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Back Strain in Teens: Care Instructions

The back

Your Care Instructions

Back strain happens when you overstretch, or pull, a muscle in your back. You may hurt your back in a fall or when you exercise or lift something.

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

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?

  • Try to stay as active as you can, but stop or reduce any activity that causes pain.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the sore muscle for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to stop swelling. Try this every 1 to 2 hours for 3 days (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice pack and your skin.
  • After 2 or 3 days, apply a heating pad on low or a warm cloth to your back. Some doctors suggest that you go back and forth between hot and cold treatments.
  • 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.
  • Try sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs. Or put a pillow under your knees when you lie on your back. These measures can ease pain in your lower back.
  • Return to your usual level of activity slowly.

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 arms, legs, chest, 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 have a fever, lose weight, or don't feel well.
  • You are 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.