Treatment for Back Pain:


Acute Back Pain Treatments:

Acute back pain can get better without treatment. Over-the-counter analgesic pain killers like acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen will help alleviate the pain.


Chronic Back Pain Treatments:

·         Hot or Cold Packs (or Both): Heat reduces muscle spasms and pain. Cold helps reduce swelling and numbs deep pain. Using hot or cold packs may relieve pain, but this treatment does not fix the cause of chronic back pain.

·         Exercise: Proper exercise can help ease chronic pain but should not be used for acute back pain. Your doctor or physical therapist can tell you the best types of exercise to do.

·         Medications:

•Analgesic medications are over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen and aspirin or prescription pain medications.

•Topical analgesics are creams, ointments, and salves rubbed onto the skin over the site of pain.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are drugs that reduce both pain and swelling. NSAIDs include over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen, ketoprofen, and naproxen sodium. Your doctor may prescribe stronger NSAIDs.

•Muscle relaxants and some antidepressants may be prescribed for some types of chronic back pain, but these do not work for every type of back pain.

·         Behavior Changes: You can learn to lift, push, and pull with less stress on your back. Changing how you exercise, relax, and sleep can help lessen back pain. Eating a healthy diet and not smoking also help.

·         Injections: Your doctor may suggest steroid or numbing shots to lessen your pain.


Complementary and Alternative Medical Treatments

·         Chiropractics / Manipulation: Chiropractors adjust or massage the spine or nearby tissue using their hands.

·         Electrical Stimulation: A small electrical box ends mild electrical pulses to nerves in the affected area.

·         Acupuncture: Use of thin needles to relieve pain and restore health. Acupuncture may be effective when used as a part of a comprehensive treatment plan for low back pain.

·         Acupressure: Application of pressure to certain places in the body to relieve pain.



Most people with chronic back pain do not need surgery. Surgery may be applicable if you suffer from:

o    Herniated disk. When one or more of the disks that cushion the bones of the spine are damaged, the jelly-like center of the disk leaks, causing pain.

o    Spinal stenosis. This condition causes the spinal canal to become narrow.

o    Spondylolisthesis. This occurs when one or more bones of the spine slip out of place.

o    Vertebral fractures. A fracture can be caused by a blow to the spine or by crumbling of the bone due to osteoporosis.

o    Degenerative disk disease. As people age, some have disks that break down and cause severe pain.

o    Cancer, an infection, or a nerve root problem called cauda equina syndrome



1.     National Institute of Arthritis & Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, What is Back Pain?, September 2009.

2.     Medline Plus, National Institutes of Health, 2011.

3.     Zacharoff et al., Your Guide to Pain Management, Inflexxion, Inc. 2009.