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Dealing Safely with Mechanical Low Back Pain

February 16, 2022

Updated December 2022

Man bent over in pain to the L side of his back

Back Pain is one of the most common ailments and has various causes. We know mechanical low back pain is high on the list of reasons for you to experience back pain.


Mechanical Low Back Pain could develop along the course of routine activity. We think this could result from a sprain or mild injury to the tissues that make up the lower back.

These tissues include:

  • joints of the spine,
  • intervertebral discs,
  • or muscles and ligaments

How could a sprain or injury happen?

From poor posture, lifting heavy objects, a fall down the stairs while playing at home/sports or another injury etc.

Unlike other causes of low back pain, the treatment usually allows the tissues involved to heal over time with support – so major treatments like surgery are not involved.

Rather, physiotherapy and some pain medications will be recommended as well as fairly simple treatments at home that are quite effective.

This post explores what we can do alone at home after being correctly diagnosed with mechanical back pain.

This is key – because there are other causes of low back pain that can be quite serious or need urgent treatment, and therefore, the following tips WILL NOT apply.

What To Do with Mild/ Moderate Symptoms At Home

Ice and Heat

Following the development of back pain from some of the scenarios described above, you could apply ice using an icepack (homemade frozen bag of vegetables from the freezer wrapped in a towel).

Doing this several times a day – for 15-20mins at a time can help to reduce pain and inflammation.

After doing this for a few days, switch to heat packs to increase blood flow to the area (encouraging healing), and relax the muscles.

A warm bath can help deliver this too.

With heat packs – also avoid directly applying the source (e.g. hot water bottle) directly to your skin to prevent burns.


What to do with exercise can be confusing to some people. The key thing following a sprain injury is to AVOID lying still

Doctors no longer advise ‘bed rest’ after a sprain because we know it can worsen back pain or cause complications.

While we do not recommend high-impact activities like running, cardio, and other aerobic activities or weight lifting, it is important to get up – and slowly – start moving about again.

Stretching is good practice – walking, yoga and swimming are also good exercises that can help maintain the flexibility of muscles and other tissues while the sprain recovers.

Rubbing Creams and Gels

This is a popular measure for treating back pain at home, and there is a wide range of different agents that you can buy over the counter for this purpose.

Primarily, the active treatment here is the medicine within the creams/gels, as most people applying them may not be able to offer a treatment massage.

It’s better to apply/rub the medicine gently into the affected area.

Otherwise, pressing or massaging vigorously, especially by someone without experience, may cause more pain.

Usually, the medicines contain anti-inflammatory agents like salicylic acid, Ibuprofen, or menthol-based products.

Some of these cause heat generation over the area, which does the same job as the heat packs described above, while others are cooling gels.

Other Over-The-Counter Medicines

Lastly, other medicines like paracetamol or Ibuprofen tablets/capsules can be purchased for use to control some of the pain at home.

Please follow the recommended dose ALWAYS.

For medicines like Ibuprofen, remember never to have them on an empty stomach.

If these medicines have no benefit after 72 hours, seek medical advice.

Non-medication devices that may provide some help – lumbar supports, heat lamps etc


Don’t forget to observe and maintain good posture – walking, sitting or lying in bed.

For bed rest, the following might help because a poor sleep position can worsen back pain:

  1. A comfortable, firm mattress
  2. Using a pillow between the knees if you lie on your side could help keep the spine in a neutral position and relieve strain on the back
  3. A pillow under your knees may do the same if you sleep on your back.

Don’t let mechanical low back pain hold you back. With this comprehensive guide, you see there are safe and effective ways to manage and alleviate your discomfort.

Want to know more about this? Ask Here. Read recommended NHS treatments.

More Reading

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on various healthcare conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality healthcare. The advice in our material is not meant to replace a qualified healthcare practitioner’s management of your specific condition.
To discuss your condition, don’t hesitate to contact a health practitioner or reach us directly

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