Finding the Right Back Pain Treatment

  • woman-in-bedroom-with-back-pain
    A Closer Look at Back Pain
    Back pain is one of the most common medical problems in the United States. Approximately 25% of U.S. adults experience a day of back pain in any given three-month period. Back pain usually resolves on its own, but see a doctor if it lasts more than a few weeks or you have other symptoms. Back pain lasting for three months or more is chronic back pain, which can be difficult to treat. You may need to see a back pain specialist for chronic back pain or pain that is not responding to common treatments.  Here is a look at the types of doctors and providers to see if you have back pain.

  • Female doctor reviewing file with female patient
    Primary Care Doctors
    People with back pain are most likely to see their family doctor or primary care doctor. In fact, 66% of people rely on a primary care doctor to treat their back pain. And this is a good place to start if your back pain continues for longer than a few weeks. Your primary care doctor can prescribe medications, help you make lifestyle changes, and recommend non-drug treatments. If your pain continues, your doctor can refer you to other providers. You can search for primary care doctors and specialists at

  • spine specialist refers to model of spine while discussing with elderly patient
    Orthopedic Surgeons
    Orthopedic surgeons provide care for the joints, muscles or bones. They are specialists in treating back pain, and 56% of people with back pain have seen an orthopedic surgeon. If your doctor refers you to an orthopedic surgeon, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need surgery. Surgery is only an option when the surgeon can pinpoint a fixable cause of your back pain. Back specialists also use rehabilitation, exercise and medications. They aim to prevent further injury and slow progression of disease, such as degenerative disc disease and arthritis. Let Healthgrades help you find an orthopedic surgeon in your area.

  • physical therapist with shoulder patient and theraband
    Physical Therapists
    A little more than half of people with back pain have seen a physical therapist. Physical medicine, including physical therapy, is one of the main components of treating back pain. Physical therapy can help people achieve enough pain relief to return to daily activities. Stretching and strengthening exercises help relieve pain by building muscle strength and restoring flexibility. Physical therapy is often the key to preventing disability from back pain. You can search for a physical therapist by location and patient satisfaction at

  • chiropractic-adjustment
    Chiropractors are popular providers for back pain relief, with nearly half of people with back pain using them. Chiropractors use spinal manipulation to mobilize, adjust, massage or stimulate the spine, muscles and tissues. This type of treatment tends to work best for uncomplicated back pain. If you have other medical conditions, talk to your doctor before seeing a chiropractor. Doctors who specialize in neuromusculoskeletal medicine also use manipulation techniques, but only 10% of back pain sufferers have tried these specialists.

  • Female Caucasian neurologist looking at brain tumor scan with older male Caucasian patient
    Neurologists and Neurosurgeons
    Neurologists and neurosurgeons specialize in disorders of the brain and nervous system, including the spine. About one-third of people with back pain have sought care from a spine specialist. People who have back pain with symptoms of nerve involvement may benefit from seeing a neurologist or a neurosurgeon. Symptoms include progressive weakness or numbness, loss of bowel or bladder control, or difficulty walking or standing. The spinal nerves are directly responsible for these back pain symptoms. You can research neurologists and neurosurgeons by credentials, location, hospital affiliation, and patient satisfaction at Healthgrades.

  • Massage therapist giving back massage to client
    Massage Therapists
    Twenty-four percent of people with back pain have tried massage therapy. Research suggests that massage therapy may help some patients achieve reduced pain and improved function more quickly than usual medical care alone. There may be a variety of reasons for this, including local effects on the back and mind-body connections. Experts recommend using massage therapy as add-on therapy to traditional medical care. Ask your friends for a massage therapist recommendation and check out their full profile on

  • Acupuncture as alternative medicine
    Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years in Asian countries. But it’s relatively new in the United States and only 10% of people with back pain have tried acupuncture. Acupuncture seems to work well as an add-on therapy to traditional care by improving functioning and providing short-term pain relief. Up to 64% of patients say they would try acupuncture for back pain if their doctor recommended it. Healthgrades also has location and training information and patient recommendations for acupuncturists.

  • team of doctors and nurses in circle reviewing medical chart
    Multiple Provider Options for Back Pain Relief
    The odds are you will experience back pain at some point in your life if you haven’t already. When it happens, know that most cases of back pain go away on their own. If your pain lingers, be proactive and find relief. You have many choices for finding the type of provider who is right for you. Your primary care doctor is a good place to start, but don’t limit yourself. Talk to your doctor and consider the care you can get from alternative providers.

Finding the Right Back Pain Treatment for You

  1. Back Pain. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

  2. Low Back Pain. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

  3. Last AR, Hulbert K. Chronic Low Back Pain: Evaluation and Management. Am Fam Physician. 2009;79(12):1067-1074.

  4. Haldeman S, Dagenais S. A supermarket approach to the evidence-informed management of chronic low back pain. Spine J. 2008;8(1):1–7.

  5. Orthopaedics. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

  6. Low Back Pain. American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

  7. Massage Therapy Holds Promise for Low-Back Pain. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

  8. Acupuncture: An Introduction. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Feb 1
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.