Low Back Pain Overview


What is Low Back Pain
Low back pain is discomfort that starts below the ribcage. Low back pain can present itself in varying levels of pain, but fortunately, it often gets better on its own. Some people may experience acute low back pain, which can begin and end quickly, while others experience chronic low back pain which lasts longer than six months and may continue when the injury or illness has been treated.


Risk Factors
According to NIH, there are many risk factors associated with low back pain, including:

Age Genetics
Fitness Level Anxiety
Weight Depression
Job-Related Factors Stress
Smoking Psychological Well-Being


When to see a clinician
Some symptoms such as numbness or tingling in your legs, loss of bladder control, difficulty standing or walking, a sudden increase in pain, or pain lasting longer than a week may be an indicators of something more serious and is a good idea to see a provider who specializes in low back pain, such as a chiropractor or physical therapist.
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There are many paths to treatment for low back pain. Below are brief explanations of treatment options for acute and chronic low back pain.

Self Care
  • ExerciseStaying physically active and exercising regularly are the most important things that can be done for low back pain. Exercise helps our muscles relax and increases blood flow to the back area. Things that have been proven to help include exercises to strengthen the core muscles, as well as certain exercises used in pilates, tai chi and yoga.
    Click here to view extension exercises for young to middle-age individuals.
    Click here to view extension exercises for elderly individuals.
  • Heat TherapySuperficial heat is an effective remedy for low back pain because it boosts circulation. This allows nutrients and oxygen to travel to joints and muscles to help alleviate pain within your low back.
Spinal Manipulation
A Spinal manipulation is a technique where practitioners use their hands or a devise to apply a controlled thrust to a joint of your spine or other parts of your body to help alleviate pain, improve function and support your body’s natural ability to heal itself. Most spinal manipulations are done by doctors of chiropractic, (sometimes referred to as DC’s).  Chiropractors focus on the relationship between body structure – mainly your spine – and how it’s functioning.
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Physical Therapy

Physical therapists (referred to as PT’s) are experts at muscle and body movement. They help optimize healing through hands-on care, prescribed exercises to rebuild strength and education. They’ll examine your individual issue and develop a plan using treatment techniques that help your ability to move, reduce pain, restore function and prevent disability.
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Massage Therapy
Massage therapy involves manipulating the soft tissues of the body.  Massage therapists practice using touch – like pressing, rubbing or manipulating muscles – to pressure the soft tissues of the body to help relieve stress and feel better. There is scientific evidence that massage may help with back pain and improve quality of life for people with chronic conditions.
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Acupuncture is a technique in which practitioners insert fine needles into the skin to treat health problems. The needles may be manipulated manually or stimulated with small electrical currents. It is one of the practices used in traditional Chinese medicine. Research suggest that acupuncture can help manage certain pain conditions.
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Primary Care
Services that cover a range of prevention, wellness, and treatment for common and chronic health issues fall under Primary Care. Consulting with a primary care physician (either an MD or DO) about a back or neck pain issue is common, especially since they often have maintained a long-term relationship with you, and can therefore advise, treat and if needed recommend an appropriate course of action based on your health history. 


Prescription Medications
  • Non-Opioids: Non-opioid medications are recommended for moderate to severe back or neck pain, as they typically work better to resolve your low back pain and have fewer risks. Some over-the-counter medicines include Acetaminophen (Tylenol or generic) Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB or generic), Naproxen (Aleve or generic) topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and heat rubs. Other prescription drugs can include NSAIDS, anti-seizure drugs, gabapentin and antidepressants.
    Click here to learn more about non-opioids.
  • Opioids: Opioids (such as Oxycodone and Hydrocodone) are generally considered a short-term treatment following a severe injury, illness or surgery. Long-acting or extended release opioids are rarely appropriate for low back pain and should only be considered when all other options have been tried.
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Steroid Injections
Steroid injections are a type of treatment that delivers a high dose of medication directly to the problem spot in the body. Steroids should only be considered if physical treatments are not progressing as expected as they are powerful drugs that can weaken spinal bones and cause other side effects if used too frequently.
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In situations where issues are not improving with physical care, surgery can help correct an anatomical condition. Surgery should always be a last resort, especially if fusion is suggested. Inability to go the bathroom, controlling urination, numbness in your groin and severe muscle weakness in the legs are some “red flag” symptoms that may require surgical referral.
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