Treating acute lower back pain

Treating acute lower back pain


Acute lower back pain is defined as pain in the lower back that starts suddenly and is severe. Usually in these cases the pain is caused by an obvious injury, such as lifting a heavy object incorrectly or starts after an awkward fall. However, it can also be a sign of the degeneration of important elements of the spine that can occur with age. While acute lower back pain can be debilitating just after it starts, it should ease up after a few days of conservative treatment. Here we’ll take a look at what you can do at home to treat acute lower back pain and what to expect if you need to seek medical advice.


While lower back pain can be intense just after an injury, it’s best to keep a cool head and remember to apply RICE treatment. For the first forty-eight hours after acute lower back pain starts, Rest the back and refrain from sport or other activities that cause pain. Apply Ice to the back for no longer than twenty minutes every two hours or so to help keep the swelling down, and remember to keep the ice wrapped in a cloth to protect the skin. Compression with an elastic bandage can also help with the inflammation, but be sure to allow room for blood circulation. Finally, Elevation isn’t always possible with back injuries, but propping up the back with an extra pillow can also help fight inflammation.

If, after the first forty-eight hours, the pain is still intense or has got worse, it should be a good idea to seek medical advice. The doctor may wish to perform tests to diagnose the cause of the pain, including a CT scan or an MRI, both of which can highlight problems with muscles, ligaments and other soft tissues in addition to the spine. Depending on the severity of the problem, the doctor may wish to treat the back pain with a variety of conservative treatments, including prescribing painkillers, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (sold over the counter as ibuprofen or paracetemol but available in stronger quantities under prescription), or muscle relaxants. Most medical experts agree that rest is not helpful for acute lower back pain after the first two days and advise against it. There are a variety of physiotherapy options available to treat lower back pain, including massage, manipulation, acupuncture or physical therapy that have varying degrees of success. It may be a question of finding the right therapy for the right patient.

Finally, steroid injections are considered if these non-invasive conservative treatments do not resolve the pain. In many cases, these injections, which usually consist of a local anaesthetic and steroid medication solution, can not only stop the pain signals from reaching the brain, but their anti-inflammatory properties can help heal the problem as well. These injections are available for problems stemming from muscle knots, slipped discs, pinched nerves and other issues common in the lower back.