When to See a Doctor About Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common medical problems experienced by adults. According to the Mayo Clinic, back pain affects 8 out of 10 people at some point in their lives. Fortunately, you can take measures to prevent or relieve most occurrences of back pain.

Woman with back pain

What are the types of back pain?

Back pain can range from a constant ache to shooting pain. Chronic back pain lasts for three months or longer. Acute back pain lasts between 4 and 12 weeks.

What causes back pain?

There are many conditions that may result in back pain. These include:

  • Muscle or ligament strain
  • Bulging or ruptured disks
  • Arthritis
  • Skeletal irregularities
  • Osteoporosis

What should I do?

Most of the time, your back pain will go away on its own with home treatment and self-care. However, it may take a while. Over-the-counter pain reliever, as well as resting, can help. But keep in mind: too much rest can make it worse. Staying in bed for over a day or two can lead to worse pain and no improvements.

When should I seek medical help?

diagram of the location of lower back pain

Most back pain gradually improves with home treatment and self-care, usually within two weeks. You should seek medical attention if your back pain:

  • Doesn’t improve within 2 weeks of home treatment and self-care
  • Occurred following an injury
  • Is accompanied by a fever
  • Causes bowel or bladder issues
  • Is severe
  • Spreads down one or both legs
  • Causes weakness, numbness or tingling in one or both legs
  • Is accompanied by unexplained weight loss

What is the treatment?

The treatment for back pain depends on the kind of pain you have and what the cause is. Treatment may include hot or cold packs, exercise, medicines, injections, and possibly even surgery. Home remedies include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
  • Ice packs to relieve discomfort and help lessen inflammation in acute back pain.
  • Warm compresses to relieve pain when inflammation has subsided.

How do I prevent back pain?

There are many ways you can avoid experiencing back pain. Improving your Drawing of common ways to hurt your backphysical condition as well as practicing proper body mechanics are some of the best ways.

  • Exercise
  • Build muscle strength and flexibility
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Practice good posture
  • Lift smart (with your legs and a straight back)

What about physical therapy?

For some, physical therapy may be a great option for treating back pain. The overall goals of physical therapy are to decrease pain, increase function, and provide education on a maintenance program to prevent future recurrences.

We can help!

At Physicians Immediate Care, we can help alleviate your back pain. From sprains to broken bones and other non-life-threatening injuries, our clinics are a worry-free alternative to the emergency room. The only thing better than the short waits is the attentive care. You can also get supplies like crutches, slings, splints, and back supports right at the clinic.



Cleveland Clinic, “What Can Physical Therapy Do For Your Back & Neck Pain,” https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/what-can-physical-therapy-do-for-your-back-and-neck-pain

MedlinePlus, “Back Pain,” https://medlineplus.gov/backpain.html

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, “What Is Back Pain?,” https://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/back_pain/back_pain_ff.asp