Guidelines for the treatment of Acute Low Back Pain

The Agency of Health Care Policy and Research Study

On December 8, 1994, the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) of the US Department of Health and Human Services released Clinical Practice Guidelines for the management of acute low back pain. Their guidelines were developed after extensive study of diagnostic and treatment methods for acute low back pain.

The guidelines were created by the AHCPR panel to provide primary care clinicians with information and recommended strategies for the assessment and treatment of acute low back problems. The AHCPR panel was made up of 23 members consisting of medical doctors, chiropractic doctors, nurses, experts in spinal research, physical therapists, an occupational therapist, a psychologist, and a consumer representative.

The following conclusions were made in this landmark study:

  • Conservative treatment such as spinal manipulation should be pursued in most before cases considering surgical intervention;
  • Prescription drugs such as oral steroids, antidepressant medications and colchicine are not recommended for acute low back problems.

Other interesting finds included:

  • The risk of serious complications from lumbar spinal manipulation is rare;
  • There is currently no evidence supporting the use of trigger point, ligamentous and facet injections, needle acupuncture or dry needling as treatment for acute back problems;
  • The panel found no evidence of benefit from the application of physical agents and modalities such as ice, heat, massage, traction, ultrasound, cutaneous laser treatment, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (T.E.N.S.) and biofeedback techniques.
  1. Acute Low Back Problems in Adults. Clinical Practice Guidelines. Bigos S, et al. Agency for Health Care Policy and Research Publication No. 950642 (1994) – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Low Back Pain