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Low Back Pain (cont.)

Treatment Overview

Doctors divide low back pain into two categories:

  • Acute: This is pain that has lasted less than 3 months. Most people get better with home treatment.
  • Chronic: This is pain that has lasted longer than 3 months. People with chronic back pain are usually helped with more intensive treatment.

After you have had low back pain once, the pain is likely to come back. To avoid further problems, keep your back and stomach muscles strong, use good posture, learn the safest way to lift heavy objects, and learn to manage stress.

Treatment for acute low back pain

Learn about the first aid steps you can take when you first get back pain, such as using heat or ice, taking medicine, and not resting too much.

Sometimes acute low back pain lasts longer than a few days, even after you try these treatments. Then your doctor may suggest other treatments, such as physical therapy or stronger pain medicine.

If your pain is very bad, your doctor may recommend short-term use of an opiate painkiller or a muscle relaxant. Some people consider epidural steroid shots.

Picture of Dr. Keller

Answers From an Expert:

"Stay as active as you can. Doctors used to say to rest, but it turns out that this is not the case. The more active you are, the better you will be, and the faster you will heal."—Dr. Robert Keller

Read more advice from this back specialist.

Picture of a woman sweeping the floor

One Woman's Story:

"I thought, 'Okay, it will hurt for a day or two, and that's it.' But it lasted a lot longer. It took about 3 weeks. I guess we're used to fast cures. We take an aspirin, and the headache goes away. We take the antibiotic, and the infection disappears." —Lorna

Read more about how Lorna learned to be patient with her back.

Treatment for chronic low back pain

If you have chronic back pain, you know that one type of treatment by itself doesn't always stop your pain.

Think of your treatment plan as a recipe. You and your doctor may need to add or take out ingredients to make it work.

Here are some choices to think about:

  • Acupuncture is a treatment based on traditional Chinese medicine. Very thin needles are inserted into the skin at certain points on the body to produce energy flow.
  • Biofeedback is a way to train your mind to control a body function that is normally not under your control.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy can teach you stress management and pain control skills.
  • Spinal manipulation and chiropractic are treatments that affect the muscles and bones.
  • Massage involves rubbing the soft tissues of the body, such as the muscles, to help reduce tension and pain, improve blood flow, and help you relax.
  • Comprehensive rehabilitation programs offer a variety of treatments and specialists. They are considered one of the best ways to treat chronic low back pain, and they may be your best bet for finding the right combination of treatments.1
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