Acute Back Pain: Management

Man holding back

Managing acute back pain

Back pain due to acute injury such as sprains or strains will frequently resolve within a few weeks without intervention however,1 physiotherapeutic2,3 and pharmacological4 treatment options can help your patients manage their acute back pain.5

Guideline recommendations for treating back pain due to acute injury such as sprains/strains

Graphic summarizing treatment pathway for back pain due to acute injury

Guidance on managing back pain due to acute injury (sprains/strains) recommends multimodal intervention

Recommendations from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the American College of Physicians are available guiding the pharmacological and non-pharmacological management of back pain due to acute injury.6,7

This advice covers several modes of intervention:

  • Exercise
  • Pharmacological treatments
  • Manual/Physical therapy
  • Exercise

    Certain forms of exercise can relieve acute pain and improve function as part of a multidisciplinary rehabilitation approach.7 (note, this is very much dependent on the type of acute injury and should be assessed on a case by case basis).

    Based on your clinical judgement, you may recommend mild excerise such as walking, swimming, yoga and pilates as activities that may be particularly helpful for acute back pain.1

    Specific exercises and stretches are also available for relieving acute back pain.1

    Resting for long periods can make acute back pain worse.1

  • Pharmacological treatments

    Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommend acetaminophen, topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or oral NSAIDs (ibuprofen) for sprains or strains of the back.4

  • Manual / physical therapy

    Manual therapies, which involve massage, can be considered as part of a treatment package that also includes exercise.1,6

  • Heat

    Several guideline bodies recommend application of low-level superficial heat for acute back pain relief.1,7,8

    Indeed, superficial heat is the only non-pharmacological treatment for acute lower back pain that is rated as having a good evidence of efficacy.8

How can Aisha be helped?



Aisha* has recently hurt her back and cannot do as much activity as she used to. She describes back pain, which developed while hiking and rock climbing.

Aisha needs a solution that will offer her effective relief.

Voltaren is applied to the skin where its anti-inflammatory ingredient, diclofenac, is absorbed through the skin to provide clinically proven pain relief, so Aisha can get back to doing the things she enjoys!9,10

*Fictional case study


Understanding back pain

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