Medical treatment for back pain

Many adults have experienced an episode of back pain at some point. It is important to note that back pain is the common reason why a doctor is consulted.

Among individuals below the age of 40, back pain is the usual reason for inability to engage in daily activities. The pain that mainly affects the back must be distinguished from other spinal ailments that cause leg pain or sciatica.

The cause of back pain might be hard to pinpoint and might be linked to the spinal joints, discs, vertebrae or soft tissue supports.


Many individuals recover from an episode of acute back pain in 2 weeks with minimal intervention.

Management of acute back pain

Many individuals recover from an episode of acute back pain in 2 weeks with minimal intervention. In most cases, proper use of over-the-counter pain medications and cold packs as well as early return to normal activities are simple yet effective treatments.

When to consult a doctor

The warning indications that might require a trip to a doctor include the following:

  • Worsening back pain
  • Fever
  • Progressive movement of pain from the back into the leg
  • Pain that could not be relieved with rest or disrupts with sleep

Management of chronic and persistent pain

Most cases of back pain settle within a few days with simple treatment. Once it lasts more than 2-4 weeks, further medical assessment is important. The assessment involves a complete medical history and physical exam to determine the root of the pain. Generally, the root of the pain might be linked to the spinal discs, joints or the supporting musculature.

The treatment for the chronic type of pain is aimed on alleviating the symptoms and an active, exercise-oriented rehabilitation regimen for the back. Prolonged bed rest or limited activity leads to the stiffening and deconditioning of the muscles and delays recovery.


The role of medications in the treatment for back pain is to alleviate the symptoms and allow the individual to fully engage in an active, exercise-oriented rehabilitation regimen. There are various new medications that are given.

Some of the older medications have new roles in the treatment for back pain such as:

  • Due to the disrupted sleeping pattern caused by back pain, low doses of the traditional antidepressant specifically doxepin can be given to lower the pain.
  • Anticonvulsants such as gabapentin is used for the nerve irritation symptoms such as numbness or burning.
  • Long-acting opioid pain medications can help improve function and quality of life in rare cases.


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