Unless you are totally immobilized from a back injury, your doctor probably will examine your range of motion and nerve function and touch your body to locate the area of discomfort.
Blood and urine tests may be done to determine if the pain is caused by an infection or other systemic problem.
X-rays are useful in pinpointing broken bones or other skeletal defects. They can sometimes help locate problems in connective tissue. To analyze soft-tissue or disc damage, computed tomography (CT) or...
You might think that if you have chronic low back pain -- pain that lasts
longer than about six to eight weeks -- that you'll need medication, surgery,
or both to help get relief.
But there are dozens of alternative treatments for chronic back pain that
don't involve taking medication or having an operation. And many of them are
much more popular.
"Americans spend much more out of pocket for alternative pain therapies than
they will for traditional treatments," says Barry Cole, MD, director of the
American Society of Pain Educators. "People value these treatments enough to
Some alternative approaches to back pain are more established than others,
and some have more scientific evidence supporting them. Here is an
Physical Therapy for Back Pain
The right kind of physical therapy can often curb chronic back pain.
"When you visit a physical therapist, there are a number of things they
might do," says Sam Moon, MD, MPH, of Duke Integrative Medicine, part of Duke
University Medical Center. "They might use machines or traction, they
might put you through stretching exercise, or they might use hands-on
Moon says the types of physical therapy shown to be most helpful for chronic
back pain are hands-on soft tissue mobilization -- in which the therapist moves
the soft tissues of your back -- and education about posture and home
Effective physical therapy should always include learning what to do at home
-- and then doing it.
Getting physical therapy twice a week and then sitting in your usual bad
posture, or avoiding exercise, won't help. Physical therapy should be
goal-oriented and "shouldn't go on forever," Moon says.
Doctors of chiropractic use their hands, and sometimes other tools, to
manipulate the joints of the body -- particularly the spine -- to help relieve
Studies have shown that chiropractics can be effective in relieving acute
(sudden) and chronic back pain, although there's more evidence to support its
use in acute back pain.
"Chiropractic is generally considered to be as good as physical therapy, and
as good as patient education, in relieving back pain," Moon says. "And, like
physical therapists, chiropractors can be very good educators about back
Just as with physical therapy, chiropractic care for back pain should
involve learning exercises to do at home to strengthen your back, and
treatments shouldn't go on forever.
"They should be teaching the patient how to take care of themselves," Moon
says. "I won't write an open-ended prescription for chiropractic; generally, I
think it should be done for a month or two before re-evaluating how the patient