Acute Low Back Pain

More About Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing acute low back pain primarily involves two steps. First, a focused medical history is taken, followed by a thorough physical exam. The goal of these evaluations is to determine the duration of symptoms, the risk factors for potentially serious conditions, and the presence and severity of neurologic deficits.

A neurologic deficit is a problem in nerve, spinal cord, or brain function that affects a specific part of the body, causing things like muscle weakness, numbness, or loss of bladder or bowel control.

In most cases, your provider will suggest a plan of care that has proven effective for the majority of people with acute back pain. The provider will discuss your expected course of recovery and recommend a treatment plan that you’ll do yourself.

Your provider may also suggest:

  • The application of heat
  • Staying active
  • Learning about the care and prevention of back pain

For some people, spinal manipulation can be an effective treatment for acute low back pain. Your provider can usually refer you to a qualified chiropractor or osteopath in your area.

There are other treatments for back pain, however, the recommendations contained here are the most current evidence-based guidelines for acute back pain. It’s important to note that the treatment for acute back pain is not the same as the treatment for chronic back pain, although there is some overlap. You’ll find more information on additional back pain treatment in the Chronic Low Back Pain section of this program.