Conner Joseph Clay1, José M. Orenday-Barraza, MD2, María José Cavagnaro MD2, Leah Hillier MD CCFP (SEM)3, Leeann Qubain1, Eric John Crawford MD MSc(c) FRCSC4, Brandon Hirsch MD5, Ali A. Baaj MD2, Robert A. Ravinsky MDCM MPH FRCSC5

1 University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ.
2Department of Neurosurgery, University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ.
3Department of Family Medicine & Community Medicine, Banner University Medical Center Phoenix, University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ.
4Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.
5Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ.


Abstract: Low back pain (LBP) is one of the most common presenting complaints in the primary care setting with significant economic implications and impairment of quality of life. Effective treatment of LBP can frequently be delivered in the primary care setting. Knowledge of common pain generators and recognition of pain patterns based on the history and physical exam helps guide the treatment of LBP without the need for excessive resource utilization. The majority of patients presenting with LBP can be confidently managed with targeted conservative management; when this fails further investigation may be warranted. Part 2 of this review focuses on imaging and diagnosis of LBP, as well as a detailed review of treatment modalities.
Key Words: low back pain, imaging, diagnostic interventions, treatment.

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Patients presenting with lumbar-related complaints, in the absence of red flags or neurological deficits, can safely undergo a course of conservative treatment prior to ordering imaging studies.
Nonsurgical treatment modalities that can be attempted in patients with LBP include oral medications, topical medications, passive modalities, active physical therapy and cognitive interventions.
Diagnostic interventions such as selective nerve root blocks, diagnostic facet joint injections, medial branch blocks and provocative discography can be useful in confirming that a particular anatomical structure is a clinically relevant pain generator.
Surgery, in the absence of red flags or neurological deficits, should only be considered after the patient fails a thorough course of conservative treatment.
Images of the spine are not necessary to initiate management of mechanical low back pain; they may even be counterproductive.
When required, initial radiological evaluation of the lumbar spine involves upright plain radiographs. Further investigation may include use of MRI or CT myelography.
Diagnostic interventions can aid in establishing the dominant pain-generating anatomical structure but are not required if the patient is improving as anticipated.
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