Patient Education

Patient Education

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(By Appointment)

Mon    8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Tue     8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

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Frid     8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Sat and Sun  Closed


Quest Lab hours:     Mon-Fri 7:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Back Pain

Back pain is a common complaint that brings people to the doctor's office. There are many causes of back pain, but the most common is what we call muscular back pain. This is caused by strained muscles in the back.


The most common areas affected are the upper back/neck and the lower back. Pain is rarely felt right over the spine, but on either or both sides of the back. Muscles may feel tight, tender to touch, and tender to move. It is not unusual for these muscles to "spasm" or acutely tighten up with intense pain when moved in a certain way. Stiffness or a decrease in the range of motion (bending and twisting) is common.


Triggers for back pain include being overweight, especially when weight is carried in the abdomen (belly); poor posture; prolong standing; bending down to pick up something heavy; bending or stooping over for a prolong period of time; weight lifting or use of gym equipment with too heavy weight or with improper form; sudden change or increase in exercise, or repetitive upper body motion.


Treatment includes rest. However, total "bed rest" is not recommended as this may cause the back to tighten up more. Good common sense in the rule here. Stop the activity that caused the event and avoid the above triggers. You should continue to do your day to day routine barring activity that causes back pain. Heat is a good way to relax tight muscles. Take a hot shower, soak in a hot tub or use a heating pad on a low setting for 10-15min several times a day. Thirdly, gentle stretching exercises are helpful. These should be done slowly and carefully. Any stretch that causes increase in pain should be stopped immediately. Lastly, you may try over the counter anti-inflammatory medications for moderate to moderate-severe pain. Caution on these medications. If you have kidney disease, gastritis, stomach ulcers or take blood thinners, these should be avoided. If you are uncertain whether you can take these medications, consult with your physician.  Always follow package instructions on dosing and never exceed the recommended dose. Examples of anti-inflammatory medication include- ibuprofen, advil, aleve, motrin, naprosyn.


Try these basic stretches:

1) Lay on the floor. Bend your right leg at the hip and grasp the leg with both hands behind the knee. Keep your back flat to the floor pull you thigh towards your chest and hold for 10 seconds. Then release. Repeat on other side. Do three sets.

2) Lay on the floor. Flex both legs at the hips with bent kness. Hug your knees to your chest. Hold for 15 seconds and release. Do three sets.

3) Lay on the floor. Place both arms above your head. Stretch by reaching above the head and pointing your toes away from you. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Do three sets.


When should you contact your health care provider? If you have,

1) Pain is severe

2) Pain is associated with pain in the arms or legs

3) Numbness in the arms or legs

4) Change in bowel or bladder function

5) Pain is the result of a fall or injury

6) Fever

7) Unexplained weight loss

8) Have a weak immune system- history of cancer, diabetes, take steroids, take immune modifying drugs

9) Have osteoporosis

10) Back pain has not resolved despite using the above recommendations.

These symptoms may indicate that the back pain is caused by something other than strained muscles. Your health care provider can take your history, preform and exam, and order additional testing if necessary.


Kathleen M. Curtis MD