Back Pain in Teens: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Back pain has many possible causes. It is often related to problems with muscles and ligaments of the back. It may also be related to problems with the nerves, discs, or bones of the back. Moving, lifting, standing, sitting, or sleeping in an awkward way can strain the back. Sometimes you do not notice the injury until later.

Although it may hurt a lot, back pain usually improves on its own within several weeks. Most people recover in 12 weeks or less. Using good home treatment and being careful not to stress your back can help you feel better sooner.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Sit or lie in positions that are most comfortable and reduce your pain. Try one of these positions when you lie down:
    • Lie on your back with your knees bent and supported by large pillows.
    • Lie on the floor with your legs on the seat of a sofa or chair.
    • Lie on your side with your knees and hips bent and a pillow between your legs.
    • Lie on your stomach if it does not make pain worse.
  • Do not sit up in bed, and avoid soft couches and twisted positions. Bedrest can help relieve pain at first, but it delays healing. Avoid bedrest after the first day.
  • Change positions every 30 minutes. If you must sit for long periods of time, take breaks from sitting. Get up and walk around, or lie in a comfortable position.
  • Try using a heating pad on a low or medium setting for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 or 3 hours. Try a warm shower in place of one session with the heating pad.
  • You can also try an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes every 2 to 3 hours. Put a thin cloth between the ice pack and your skin.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Take short walks several times a day. You can start with 5 to 10 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day, and work up to longer walks. Stick to level surfaces and avoid hills and stairs until your back is better.
  • Return to work and other activities as soon as you can. Continued rest without activity is usually not good for your back.
  • To prevent future back pain, do exercises to stretch and strengthen your back and stomach. Learn how to use good posture, safe lifting techniques, and proper body mechanics.

When should you call for help?

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

  • You are unable to move a leg at all.

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

  • You have new or worse symptoms in your legs, belly, or buttocks. Symptoms may include:
    • Numbness or tingling.
    • Weakness.
    • Pain.
  • You lose bladder or bowel control.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You are not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: May 23, 2016