Back Pain: Differential Diagnosis and Management

Neurol Clin. 2023 Feb;41(1):61-76. doi: 10.1016/j.ncl.2022.07.002. Epub 2022 Oct 29.


Back pain is a common condition affecting millions of individuals each year. A biopsychosocial approach to back pain provides the best clinical framework. A detailed history and physical examination with a thorough workup are required to exclude emergent or nonoperative etiologies of back pain. The treatment of back pain first uses conventional therapies including lifestyle modifications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. If these options have been exhausted and pain persists for greater than 6 weeks, imaging and a specialist referral may be indicated.

Keywords: Back pain; Diagnosis; Management; Outpatient.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Back Pain / diagnosis
  • Back Pain / etiology
  • Back Pain / therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain* / diagnosis
  • Low Back Pain* / etiology
  • Low Back Pain* / therapy


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal