The Evolution of Low Back Pain Treatments

Updated: May 4, 2019


The prescription to treat low back pack has changed over the years. For example, for severe back pain one week’s bed rest was the recommendation with the possibility of hospitalization. In addition, medications, such as pain relievers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aka NSAIDs), and muscle relaxants were part of the norm.

With research, it was determined that prolonged bedrest was not ideal. Even taking it easy for a few days followed by increased activity, such as stretching & strengthening were no better, and possibly worse.


New Recommendations by the American College of Physicians has set out new guidelines, based on studies, for the treatment of low back pain lasting less than 12 weeks.

  • avoiding medications, initially, as they tend to have only temporary & modest relief

  • heat therapy

  • massage therapy

  • acupuncture

  • spinal manipulation via chiropractic care

Recommendations for chronic low back pain lasting more than 12 weeks,:

  • exercise, which includes stretching, stability exercises, and strengthening

  • physiotherapy

  • acupuncture

  • mindfulness to reduce stress

  • tai chi

  • yoga

  • progressive relaxation

If these options don’t work, speak with your doctor for other treatment options.

Note: the suggestions described above are for low back pain that might begin after a strenuous workout or shoveling snow, for example. If there is a serious cause for an individual’s back pain, such as a major injury, cancer, infection, or fractures, seek medical attention for safe & effective care.

To make sure your back pain is not serious, your doctor will ask you a few questions to help identify if your back pain is due to infection, tumor, or other serious cause.

  • have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?

  • have you experienced unexplained or unintentional weight loss?

  • do you have an abnormal immune system (due to disease or medications)?

  • do you use intravenous drugs?

  • have you had a fever recently?

  • have you had significant injury to your back recently?

  • have you had bladder or bowel incontinence?

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