Back Pain - Treatment

Acute Back Pain Treatment and Relief

Acute back pain stands a good chance of improvement within a few days to weeks. The following will help:

  • Continuing with your day-to-day activities, wherever possible.

  • Treatment with over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicines in consultation with your GP. These provide back pain relief to patients with mild to moderate pain.

  • Short-term treatment with a muscle relaxant will provide relief

  • Limiting bed rest to the minimum (use a comfortable, and supportive silentnight mattress)  since complete rest does not aid recovery.

  • Muscle strengthening exercises and improving the posture through activities such as stretching exercises, swimming, and walking. Yoga, too, can gently stretch muscles and facilitate pain relief. The mild discomfort that you will experience when you begin these exercises usually disappears as muscle strength improves.

  • Applying cold compresses (for example, a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel) to reduce the initial inflammation. This should be followed by local heat application (you can use a heat pad, a hot water bottle, or take a hot shower) after a few days to help ease muscular pain and provide back pain relief.

Chronic Back Pain Treatment and Relief

Self-help treatments for pain relief:

  • Staying active is one of the best ways to keep your back mobile, provide relief and help you get better. It can also reduce your chances of getting back pain again. Bed rest is not recommended as this is likely to make your back pain worse.
  • Paracetomol is very effective for back pain relief and is often recommended as a first step. There is evidence that paracetomol is effective in helping people deal with long term or chronic back pain.

Anti-Inflammatory Treatments:

  • You doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory or stronger pain killer depending on the amount of pain and how it is affecting your daily life. NSAIDs, which include ibuprofen, reduce swelling (inflammation) and pain.  There is good evidence that short term treatment with NSAID's provides relief. The evidence is not as strong for long term or chronich back pain. Note that there are posible side effects with NSAIDs that include stomach irritation and ulcers.
  • COX 2 inhibitors are gentler on the stomach but some have been withdranw recently due to possible links with heart disease and stroke.

Muscle relaxants:

  • Muscle relaxants may help with muscle spasms. These are usually only used for short periods of time as they can be addictive.

Physiotherapy and Manipulation: 

  • Consider seeing a qualified physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor as some of the treatments they provide, like physiotherapy or back or spinal manipulation, may provide short term relief in some people with acute back pain or nerve root pain.

Complimentary Therapy and Treatments:

  • The Alexander Technique is a way of learning to use your body better by becoming more aware of balance, posture, and movement. It can help reduce the strain and discomfort that are the result of poor posture and coordination. The Alexander Technique is based on the principle that we function as a whole and, to make improvements, we need to learn to prevent unnecessary and harmful habits such as tightening muscles and joints and putting too much effort and tension into our posture and movements.
  • Counselling may also be helpful in dealing with how back pain affects daily life.
  • Acupuncture works by stimulating certain nerves in muscle and other tissues providing relief. This affects the processing of pain and stimulates the release of natural painkillers as well as substances which can assist with healing. See more on acupuncture here.

Interventional Therapy:

  • Pain pathways can be blocked or numbed in several ways to achieve pain relief. This is achieved by means of epidural steroids, nerve blocks, and analgesic pump devices.

Treatment at a pain clinic:

  • If you have chronic pain, your doctor may refer you to a pain clinic. Pain clinics work with you to help relieve your pain by treating your symptoms and also by giving you counselling to help you deal with the pain.


  • In rare cases you may require surgery to repair a slipped or ruptured disc.

Nutritional Therapy and Supplements for back pain

Vitamin C:

  • Collagen is largely responsible for the strength and resilience of the discs of cartilage located between the vertebrae of the spine. One study has shown that a daily dose of 1500 to 2500g of vitamin C (which is important in the formation of collagen) can help provide back pain relief. 

Glucosamine Sulphate:

  • Glucosamine is a constituent of intervertable discs. Clinical experience suggests that taking 500mg of glucosamine sulphate 2 -3 times per day may stimulate healing and repair. Glucosamine hydrochloride may also be used.

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