Self-Care Steps to Heal Back Pain Flare-Ups, From the July 2015 Harvard Men's Health Watch

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Hot and cold compresses, physical activity, exercise, and safe lifting techniques help men to heal and to prevent low back pain. For pain control, acetaminophen (Tylenol) may have limited benefit, but is still worth trying.

Taking acetaminophen for three to five days is all you need to find out if it will work

For many men, low back pain gets better over time, often within a few weeks. Pain control is important, especially early on. Although recent studies have questioned the effectiveness of acetaminophen (Tylenol) for back pain, this over-the-counter mainstay is still worth a try, reports the July 2015 Harvard Men's Health Watch.

A review in the medical journal BMJ found little evidence that taking acetaminophen relieved pain or shortened the duration of back pain flare-ups. But not all back pain is the same, so acetaminophen could still be helpful for some men.

"Taking acetaminophen for three to five days is all you need to find out if it will work," explains Dr. Jeffrey N. Katz, professor of medicine and surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and editor of Back Pain: Finding solutions for your aching back, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

In addition to pain relievers, these other steps should be part of any recovery plan for low back pain:

  • Ease pain with cold or heat. Both can reduce reliance on pain relievers.
  • Stay as active as possible. Extended bed rest is not helpful; continuing to do usual daily activities, to the greatest extent that you can, speeds healing.
  • Develop back-safe techniques. For example, lift heavy weights with the leg muscles, not the lower back.

Read the full-length article: "Best bets for back pain"

Also in the July 2015 Harvard Men's Health Watch:

  • How effective is the new DNA stool test for colon cancer?
  • Not all processed foods are unhealthy
  • Some men can safely delay treatment of low-risk prostate cancer
  • Glaucoma: A common cause of preventable vision loss

The Harvard Men's Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/mens or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free). Contact us for a complimentary copy of the news letter.

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Kristen Rapoza
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