Back pain treatment options

Back pain is common and usually, there are many back pain treatment options. To assist you in choosing the treatment method that is best for you, you can find a list of decision aids at the bottom of this page. They will discuss the following back problems:

  • Back pain without visible abnormalities (non-specific back ache)
  • Herniated disc (spinal disc herniation, slipped disc, hernia nuclei pulposi, HNP)
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
  • Scoliosis

Back pain without visible abnormalities

In most people who have back pain, no physical abnormalities can be found during physical examination or on pictures. In most cases, it is useless to visit the hospital for this type of back pain. There are several treatment options for this type of back pain: avoiding intense movements, physiotherapy (exercises), massage or 'cracking'. The symptoms can often be relieved with painkillers.

Herniated disc

Herniated discs often recover spontaneously within a few weeks if you build up the intensity of the movements of your back gradually. The pain can be relieved with painkillers and you can use sleeping pills for the night. If the hernia has not improved after several weeks, surgery may be considered.

Spinal stenosis

If the spinal canal is narrowed, the nerves that run through it are compressed. This can cause back pain. In addition, it can lead to pain or numbness in the legs, because some spinal nerves go to the legs. Sometimes, it can cause weakness in the legs. The treatment of spinal stenosis can include rest, physiotherapy, painkillers and/or surgery. Whether surgery is needed or not depends on the severity of your illness and your own wishes.


Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine from one side to the other side of the body. It can be cured with surgery. However, this is not always necessary. In case of mild scoliosis, it can sometimes be decided to do nothing except for monitoring, and decide for surgery if it worsens. Progression of the scoliosis can sometimes be prevented by wearing a brace.

Back pain decision aids

The decision aids below give you more information on the pros and cons of the back pain treatment options. They can help you determine your own preferences. Please discuss them with your doctor before you make your final decision.

Low back pain (OHRI): multiple decision aids about the treatment methods EN

Hernia: treatment methods NL

Hernia (OHRI): treatment methods EN

Spinal stenosis (OHRI): multiple decision aids about the treatment methods EN

Scoliosis (OHRI): surgery or no surgery EN