Be patient with the healing process—but not too patient. "You don't want the problem to become a long-term one," says Todd Sinett, a NYC chiropractor and coauthor of The Truth About Back Pain (Perigee). After consulting with your primary care doctor, try one of these "hands-on" treatments:
Best for: Most types of back pain.
What to expect: You may get "passive" treatments, like ice or heat therapy, and "active" ones, such as medically proven workouts using weights, stationary bikes, and other exercise equipment. The emphasis is often on correcting the underlying body mechanics problem, such as bad posture or weak abs.
For how long: It's standard to work one-on-one with a therapist twice a week for at least six weeks.
Best for: Pain in one area.
What to expect: Chiropractors, osteopaths, and some physical therapists use their hands to apply sudden force to specific joints. The aim is to relieve pressure on the spine's structures and restore range of motion. You may hear a pop or crack as your vertebrae shift.
For how long: You'll generally need eight sessions, but you should start to feel better after the first or second "adjustment." If you don't, consider switching practitioners or trying a different therapy.
Best for: Upper back stiffness or low back pain, especially if due to muscle strain or prolonged sitting.
What to expect: A masseuse uses hand pressure to knead knotted-up muscles. You might feel minor discomfort during or shortly after the massage. But tell your therapist if a touch triggers intense pain.
For how long: In a recent analysis, back pain sufferers who received 6 to 10 sessions of massage over 3 weeks or more felt and functioned better for at least 1 year.
Best for: Dull achiness in your upper back, or lower back pain that covers a wide area.
What to expect: Hair-thin needles are inserted at various points into your skin, which may interrupt pain pathways and boost your body's natural painkillers.
For how long: Go at least weekly. If you don't feel noticeable improvement within three weeks of your first treatment, talk to your primary care physician about trying something else.