pain relievers. If your chronic lower back pain is severe, ask your doctor about prescription pain relievers. Medications such as morphine- and codeine-based analgesics can effectively manage severe chronic back pain. These medications should only be used on a temporary basis, and only under the direct supervision of your physician. In addition, prescription pain medications cause side effects that include decreased reaction time, drowsiness, impaired thinking and addiction. Never drive or operate machinery while taking prescription pain medications.

  4. Maintain proper nutrition. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke explains that people with chronic back pain should maintain proper nutrition and practice good dietary habits to reduce and discourage excess weight. Too much weight around your waistline can tax lower back muscles, contributing to pain, so ask your health care provider to recommend a suitable diet plan.

  5. Soak in the tub. A warm bath is a simple and effective way to soothe muscles and relieve chronic low back pain. In addition, taking a bath before bedtime can promote relaxation and help you sleep more soundly.

  6. Try massage. The Mayo Clinic states that if back pain is caused by overworked or tense muscles, massage therapy can help promote relaxation and loosen knotted muscles. Ask your health care provider to recommend a massage therapist if he feels this treatment option is suitable for your condition.

  7. Tip

    Do not slouch when sitting or standing. When you stand, keep your weight evenly distributed on your feet. Your back is better able to support weight when curvature is reduced, and this will lessen pressure and reduce your lower back pain.


    If your chronic lower back pain worsens or you experience numbness in your legs, seek prompt medical attention. You might have a serious orthopedic or neurological condition that will need swift medical evaluation and treatment.

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