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Occupational low back pain: Treatment

Michael Erdil, MD, FACOEM
Section Editor
Steven J Atlas, MD, MPH
Deputy Editor
Howard Libman, MD, FACP


Back pain is a common presenting complaint in primary care, and frequently affects individuals in their working years [1].

Treatment for low back pain primarily focuses on relieving pain and improving function. A common assumption has been that a medical intervention that improves pain and function will facilitate return to work and prevent disability. However, considerable evidence demonstrates that effective treatments for pain and function are not necessarily associated with favorable work and disability outcomes [2]. As a result, multiple treatments have been developed with the specific intent to improve work return, productivity, and satisfaction, and minimize disability.

This discussion focuses on treatment aspects unique to patients with occupational low back pain. The evaluation of patients for occupational low back pain is discussed separately (see "Occupational low back pain: Evaluation"). Treatment for acute, subacute, and chronic nonspecific low back pain is also presented separately. (See "Treatment of acute low back pain" and "Subacute and chronic low back pain: Nonsurgical interventional treatment" and "Subacute and chronic low back pain: Nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic treatment" and "Subacute and chronic low back pain: Surgical treatment".)


Treatments that focus on work-related low back pain often are designed for implementation by clinicians who specialize in back conditions or occupational health. This does not imply that the primary care physician's only responsibility is to refer a patient for appropriate evaluation and treatment.

Frequently, the primary care physician does not have resource information about specific occupational programs. Inquiring about workplace interventions and programs through the patient's disability insurer may be helpful.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 08, 2016.
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