November 14, 2021

My Back Went Out 3 Weeks Ago — What Should I Do?

The short answer from a spine specialist

Closeup of a practicioner's hands placing acupuncture needles into a patient's back

Q: My lower back went out 3 weeks ago. What should I do?

A: First of all, it’s important to know that in time, things will improve. Back pain like yours that is acute (lasting less than one month) or subacute (lasting one to three months) usually gets better as time goes on. This is true no matter what treatment is used.

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Try easing your way back to exercising when you feel the pain has lessened a bit. Exercise remains the main strategy for returning to full function during an acute bout of low back pain.

If acute or subacute low back pain doesn’t resolve on its own, we agree with American College of Physicians guidelines that recommend:

  • Superficial heat (like a heating pad).
  • Massage.
  • Acupuncture.

These options can facilitate your rapid return to exercise and function.

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The key is to avoid prolonged rest, which accelerates the risk of disability and deconditioning.

Occasionally, short-term use (five to 10 days) of non-steroidal inflammatory medications (such as naproxen, ibuprofen or celecoxib) or muscle relaxants (such as baclofen, metaxalone, or tizanidine) can help improve pain enough to return you to your regular exercise/fitness program.

As always, we recommend consulting with your doctor if your lower back pain is causing you additional concern and there are no signs of improvement.

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Spine specialist Phillip Mendis, DO.

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