Finding relief for low back pain

4 OCTOBER 2011

Most adults with low back pain can be effectively managed with simple treatments delivered well. Treatment of the pain should begin with advice to keep moving and take simple painkillers, according to Professor Chris Maher and associates from the George Institute for Global Health and the University of Sydney, writing in the October 2011 edition of Australian Prescriber.

Patients should be encouraged to remain as active as possible, avoid bed rest, and take simple painkillers such as paracetamol, with a review by their doctor after a week or two.

“Low back pain is a common and costly condition in Australia, and approximately 25% of Australians suffer from low back pain,” write the authors.

“The majority of patients with a short duration of symptoms will recover. An Australian study showed that half of all patients who were given advice by their doctor to keep active and take painkillers were pain-free within two weeks.”

If this initial approach doesn’t provide enough pain relief, more complex treatments including stronger painkillers and referral for physical therapies like structured exercise programs might be recommended by a health professional.

The authors suggest that investigations such as scans should not be a routine part of managing low back pain. "Routine x-rays or scans are not needed for most people who have low back pain of less than six weeks’ duration,” say the authors.

To read the full article and others, visit

Find more information from NPS about managing acute low back pain.


Australian Prescriber is an independent peer-reviewed journal providing critical commentary on therapeutic topics for health professionals, particularly doctors in general practice. It is published by NPS, an independent, not-for-profit organisation for quality use of medicines funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Australian Prescriber is published every two months, in hard copy that is distributed to health professionals free of charge, and online in full text at