Acute Low-Back Pain Treatment


The lower back is the site of most back pain, says the Mayo Clinic. The low back consists of a stack of bones that surrounds and protects the spinal cord, according to the book, “Understanding Medical Surgical Nursing.” The following conditions can trigger acute pain in the low back according to the Mayo Clinic: osteoarthritis, muscle strain/sprain, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, herniated disk.

Conservative Pain Management

Conservative treatment is the first approach to pain relief used by most clinicians, according to “Understanding Medical Surgical Nursing,” and the standard recommendation in the first line of treatment is one or two days of bedrest. Activity gradually increases, with the use of caution. Next, physical therapy begins if the pain is still acute, focusing on strengthening muscles to stabilize the spine. Ant-inflammatory medications, which help decrease inflammation, can be effective in reducing irritation of the nerve roots in the spine. Muscle relaxants given to decrease muscle spasms sometimes help with pain. Narcotic medications, also known as opioids, are often prescribed to patients who experience severe pain and no relief with rest and therapy.

Chiropractic Medicine

Chiropractic treatment consists of manual spinal adjustment and manipulation. Based on the belief that restricted movement in the spine leads to pain, spinal adjustment treats restricted spinal mobility. Chiropractors use their hands to manipulate joints.

Epidural Steroid Injections

For patients who do not wish to have surgery, epidural steroid injections are an option. Medications such as steroids, long-acting anesthetics and long-acting pain relievers injected into the spinal region to provide relief, according to “Understanding Medical Surgical Nursing.” The long-acting anesthetic numbs the nerve, giving instant relief, while the steroid reduces the swelling for a long-term effect. According to Dr. Anthony Freeman, of Great Seal Pain Management at Adena Hospital, epidurals can be done in a series of three injections for low-back pain relief.


There are several kinds of low-back surgeries, according to “Understanding Medical Surgical Nursing.” Laminectomies remove one section of the affected bone in the spinal column to relieve pressure or access a herniated disk for removal. The removal of an entire faulty spinal disk is a diskectomy. A percutaneous diskectomy involves the insertion of a needle into the disk to draw out the herniated disk material. Laser disk surgery can be used to break up the herniated tissue, according to the California Orthopedic Medical Clinic.


Physical therapy may increase or worsen the pain. Even though epidural steroid injections are minimally invasive, they carry the risk of increasing pain. Surgery carries the chance for the greatest complications, such as hemorrhage, nerve damage in the spinal area, reherniation of the newly repaired disk and herniation of another disk, according to “Understanding Medical Surgical Nursing.”

About this Author

Annie McElfresh is a nurse by trade and an avid writer by night. Her background includes 10 years of experience in pain management, operating room, home health, and medical office management. She has completed two full-length novels, contributes to two blogs, and is a member of several writing forums.