Low Back Pain

Overview of Low Back Pain

Low back pain is among one of the most frequent problems seen by health care providers. The lower or lumbar spine is the most common area of the back for people to experience pain. The lower back allows for complex motions such as turning, twisting and bending as well as providing the strength to stand, walk and lift. Causes of low back pain include overuse or improper performance of the aforementioned activities, poor conditioning of the muscles that support the back, obesity and stress.

Most cases of low back pain are not serious, will respond to simple treatments and will feel better after 1 - 6 weeks. For the majority of low back pain episodes, no expensive tests or X-Rays are needed for initial assessment, just a good history of the nature of your symptoms and an examination of the spine and legs.


  • Most low back pain responds to a period of modified physical activity. Although brief periods of resting supine may be helpful, most medical studies show that participating as tolerated in light activities (e.g. walking) speeds recovery.
  • Medications such as Ibuprofen or muscle relaxants may be prescribed by your doctor.
  • Local heat or ice application provides temporary analgesic effect for pain symptoms.
  • Once the initial pain has eased, physical therapy or a rehabilitation program may be suggested to increase muscle strength in your lower back and abdominal muscles, as well as some stretching exercises to increase your flexibility

When back pain is not responsive to treatment or if there is progression of pain or weakness, radiological imaging tests may be required. These might include X-Rays, CT or MRI scans.


  • Use correct lifting and moving techniques
  • Exercise regularly to keep the muscles that support your back strong and flexible
  • Maintain your proper body weight to avoid extra strain on your back muscles
  • Don’t slouch; poor posture puts a strain on your lower back
  • Manage stress: keep a positive attitude. Studies show that persons who are unhappy at work or home tend to have more back problems and take longer to recover

How We Can Help

  • If you would like to be seen by our medical staff, please contact our Appointment Desk to schedule an appointment.
  • Also, our Advice Nurse service is available at no charge for all UC Davis students to discuss health concerns and the need for medical care.