What is acute low back pain?

Acute low back pain is common. The type of pain can range from an ache to shooting pains or spasms. It can last up to three months, but most people feel better in a few days or weeks.

Low back pain can be severe at the outset, affecting your ability to do daily tasks at home or at work, so it is natural to be concerned. Even though your back hurts a lot it is unlikely to be caused by anything serious.

You can usually manage acute lower back pain yourself by staying as active as possible and taking a simple pain reliever if needed.

But you should see your doctor if the pain doesn’t improve over time or if you have any other unusual symptoms that worry you. Some examples are: fever, difficulty passing urine, weakness, numbness or pins and needles in your legs.

Acute low back pain is often described as ‘non-specific’, meaning the cause is unknown or uncertain. It is thought to be associated with the muscles, ligaments or joints in the back.

Acute low back pain is rarely due to any serious injury, disease or damage to the spine and does not cause lasting damage.

It’s possible to have acute low back pain once, which gets better and never returns. But it’s more likely you will experience another episode in the future.

The good news is that there are effective and simple ways for you to manage your recovery.

Learn more about acute low back pain management.

Be medicinewise with back pain — questions to ask your doctor

  • What are my treatment options and the benefits and risks of each?
  • How can I relieve my pain without taking a medicine?
  • If I need a pain reliever medicine, which one is safest for me?
  • How do I use this medicine safely and effectively?
  • What should I do if my pain persists or I get other symptoms?