Depending on the level of low-back pain you have and how often you have it, your treatment options may vary greatly. We hope this information about back pain helps you be and feel healthier and get the most out of the health care services you receive.
There are many different causes of low-back pain. It can be very painful, often making it difficult to conduct daily activities. Frequently, a specific cause is never found. The good news is in most cases, low-back pain resolves with time. Below are some guidelines that have been adapted from the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI) to help you make informed choices about your care.
Please note: the information below is not intended as medical advice for your particular situation. Call your primary care provider for medical advice or if you have any questions.
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For the vast majority of individuals who experience an acute episode of low-back pain, 90 percent recover within six weeks.
However, if you're experiencing back pain along with any of the following symptoms or conditions, contact your primary care doctor immediately to rule out any serious causes:
As long as you don't have any warning signs (often called red flag conditions) with your back pain, there are some simple steps you can take to help your back heal:
Improving within two weeks? Continue self-care described above.
Because back pain problems often improve without medical intervention, an appointment may not always be necessary during the first few weeks. You should discuss options with your provider.
When calling your doctor's office, be prepared to answer the following questions:
If you are improving over a period of 6 weeks be sure to practice back care basics to avoid straining your back.
Evaluations should be performed by a primary care clinics or physiatrist. Your evaluation may include a physical and a
comprehensive pain assessment. Your doctor may also decide that you need an imaging service.
If you are improving remember to practice back care basics
For people with chronic low-back pain (pain lasting longer than 6 weeks), studies suggest that active rehabilitation may be the most effective treatment for many patients.
Active rehabilitation is a therapy method that uses intensive exercise, specially designed machines and other methods to reduce pain and restore function. Learn more
In certain chronic cases when your pain extends below the knee, your doctor may recommend injections to treat your back pain. There are various types of injections, with some having limits on how often and how many times they can be used. As with any procedure, there are potential risks associated with injections that you should discuss with your doctor. Additionally, studies show mixed results on whether certain injections are effective for back pain. Learn more
If early treatment and conservative treatment measures are unsuccessful, your doctor may refer you to an orthopedist or a neurosurgeon to be evaluated as a possible surgery candidate. Generally, surgery is helpful for only a small percentage of people with low-back pain. Some conditions that can be treated with surgery include:
Always discuss the benefits and risks of any procedure with your doctor before making a decision.
After most surgeries, additional physical therapy is usually necessary.