Physical Therapist

Most of the people I have treated experience back pain related to muscle weakness or imbalance, often caused by everyday, repetitive movements such as walking, sitting, carrying children, or standing. Also, if the pain can be traced to a specific incident, there is a good chance the cause is muscular (check out these top herbs and supplements for muscle pain and injuries). If your pain is intense and constant, you should seek medical attention.

The body works like a chain. If muscles in another region (such as the legs) are not functioning properly, they can strain muscles in another region (such as the back), creating pain. If a muscle imbalance is the cause of pain, strength training is necessary. I recommend people start by performing a strength-training program focusing on the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. The best exercises to strengthen the lower back and reduce back pain include the straight-leg deadlift, hamstring curls, and the quad stretch.

Do these exercises for a couple of weeks, twice a week, working at an exertion level of 80 percent. To get stronger quickly and resolve your pain in the shortest period of time, perform. If your pain does not decrease, then further guidance by a medical professional might be necessary.

Mitchell Yass, PT, PT2 Physical Therapy & Personal Training, Farmingdale, New York

Acupuncturist

Acupuncture can treat all types of lower back pain, but the ones I most commonly see in my practice are from injuries (back strain from lifting or moving heavy objects), osteoarthritis (in older adults), sciatic nerve pain, and pregnancy. Acupuncture is helpful and safe for pregnant women who are unable to take many over-the-counter drugs or herbals. (There are certain points that should not be used during pregnancy, but a good acupuncturist is aware of them).

Seek the help of an acupuncturist as soon as possible after the back injury, or if certain home remedies have not worked. If injury is the cause, acupuncture can disperse the stagnation of blood to alleviate pain. In these cases, certain at-home techniques also can help; these include hot baths, heating pads, gentle stretching, relaxation or meditation, and herbal remedies, such as cramp bark, chamomile, and arnica gel, which are available at most health food stores.

Seek acupuncture treatment once a week until the pain is controlled, and then every two weeks, and then every three weeks, etc., until the pain is gone. If acupuncture worsens the condition or does not alleviate the pain, then referral to other medical professionals is appropriate.

–Gina Marcin, LAC, RH (AHG), Chicago

Chiropractor

Lower-back pain is often caused by muscle or ligament strains, brought about by overexertion (such as lifting something too heavy) or trauma (such as falls or motor-vehicle accidents). After occurrences such as trauma, incorrect movement, or overexertion, two to three vertebrae may get stuck in a specific position, which is called fixation.

Once fixation occurs, the bones will not be able to move freely like they are supposed to. This exerts pressure on the exiting spinal nerves, which are located on the left and right for the entire length of the spinal cord. When the bones are fixated like this, muscle spasms can occur.

To alleviate fixation, chiropractors perform an adjustment by using their hands to deliver an impulse movement onto the vertebrae until there is a pop, or release, which allows the bones to move correctly again. After adjustment, it is important to reflect on what could have caused the fixation in the first place in order to keep the pain from happening again.

It is best to consult with a chiropractor immediately for any traumatic lower-back pain, and after a day or two of continued "unexplained" lower-back pain that is nonresponsive to home treatments.

–Cynthia S. Vaughn, DC, official spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association, Austin, Texas