Acute Low Back Pain
Acute low back pain is defined as pain that is present for less than 12 weeks and in many cases will resolve itself in just a few days.
Let’s talk for a few minutes about acute low back pain. Dr. O’Connor, can you tell us what the term means?
Sure, Ty. Acute low back pain is defined as pain that is present for less than 12 weeks. After 12 weeks, back pain is characterized as “chronic” back pain.
I see. And, how is acute back pain diagnosed?
Well, you know, in many cases acute low back pain will resolve itself in just a few days, and most people will not even need to seek medical care. For those who do seek care, they’ll find that their provider will usually start by taking a focused medical history, followed by a thorough physical exam to determine the likelihood of an underlying condition that could be causing the back pain.
Does this examination usually involve x-rays or scans of any kind?
Excellent question, Ty. And you may be surprised to hear that the answer is no. Imaging tests like MRIs, CT scans, and x-rays are not typically used to diagnose acute lower back pain. In fact, evidence shows that these tests are not in the best interest of the patient, unless of course the physician suspects that the pain is caused by a serious underlying condition. So, in most cases, the provider can simply use the information from the history and physical exam to recommend the right treatment.
I see. Well, what kind of treatments are there?
Well, providers will usually offer information about self-care options to manage the back pain. Those options can include things like remaining active, applying heat to the painful area, or taking specific over-the-counter medications.
We’ll talk more about the treatment of acute low back pain when we come back.