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What to Expect

What to Expect When you Experience an Episode of Back Pain

When you experience an acute episode of low back pain, you probably want to know what is causing the pain, what can be done about it, and how long it will take you to recover. Understanding what to expect can be an important part of the healing process. Although the course of back pain can vary quite a bit from one individual to the next, there are general observations that apply to most people:

  • In by far the majority of cases, imaging is unnecessary and unhelpful in either diagnosing or treating back pain
  • Many times, a specific cause of pain cannot be determined, however a thorough examination by your healthcare provider can guide optimal treatment
  • Pain severity most often does not reflect the seriousness of the underlying condition
  • Most people will feel better and function better within 3-4 weeks
  • Many people will continue to experience some ongoing symptoms for up to 3-6 months, but these symptoms are manageable
  • Recovery does not occur in a linear manner: there will be some good days and some bad days
  • Paying attention to changes in the pattern of symptoms and to functional capabilities can help you track their progress. For example, you may notice that you can walk further before experiencing discomfort compared to a few days ago – this is progress!
  • Staying active, with modifications, when necessary, will help promote healing

There are a lot of good reasons to be optimistic about your ability to heal from an episode of back pain. Of course you can always see your trusted healthcare provider if you are concerned about your progress or just want more specific guidance.

Marcia Spoto, PT, DC

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