Low Back Pain
How We Can Help You for Low Back Pain
The doctors in the Stanford Medicine Spine Center have the experience needed to precisely diagnose and effectively treat low back pain, which affects the area below the ribs and above the legs.
All people are likely to experience low back pain at some point in their lives. It is quite common among adults.
We help relieve the symptoms of low back pain, which may affect not only your back, but also your legs. Low back pain can cause muscle aches. Pain may be worse when bending, lifting, standing, or walking. You may feel relief when lying down.
Low back pain usually improves with time and care. Applying ice or heat to the affected area may help. When other treatment is needed, our doctors emphasize noninvasive approaches whenever possible. Options may include rest and monitoring, heat and ice, special exercises, and massage. Your doctor also may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medication to relieve pain. In certain cases, surgery may help, but most people don’t need surgical treatment of low back pain.
In addition, Stanford Medicine Spine Center patients with low back pain may have opportunities to participate in research studies of new treatment approaches not yet available anywhere else.
What We Offer You For Low Back Pain
- Center of Excellence for advanced care of all spine-related conditions.
- Nationally recognized expertise in treating all types of low back pain, no matter how complex.
- Precise diagnosis options including the latest imaging technology.
- Team-based treatment planning that brings together orthopaedic surgeons, neurologists and neurosurgeons, pain management specialists, rheumatologists, physiatrists, and others to tailor care to your needs.
- Advanced treatment options emphasizing noninvasive approaches whenever possible, including exercises, physical therapy, and medication therapy, and, when needed, spine surgery.
- Comprehensive support services including care coordination from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up.
- Active research program to develop new diagnostic and treatment advances.
Treatments for Low Back Pain
Treatment may have one or more of the following goals:
- Relieve pain and any other symptoms
- Prevent the condition from getting worse
- Prevent the condition from returning
- Help you get back to an active lifestyle
The best care plan for low back pain is often a mix of treatments.
The best treatment option for you depends on your condition, overall health, and other factors. Your doctor may recommend one or more approaches, such as:
The doctor may recommend that you try certain exercises to help relieve symptoms and strengthen your back. The recommendations may include yoga or other activities. But your doctor also may recommend that you reduce or stop other exercises to help your healing.
Certain steps you can take to protect your overall health also can help relieve symptoms and speed healing of your lower back. Examples include losing weight and stopping smoking.
Cold and heat therapy
Applying cold and heat to the area may help relieve pain.
Specialists in our physical therapy program use the latest techniques and technologies to help relieve your low back pain. Our goals are also to help you return to a more active lifestyle and reduce the risk of reinjuring your back in the future. In some cases, low back pain may affect your posture or ability to walk normally. Our physical therapists can help you get back in step.
Massage may help reduce pain and relieve tension in muscles.
Applying pressure on joints of the spine may help improve pain and function.
Your doctor may recommend one or more over-the-counter medications to relieve your pain. In more severe cases, your doctor may recommend a prescription medication: a pain reliever, muscle relaxant, or steroid injection.
If absolutely necessary, your doctor may recommend surgery to treat the cause of your low back pain and relieve your symptoms.
Other treatment options:
- Biofeedback can help you learn to control problems linked to muscle tension and blood flow, such as headaches, high blood pressure, and chronic pain.
- Behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), help you use the power of your thoughts to improve mood, stress, and how you mentally manage pain.
- “Back school” teaches you all about back care. You learn how to stand, sit, and move your body in a safer way.
- Stress management can help you relax your muscles. There are many techniques—for example, guided imagery, progressive relaxation, and mindfulness-based stress reduction—that you can learn to do yourself.
- Our pain management specialists may be able to help you learn how to cope with chronic pain.
For chronic back pain, the best plan is often a mix of treatments. Your doctor may recommend that you try more than one to see which works best for you.
Preventing low back pain
The following may help you avoid low back pain:
- Exercise: Activities that don't strain your back and that strengthen your core, such as swimming, may help prevent low back pain. Talk with your doctor about the best exercises for you.
- Keep a healthy weight: Excess weight strains back muscles. If you are overweight, talk with your doctor about the best ways for you to reduce your weight.
- Quit smoking: If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, talk with your doctor. We can help you quit.
- Sit, stand, walk, and lift properly: Keep a good posture when sitting, standing, and walking. Avoid lifting heavy objects. If necessary, let your legs do the work—keep your back straight, and bend at the knees.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you may have access to the latest clinical trials.
Open trials refer to studies that are currently recruiting participants or that may recruit participants in the near future.
What is Low Back Pain?
Low back pain affects the area below the ribs and above the legs. The pain may affect not only your back, but also your legs. Low back pain can cause muscle aches. Pain may be worse when bending, lifting, standing, or walking. You may feel relief when lying down.
All people are likely to experience acute or chronic low back pain at some point in their lives. Experiencing acute low back pain is quite common among adults.