Some 80 percent of Americans will experience back pain at some time in their lives. Fortunately, in most cases, the pain is resolved through at-home therapies that can include rest, hot or cold packs, and over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
The majority of the time, back pain does not require surgery. Back pain can be acute or chronic. Acute back pain, or pain that begins quickly and lasts for less than six weeks, is the most common form of back pain and is often brought on by accidents or injuries. Acute back pain usually gets better without treatment and is normally not treated with surgery. Chronic back pain is pain that lasts for more than three months and depending on the cause of the pain, may be treated either non-surgically or surgically.
Individuals suffering even mild back pain should consult a doctor if they experience:
- Numbness or tingling
- Severe pain that does not improve with rest
- Pain after a fall or an injury
- Pain plus any of these problems:
- Trouble urinating
- Numbness in the legs
- Weight loss when not on a diet
If you are uncertain whether your situation requires attention by a physician, call our Nurse Navigator at 1 (866) SPINE 55. She will help you complete a risk assessment to determine if a consultation with a spine specialist would be helpful.
 Handout on Health: Back Pain, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, www.niams.hih.gov