Lower Back Pain Treatments

Medications, Physical Therapy, and Surgery

Peer Reviewed

Try Non-surgical Treatment First for Lower Back Pain

Close up on hands holding medicationMost patients with lower back pain (lumbar spine) are treated without surgery. A conventional treatment plan may include bed rest for a day or two combined with medication to reduce inflammation and pain. Medications recommended by the physician are based on the patient's medical condition, age, other drugs the patient currently takes, and safety.

Medications for Lower Back Pain

The first choice for pain relief is often non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These drugs should be taken with food to prevent stomach upset and stomach bleeding.

Muscle relaxants may provide relief from muscle spasm but are actually benign sedatives, which often cause drowsiness.

Opioid pain relievers are sometimes prescribed for use during the acute phase.

Physical Therapy: Helping You Recover from Lower Back Pain

Physical therapy (PT) is started as soon as the patient can tolerate activity. A managed PT program can help build muscle strength, flexibility, improve mobility, coordination, stability, balance, and promotes relaxation.

Patients who participate in a structured physical therapy program often progress to wellness more rapidly than those who do not. This includes low back maintenance through a home exercise program developed for the patient by the physical therapist.

PT may include ice therapy to slow nerve conduction thereby decreasing inflammation and pain.

Heat treatments may be used to accelerate soft tissue repair. Heat increases blood flow and speeds up the metabolic rate to assist healing. Heat also helps decrease muscle spasm, pain, and promotes a relaxed feeling.

Ultrasound is a treatment used to deliver heat deep into soft tissues. Sometimes a heat treatment is given prior to a session of therapeutic exercise.

In-depth Articles on Non-surgical Lower Back Pain Treatments

Will You Need Spine Surgery?

Seldom is surgery required to treat low back pain. Surgery may be considered if you are experiencing:

  • bowel or bladder dysfunction
  • increased nerve impairment
  • progressive weakness
  • incapacitating pain
  • spinal instability.

The surgical procedure depends on the diagnosis or the cause of low back pain.  Your spine surgeon will thoroughly explain to you your surgery options.

Read our article just on lower back pain surgery.

Your Low Back Pain Treatment Plan

Your doctor will create a treatment plan just for you, based on your diagnosis, other medical conditions, and overall health.  It may include the treatments discussed above and/or other treatments.  Before trying any new treatment, be sure to ask as many questions as you'd like in order to understand the treatment goals and how it should work.  Working with your doctor, you may be able to reduce your lower back pain.

Updated on: 03/01/16
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Low Back Pain Facts and Figures
Edward C. Benzel, MD
Dr. Fessler has eloquently and succinctly reviewed and presented the "basics" of low back pain. Of those who are seeking information regarding their back pain or the back pain of a family member or loved one will most assuredly use the information provided by Dr. Fessler effectively. This information can and should function as a springboard for further information gathering, some of which is provided in the related articles attached.
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Low Back Pain Facts and Figures

The number of people self-reporting chronic low back pain represented the majority of people who participated in the Chronic Back Pain in America 2015 survey.
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