Acute Pain

Acute back pain is not a particular type of pain, but is based on how long it has lasted. The time frame considered for acute back pain varies by injury type, but is typically three weeks to three months.  Generally, acute back pain follows a course that is typical or expected for a particular type of injury. The pain is usually more severe initially and gradually goes away.



Acute pain related to the spine may arise in the back and/or legs and in the neck and/or arms. Sensations of aching, numbness, burning or tingling may be felt.

Acute Pain in the back

Screening and Diagnosis of Acute Back Pain

The doctor will review your history and perform a physical exam. X-rays or other images are not usually indicated unless the pain has lasted at least four weeks. Imaging may be done to rule out fracture or other potentially more serious problems in certain situations. A more extensive evaluation will be performed if there are symptoms indicating nerve injury, such as loss of bowel/bladder control or weakness in the extremities.

Treatments for Acute Back Pain

Treatment for most acute back/neck pain includes activity modification, education, physical therapy and/or medication. It is important to discuss treatment options with your doctor in deciding which treatment, if any, may be best for you. Unless there is a neurologic reason (such as loss of bowel or bladder function for significant nerve or spinal cord compression), acute pain is generally not addressed surgically.