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Back Strain in Children: Care Instructions

The back

Your Care Instructions

Back strain happens when your child overstretches, or pulls, a muscle in the back. Your child may hurt his or her back in a fall or when he or she exercises or lifts something.

Most back pain will get better with rest and time. You can take care of your child at home to help his or her back heal.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Try to keep your child as active as you can, but stop or reduce any activity that causes pain.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your child's sore muscle for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to stop swelling. Try this every 1 to 2 hours for 3 days (when your child is awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice pack and your child's skin.
  • After 2 or 3 days, apply a warm cloth to your child's back. Some doctors suggest that you go back and forth between hot and cold treatments.
  • Be safe with medicines. Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Have your child try sleeping on his or her side with a pillow between the legs. Or put a pillow under your child's knees when your child lies on his or her back. These measures can ease pain in the lower back.
  • Have your child return to his or her usual level of activity slowly.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child is unable to move a leg at all.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse symptoms in the legs, belly, or buttocks. Symptoms may include:
    • Numbness or tingling.
    • Weakness.
    • Pain.
  • Your child loses bladder or bowel control.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child has a fever, loses weight, or doesn't feel well.
  • Your child is not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.