UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Treatment and Evaluation of Low Back Pain

Keywords: Back Pain, Guideline, Treatment (PubMed Search)

Posted: 10/7/2007 by Michael Bond, MD (Updated: 6/25/2022)
Click here to contact Michael Bond, MD

Low Back is one of the most common complaints that we see in the Emergency Department.  Our first priority is to rule out those causes that can lead to paralysis or death (i.e.: epidural abscess, pathological fracture, cauda equina syndrome, etc…).  However, most of the back pain that we will see is musculoskeletal in origin.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) and the American Pain Society (APS) recently released some joint recommendations on the evaluation of treatment of individuals with back pain.

In summary their key recommendations are:

  1. Routine imaging is not required. However, diagnostic imaging and testing should be obtained for patients with low back pain when severe or progressive neurologic deficits are present or when serious underlying conditions are suspected.
  2.  For patients with low back pain, clinicians should consider the use of medications with proven benefits in conjunction with back care information and self-care. For most patients, first-line medication options are acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  3. Medications that have good evidence of short-term effectiveness for low back pain are NSAIDs, acetaminophen, skeletal muscle relaxants (for acute low back pain), and tricyclic antidepressants (for chronic low back pain).

Links to the Clinical Guidelines are listed below: