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Difference between acute and chronic back pain

Millions of people in the U.S. have suffered from acute or chronic back pain. Acute back pain develops suddenly, often as a consequence of an identifiable injury. It can resolve within a matter of days, but may last up to six weeks. Chronic pain tends to develop more gradually over time, and it may become progressively worse. It’s defined as pain that lasts at least three months, or pain that occurs intermittently over about six months. Whether your symptoms are acute or chronic, you deserve rapid back pain relief. Talk to a doctor about your back health.

Possible Causes of Acute Back Pain

Acute back pain is commonly caused by strains or sprains of the soft tissues in the back, including the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This can happen if you lift a heavy object, especially if you use improper posture. Muscle spasms can also cause back pain.

Possible Causes of Chronic Back Pain

The spine and its supporting structures are quite complex. Chronic back pain can be caused by a number of problems that affect these structures, including:

    • Degenerative disc disease
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Herniated disc
    • Spinal stenosis
    • Compression fractures
    • Sciatica


Common Treatments for Acute Back Pain

Most minor cases of acute back pain do resolve fairly quickly. Patients are advised to rest, but for no longer than a day or two. Prolonged bed rest can actually worsen acute back problems. Instead, your physician may prescribe a pain medication to help you tolerate movement. You may also be advised to work with a physical therapist to stretch tight muscles and strengthen weak muscles. Chiropractic care can provide rapid relief too, as can heat and cold therapy.

Common Treatments for Chronic Back Pain

Most oral pain relief medications aren’t intended for long-term use, given the risk of physical dependence and tolerance. Instead, chronic back pain may be managed with a combination of the following treatments:

  • Pain management injections
  • Laser therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic care


If these treatments aren’t effective or appropriate, spine surgery might be considered if there is an identifiable, anatomical cause of the back pain.

Here at The Houston Spine & Rehabilitation Centers, many of our patients come to us after sustaining an acute back injury or suffering from weeks or months of chronic back pain. Our team of physicians, chiropractors, and physical therapists work together to give each patient the compassionate care they deserve. Call (281) 362-0006 to discuss back pain relief in our office in The Woodlands.

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