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Back Pain Care and Treatment

Why Choose Treatment for Back Pain at University of Colorado Hospital?

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University of Colorado Hospital specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of back pain. The hospital provides a wide range of treatment options.

Doctors at University of Colorado Hospital use a combination of proven techniques and cutting-edge technologies to provide the best in patient care.

What is Back Pain?

Back pain is a symptom of a medical condition. Pain below the ribs and above the legs (low back pain) affects between 60 percent and 80 percent of all people at some point.

Back pain may be caused by:

  • Mechanical problems, such as strains to the muscles and ligaments caused by overuse
  • Injury to the bones and ligaments in the back
  • Diseases such as osteoporosis or arthritis
  • Damage to the bones that make up the spine (vertebrae) or the spongy discs that cushion them

Patient Education about Back Pain

Living with Back Pain

In most cases, back pain will go away if you treat it promptly. It is important to see a doctor to identify the source of your back pain. You can also help to prevent back pain by:

  • Maintaining good posture
  • Lifting with the legs
  • Exercising regularly
  • Losing weight
  • Eating a diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D to help prevent bone density loss


Getting a Second Opinion about Back Pain

If the treatment you are receiving is not relieving your back pain, please consider seeking a second opinion.


Additional Back Pain Resources

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons


Learn more about the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine

Tests & Treatments for Back Pain



History and Physical Examination. Your doctor will ask you questions about your daily activities and previous injuries and illnesses. He or she also will test your range of motion and feel the area that is painful to locate the source.


X-rays. An X-ray examination helps to show breaks or defects in the bones of the back.


Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan. A CT scan shows damage to muscles and other soft tissues.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). An MRI test shows three-dimensional pictures of the muscles and other soft tissues.


Electromyogram (EMG). An EMG test records the electrical activity in the muscles. It detects any nerve damage that may be causing back pain.



Your primary care doctor will treat your back pain conservatively. Conservative treatments include:

  • Rest
  • Ice packs to control swelling
  • Medications to reduce inflammation and control pain
  • Exercise to strengthen the back muscles
  • Heat pads to relieve muscle spasms


If your back pain persists, your primary care doctor may refer you to a specialist for further treatment. Among the treatments your specialist may use:


Steroid injections. Steroid injections are used to reduce inflammation and pain. However, they do not treat the direct source of the pain.


Electrical Nerve Stimulation. Delivering a mild electrical current to the nerves can help to relieve pain. Doctors administer the current through electrodes attached to a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) unit.


Surgery. Back pain caused by irritation in the spine joints (facet joints) can be treated with a procedure called a rhizotomy. In this procedure, the neurosurgeon inserts a heated electrode into the joint. The electrode deadens the nerves, stopping the transmission of pain.


Your doctor will recommend back surgery only if:

  • Conservative treatment has failed
  • The specific source of the pain has been found

Your Medical Team

Unlike other places, University of Colorado Hospital offers each patient a wide array of skilled providers. They collaborate with you - and each other - to arrive at the most advanced diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation possible for patients with back and neck pain.


Our Back Pain and Neck Pain Specialists


  • Family practitioner – a doctor who provides medical care to individuals and families.
  • Orthopedic surgeon – a doctor who treats injuries and diseases of the bones, joints and muscles.
  • Neurosurgeon – a doctor who performs surgical procedures on the nervous system.
  • Occupational therapist – a specialist who works with patients to improve their ability to perform everyday activities.
  • Physiatrist – a doctor who diagnoses and rehabilitates physical injuries.
  • Physical therapist – a specialist who treats diseases through exercise, massage, water, light and heat.
  • Psychologist – a specialist who helps patients understand and manage pain.
  • Clinical charge nurse – A registered nurse (RN) responsible for directing and coordinating patient care.
  • Medical assistant – staff member who assists the RN in seeing patients during their doctor's visit.

The Spine Center

The Spine Center at University of Colorado Hospital specializes in treating people with back and neck pain using proven therapies and the latest technologies.


Learn more

Scott Laker, MD - how to deal with back pain

How to deal with back pain

It's a condition that too many of us have, especially as we age.

What are the best ways to alleviate and prevent back pain? UCH's Scott Laker, MD, and others offer recommendations in this Fox31 Denver video story.

Safe Backpack Weight Calculator

Try this interactive Backpack Calculator to see what you or your child can safely carry in a backpack.