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Table 2

Treatments for acute and chronic low back pain3,4

EffectivenessAcute low back painChronic low back pain
Beneficial Advice to stay active, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) Exercise therapy, Intensive multidisciplinary treatment programmes
Trade off Muscle relaxants Muscle relaxants
Likely to be beneficial Spinal manipulation, behaviour therapy, multidisciplinary treatment programmes (for subacute low back pain) Analgesics, acupuncture, antidepressants, back schools, behaviour therapy, NSAIDs, spinal manipulation
Unknown Analgesics, acupuncture, back schools, epidural steroid injections, lumbar supports, massage, multidisciplinary treatment (for acute low back pain), transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, traction, temperature treatments, electromyographical biofeedback Epidural steroid injections, EMG biofeedback, lumbar supports, massage, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, traction, local injections
Unlikely to be beneficial Specific back exercises
Ineffective or harmful Bed rest Facet joint injections