Back Pain Treatment Options

Back pain can come in many forms and can be in the upper or lower region of the back. Upper back pain often comes from a traumatic injury such as a car accident or sports injury. However, most of the back trouble that people have is lower back pain since that is where the wear-and-tear occurs. Many different treatments are available for low back pain, depending on the cause and how long the person has been experiencing it.

Acute Pain

Acute pain from a muscle strain or sprain can be agonizing, but most people find that the agony will go away after a couple of days and significantly improves within a few weeks. Taking some basic measures on your own and without a doctor’s care clears up most cases of acute back pain. However, use good judgment; see a health care professional if your pain is out of the blue is severe even with basic self-care.

Self-care treatments:

  • Consider non-prescription strength anti-inflammatories such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen or a pain reliever such as acetaminophen (Tylenol). If you are having a muscle spasm, you may also need muscle relaxants, which a doctor can prescribe.
  • Stay active. Bed rest for a day or two may be absolutely necessary, but back muscles are meant to be mobile. Staying in bed can actually make your muscle stiffer or, even worse, weak. Keep active and try some basic core stretching and strengthening exercises.
  • Alternate icing and heating the affected area. Ice it for 12-15 minutes ever couple of hours (never put ice directly on the skin to prevent frost bite) and then apply a heating pad (set to low or medium) or take a hot shower. Some people don’t find this helpful, but it definitely can’t harm you, and it may even make you relax, which can be helpful.

Other treatments that are available for acute pain and do not fall into the self-care category are:

  • Chiropractic care (spinal manipulation) – A chiropractor’s aim is to align the spine and increase a joint’s range of motion. Through a series of adjustments, it is possible to align the spine, which in turn can reduce inflammation that may be the cause of the pain.
  • Physical Therapy – A goal for a physical therapist is to strengthen muscles so that they can effectively do their job in supporting healthy and proper posture.

Chronic Pain

If back pain becomes chronic (lasting more than six weeks) other treatments might become necessary. Causes of chronic pain include herniated disks, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, facet joint block, spondylosis and sometimes cancer. Chronic pain can lead to depression or sometimes anxiety from fear that what you are doing could be further damaging your back. Chronic conditions are usually treated similarly to acute pain sufferers in that core strengthening exercises are highly recommended. Treatment regimens are often more successful when stretching and aerobic and strengthening exercises is regularly practiced. Elongating and strengthening the muscles of the core can help to stabilize and support the spine so that the other treatments can be a success. Treatments for chronic conditions can vary.

Chronic pain treatments:

  • Drugs and Injections – Most conditions have a corresponding drug protocol that if necessary your health care professional could prescribe. Corticosteroid injections, to block pain sensation or reduce inflammation maybe be used in instances where bone is hitting bone. If your pain is severe, your doctor may recommend short-term use of an opiate painkiller, epidural steroid injection, or muscle relaxants.
  • Biofeedback, therapy, yoga and/or meditation – Coping with long-term pain can be stressful, upsetting and possibly even depressing. Adapting relaxation techniques into your treatment is widely recommended by doctors and other healers. Yoga can also help to stretch and strengthen muscles!
  • Antidepressants – if pain and anxiety leads to depression, doctors sometimes prescribe antidepressants.
  • Surgery – Surgery is rarely needed for low back pain (relative to how many people experience it). Most doctors will wait to until after non-surgical treatments have been attempted for 1 to 3 months without improvement.

See your health care professional immediately if you experience numbness, tingling or loss of bowel or bladder control.

9 thoughts on “Back Pain Treatment Options”

  1. A new treatment for Back Pain

    Manipulation Under Anesthesia, otherwise known as MUA, is a non-invasive procedure offered for acute and chronic conditions, including: neck, back, and joint pain, muscle spasms, tight muscles, fibrous adhesions and long term pain syndromes.

    Manipulation of the spine with the patient sedated is one of the most gentle and effective methods of helping patients control their pain. MUA provides manipulation and adjustments of the spine and surrounding tissue in an atmosphere where the patient is more responsive and less apprehensive, therefore eliminating resistance from contracted and spastic muscles.

    For those patients with chronic pain and joint, muscle, ligament disorders who are not finding relief through more conventional treatments including physical therapy, narcotic pain medications, chiropractic manipulation without anesthesia, or other invasive procedures such as epidural injections and surgery, MUA combined with simple post-procedure treatment, exercise and therapy has been proven to eliminate or greatly reduce pain and restore or greatly improve range of motion.

    I hope this helps

  2. In the initial phase of back pain chiropractic care and or physical therapy should be aimed at decreasing the inflammation and restoring movement. The use of adjustments by a chiropractor should be accompanied by the use of cryotherapy (cold packs), muscle stimulation, ultrasound, cold laser, traction and exercise. X-rays and MRI’s are ideally suited to identify the cause and tailor treatment. Dr. Mark Mulak Cranston, RI

  3. Dear Friends,

    I am a 54 year old “old dude” with chronic low back pain. In 1984 I was diagnosed with sciatica in the l4, l5 region of my lower back as a result of an old college football injury. Due to stubborness and fear of my doctors I have managed to avoid surgery however I have had epidurals. I have also taken my share of NSAIDs, prednisone, and pain killers when the pain is unbearable.

    My lower back pain has flared recently as a result of too much kneeling from working in my garden.

    I recently came upon this cold laser blog on wordpress and thought I would check it out but I thought I would share it with sciatica sufferers out there:

    It looks interesting but I have never tried cold laser before. I may try it as I have nothing to lose at this point besides money and have tried everything besides going under the knife (no thank you)

  4. I am someone who has experienced more than my share of back pain. I’ve experienced herniated disks, sciatica and I live with and manage my spinal stenosis pain on a day to day basis. I’m tired of hearing about all these treatment options that may provide temporary relief but nothing that really helps people for the long-term. And yes, I’ve even had spinal fusion surgery and a laminectomy. Guess what? I still had back pain just a few months after my procedures. The best thing you can do is eat right. This means NO senseless foods with a lot of sugar. Stay away from fast food places. I’ve tested this. My back always hurts more after a trip to Wendy’s. Instead, eat lots of fruits and veggies, fish and chicken. The next best thing you can do (and this is hard for a lot of people) is exercise certain muscle groups of the quads, glutes, shoulders and upper back. Forget the core stuff. I’ve never relied upon that. By working the bigger muscles of your body, you will indirectly work the core
    muscles and the lower back muscles in a very beneficial way. I don’t believe the type of PT administered is effective enough to help people. It demands a more rigorous exercise routine. The back needs to be challenged. Any muscle group or bodily structure needs to be challenged for it to get stronger. I hope this helps people.

  5. Back pain is something that we will never wish to deal with. Having this treatment options can help us, but sometimes treatments or therapies have temporary relief, with essential exercises and good streatching we can have lasting relief.

  6. I think the key thing is for people to know treating acute pain can be different from treating chronic pain. Definitely start with the basic stuff mentioned above.

    I always find it amazing how simple but powerful icing a back pain can be.

  7. Hi Mitch

    Sounds like you’ve been around the mill. Sometimes there nothing better than to manage your pain with your own techniques. That is- be constantly mindful. Your back will show no mercy after a day in the garden bending over. Don’t waken the sleeping giant and it should be manageable- other than that- things take some time but seek treatment to keep your body moving.


  8. There are many treatments offered for relieving back pain. It is important for us to choose which the best one for relieving our back pain is. Make sure that we will get the best treatment that will give the best effects for us.

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