Are you experiencing
Severe Back Pain?

Severe back pain can stop you in your tracks. Learn more about the potential causes of your lower back pain and immediate treatment recommendations to help start you on the road to finding back pain relief.

Causes of Severe Back Pain

Significant pain of the lower back can have a number of causes. If you are experiencing back muscle pain such as back spasms, it is more likely that your pain is from an underlying low back condition. Often muscle spasms occur as your body’s way of trying to minimize movement of the spine. Symptoms that are aggravated with sitting, driving, and bending are often related to a herniated disc. Symptoms that increase with walking or standing can be from spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, and in some cases the facet joint.

Most back pain that is caused by muscle, joint, disc, or even nerves have a pattern of both aggravating and easing factors. If your symptoms are not reproduced by any specific movement, if there is no pattern to your symptoms, or if you have bowel or bladder changes, seek medical attention right away to evaluate the underlying cause of your pain.

Treatment Recommendations

If you are experiencing severe back pain, there are some simple things you can do right away to start to turn things around.

First, utilize ice therapy to begin to minimize inflammation. Apply ice directly to your back for 10 to 20 minutes at a time and repeat this frequently throughout the day. Do not use heat! Heat will add to the inflammation and make your pain worse.

Begin taking over the counter medication to help relieve your pain (consult your doctor regarding medication). As most joint and muscle issues have a strong inflammatory component, if possible, chose an anti-inflammatory (such as ibuprofen) over a pain reliever (such as Tylenol). In order obtain anti-inflammatory benefits; the medication needs to be taken at regular intervals, not just when the pain increases.

Find positions of comfort. Because most spine conditions have a pattern of pain, there will be some positions that will be more comfortable than others. Maximize these positions in order to minimize stress on the irritated structure. Sleeping can be specifically difficult as being in any position for an extended period of time can be aggravating. When sleeping, try positioning a pillow in between your knees and lie on the side that is most comfortable.

Body Pillow

Medical Treatment

If your pain does not have any pattern, if it is constant and severe, if you have bowel or bladder changes, or the pain is significant when trying to sleep, seek medical attention.

If you go the to emergency room for lower back pain, the focus most often will be on relieving the pain as opposed to determining the specific cause. Life threatening conditions will be ruled out but tests such as an MRI will more than likely not be recommended unless you are admitted to the hospital.

Frequently medications are given to relieve the pain and a follow up with your doctor will be geared toward determining the cause. Medications that are often given include pain medication (Vicodin, Darvocet, Demerol), muscle relaxors (such as Flexeril), and medication to assist with sleeping (such as Soma). Hopefully as part of the recommended medication, an anti-inflammatory will also be prescribed. An effective medication for treating significant inflammation is called a Medrol dose pack (a form of a steroid).

For ongoing assessment of the cause of your back pain, consider seeking out an orthopedic doctor specializing in the spine. Obtaining a specific diagnosis for the source of your pain will be necessary to achieve long term pain relief.


• Severe back pain can come from a number of sources including muscle, joint, disc, never, and referred organ pain.

• Utilize ice therapy (no heat) to minimize inflammation.

• Find positions of comfort and avoid aggravating positions and activities.

• Utilize over the counter medication to being to minimize pain and inflammation.

• Seek medical attention if severe pain continues, sleep is interrupted, or if you have bowel or bladder changes.

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