Acute back and neck pain: management

Man holding back

Managing acute back and neck pain

Most acute back or neck pains will get better without intervention or respond well to self-care within a few weeks.1,2 However, physiotherapeutic and pharmacological treatment options can help your patients manage their acute or neck back pain.3-7

Guideline recommendations for treating acute back and neck pain due to sprains/strains

Graphic summarizing treatment pathway for acute back and neck pain

Guidance on managing acute back and neck pain due to sprains/strains recommends multimodal intervention

Recommendations from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the American College of Physicians are available to guide the pharmacological and non-pharmacological management of acute back or neck pain.8-10

This advice covers several modes of intervention:

  • Exercise
  • Pharmacological treatments
  • Manual/Physical therapy
  • Exercise

    Certain forms of exercise can relieve acute pain and improve function as part of a multidisciplinary rehabilitation approach.9,10 This should be assessed on a case by case basis.

    Based on your clinical judgment, you may recommend mild exercise such as walking, swimming, yoga, and Pilates as physical activities that may be particularly helpful for acute back pain.1

    Specific exercises and stretches are also available for relieving acute back or neck pain.1,7

    Resting for long periods can make acute back pain worse.1

  • Pharmacological treatments

    The clinical guideline from the American College of Physicians recommends treating acute low back pain with NSAIDs or skeletal muscle relaxants as first line9.

    Recommendations for treating acute non-low back pain include topical NSAIDs as first line and oral NSAIDs or acetaminophen as second line10

    OTC self-care treatments that the Mayo Clinic recommends for acute neck pain include ibuprofen, naproxen sodium or acetaminophen7.

  • Manual/physical therapy

    Manual therapies, which involve massage, can be considered as part of a treatment package that also includes exercise.1,8,10

    Patients that suffer from non–lower back, musculoskeletal injuries can be treated with specific acupressure to reduce pain and improve physical function.10

  • Heat

    Several guidelines recommend application of low-level superficial heat for acute back pain relief.1,9,11

    Superficial heat is the only non-pharmacological treatment for acute lower back pain that is rated as having good evidence of efficacy.9

How can Aisha & Ben be helped?



Aisha* has recently experienced back pain and cannot do as much activity as she used to. She describes back pain, which she developed while hiking and rock climbing.

Aisha needs a solution that will offer her effective relief.

Voltaren is applied to the skin where its anti-inflammatory ingredient, diclofenac, is absorbed through the skin to provide clinically proven pain relief, so Aisha can get back to doing the things she enjoys!12,13

* Fictional case study.

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Ben* experienced neck pain after spending long hours working at his computer last week. Deadlines are fast approaching, and Ben can’t concentrate on his work.

Ben needs effective pain relief.

Advil Muscle and Joint acts fast to relieve muscle and joint pain, so that Ben can focus on his work, not his pain.14

* Fictional case study.

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Understanding acute back and neck pain

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Advil — for all your patients’ acute pain relief needs

With proven efficacy in acute pain and a well-established safety profile — you can trust the pain relief of ibuprofen in Advil.14

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Voltaren products

Help your patients manage their acute, localized muscle, joint and back pain with our pain-relieving topical products.12,13

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Learn more about headaches and migraines and how they can be relieved.

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