Back Pain Home > Back Pain

Should I See a Doctor?

In most cases, it is not necessary to see a doctor for back pain because the pain usually goes away with or without treatment. However, patients should see a doctor for back pain if:
  • They are experiencing numbness or tingling
  • The pain is severe and doesn't improve with medication and rest
  • They are having back pain after a fall or an injury.

Symptoms Requiring Immediate Attention

It is important to see your doctor if you have back pain and any of the following symptoms:
  • Trouble urinating
  • Weakness
  • Pain or numbness in your legs
  • Fever
  • Unintentional weight loss.
These symptoms can signal a serious problem that requires immediate treatment.

Who to See for Back Pain?

Many different types of doctors treat back pain, from family physicians to doctors who specialize in disorders of the nerves and musculoskeletal system. In most cases, patients should see their primary care physician, who can usually treat the problem. In other cases, your doctor may refer you to an appropriate specialist.

How Is It Treated?

Most low back pain can be treated without surgery. The goal of treatment is to restore proper function and strength to the back and prevent recurrence of the injury. Treatment options for back pain can include:
  • Using over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce discomfort and using anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation. Medications are often used to treat acute and chronic low back pain. Effective back pain relief may involve a combination of prescription drugs and over-the-counter remedies.
  • Although the use of cold and hot compresses has never been scientifically proven to quickly resolve low back injury, compresses may help reduce pain and inflammation and allow greater mobility for some individuals.
  • Bed rest is recommended for only 1 to 2 days at most. Individuals should resume activities as soon as possible.
  • Exercise may be the most effective way to speed recovery from low back pain. Exercise will help strengthen back and abdominal muscles.
  • In the most serious cases, when the condition does not respond to other therapies, surgery may relieve pain caused by back problems or serious musculoskeletal injuries.
(Click Back Pain Treatment for more information about treatment options for back pain.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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