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Is Your Low Back Pain Acute or Chronic?

Authored by Dr. Colin Haines, MD. October 8, 2021

With back pain on the rise due to inactivity, unfit work-from-home set-ups, and poor posture, many people are questioning if their back pain warrants seeing a doctor. Here are some answers to just a few of the many questions we receive from patients seeking treatment for their low back pain.

What is considered acute back pain?

Acute pain is the body’s normal response to a harmful stimulus. For example, when you tweak your back from picking up something heavy, your body reacts by activating pain receptors which alert you to immediately stop the action you are performing. When your pain is acute, it typically lasts less than three to six months and gradually resolves as the injured tissues heal. When the injury heals, the pain stops.

What is considered chronic back pain?

Chronic pain is unique in that the pain itself becomes a disease. In fact, the psychological effects of this type of pain are oftentimes just as significant as the painful physical condition itself. Chronic pain can last for months, or even years. It occurs when pain is persistent, whether it’s stemming from a condition of some type or lasting pain after an injury has healed. For those dealing with severe, longer lasting painful sensations, it can be due to one’s nervous system becoming altered from the lasting pain; thus making the individual more sensitive to pain. 

Can low back pain be chronic pain? How is it diagnosed?

Low back pain is usually considered chronic pain when the pain has lasted longer than six months. If your low back pain stems from an injury that occured, that is typically considered acute back pain. To find out which type of pain you have, our spine specialists will need to evaluate you at your initial consultation. During this visit they will read through your medical history, review imaging taken of your back, and talk with you about your goals and outlook — once finished, they can then provide you with an accurate and complete diagnosis of your condition.

How do you relieve chronic pain? Does it ever go away?

Spinal pain in lower back

Chronic back pain can last months and even years. The formula for resolving chronic back pain starts with a knowledgeable and compassionate spinal specialist. By having them in your corner throughout your journey, you will have someone dedicated to finding the right treatment that will get you back to living a full and active lifestyle. At Virginia Spine Institute we are able to offer many different types of treatments, both non-surgical and surgical for our chronic back pain patients. And our physicians specialize in combining treatments to customize your plan of care to get you to the best outcome.

How do I know when my back pain is serious? When should I be worried?

Too many people delay seeking treatment for their low back pain. Whether it’s not telling your primary care physician or dragging your feet with scheduling a consultation with a spine specialist, delaying treatment can cause severe and possibly dangerous symptoms.

Here are five of the more worrisome signs that can be signaling something more dangerous is going on with your spine. If you have these symptoms, you are advised to schedule an appointment with a spinal specialist as soon as possible.

  1. Pain that lasts longer than 10 days
  2. Pain accompanied by numbness and tingling in the legs or feet
  3. Pain with weakness into the legs or feet
  4. Pain with loss of bladder control
  5. Pain accompanied by a fever

How do you live with chronic low back pain?

To take control of your low back pain, the first step is to schedule a consultation to get to the root cause of the pain. Our spinal specialists at Virginia Spine Institute can get you on the right track to a pain-free life. With our comprehensive care model, state-of-the-art technology, and modern treatments, you and your physician can customize your plan to what works best for you and your body.


You deserve the best care in treating your back pain, and we’ve got just that. The nation’s top spine specialists all work together in one state-of-the-art facility, providing the most advanced and unique treatments. Schedule a consultation today to take control of your back pain and let our physicians get you to a pain-free life.

Dr. Colin Haines is a board certified spine surgeon and the Director of Research at Virginia Spine Institute. Dr. Haines performed the world’s first combined endoscopic and robot-guided spine surgery. His patient success has earned him a national feature on The Today Show and WebMD, and Top Doctor recognition in consecutive years.. Learn more about Dr. Haines.

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Reviewed by: Dr. Colin Haines, MD.

Reviewed by: Dr. Colin Haines, MD.

About The Author

Dr. Colin Haines, MD

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