To cure this very common illness of back pain, not only do you have regular medical doctors with specializations-there is a whole farm of pseudo specialists-chiropractors, acupuncturists, kinesiologists, physical therapists (why I call them pseudo specialists), etc. The pseudo specialists go through elaborate training programs-lasting 3 to 5 years, which gives them the license to call themselves a chiropractor or physical therapist. The pseudo specialists are pretty useless for back pain. In all probability they will cause you more harm than good.
The regular medical doctors with their degrees and specializations in traumatology don't have a clue about back pain. One will recommend you put a heat pack on your back, the other will want you to get a back surgery, and most will tell you to do exercise. Lots of imagery is taken: X-Rays, MRIs, etc. etc to make it look like real science and knowledge. Large amounts of artificial knowledge on sciatic nerve pain, herniated discs, scoliosis etc. is created-with many Latin looking names to make everything sound scientific and give more believability to the the public. There is some MD in Vancouver, BC, Canada who is publicly talking about pressure points on the back. All kinds of bizarre stuff is being said by these doctors and specialists about how to cure or alleviate back pain. The differences in treatment mentioned between doctors is proof enough that they are clueless. A true treatment should not depend much on the agent, it should be crystal clear, and not be so subjective.
Major caution: what really does not work for back pain is exercise. In every painful injury except in back pain you are told that rest is good. In back pain, the experts (medical doctors, kinesiologists, chiropractors, and physiotherapists) say that the muscles will get weak if you stay too long in bed, they might seize up, the spine needs to be moved, etc. and all these experts want you to do more exercise to alleviate back pain and/or make these muscles stronger. Forcing a body part which is hurting to move by exercise, is against nature - the pain is the body's way of telling you to immobilize that part so that the damage tissue recovers via natural healing- the specialists are going completely contrary to this natural inclination! I have seen myself and many other people get worse after the exercise treatment for back pain...and I trust the natural desire of the body, to rest an injured part, as the right cure. If you rest for 2 to 4 weeks you will feel better; and you can always do your exercises later. There is no risk of your muscles seizing up, etc..they can always be worked upon later. The damaged part, the spine, needs to heal up first, and only rest will do the trick. Avoid all exercise when in back pain.
The spine is a part of the skeletal system. The theory that you can decrease the stress on the spine by making your back muscles stronger is flawed because the interplay between the skeletal system and the muscular system is grossly misunderstood.
The skeletal system takes the first stress on it when you lift something, including your own body. It is only the additional stress which is taken on by the muscular system. If the spine is not in good shape, no matter how great and strong your back muscles are, you will not be able to lift anything. A healthy spine is a necessary condition to lift weight, but is not a sufficient condition. Think of a door and the hinges-the spine is like the hinges of a door. Making the door stronger does not help bad hinges. The hinges help in the movement of the door; similarly, the spine helps in moving the body and keeping it flexible.
This is even more obvious in knee problems. The knee is a simpler joint that the spine (which is a collection of joints, really) and knee replacement surgeries are quite common, especially for old people. I am for these surgeries (in case you accuse me of being too harsh on medicine...). The wear and tear of the knee is like a worn out hinge. Making the muscles of the leg stronger does not have anything to do with this joint, just as making a door stronger or reinforcing it will not help it move better if you had a bad hinge. The pain in the knee is mostly because of motion, and at rest, it doesn't hurt. There comes an age when the cartilage and the joint area cannot regenerate even when you rest it for many months-it is then and only then that you can and should get a knee replacement surgery done. Several people I know personally, all above 60 years or age, have gotten this surgery after realizing that rest (the right strategy) or strengthening the muscles (the wrong therapy-it ends up making the joint problem even worse...) does not work.
It is true that muscles become stronger and bigger as you lift extra weight for many days in a row. The muscles are generated to lift this extra stress. But the moment you stop lifting, the muscles go away. This shows that being muscular is not a natural or even a good state of the body-these are extra resources which are called upon when needed, but when not needed, they are gotten rid of, probably because muscle making and regeneration is a calorie intensive process. Very thin people are also able to at least move around without problems. I have never heard of anyone being too thin to lift their own self-showing that the skeletal system (with the minimal amount of help from skeletal muscles) is quite adequate to lift the body up and move around at least a few hundred meters. This I have also found with old people-they lose a lot of muscle mass, but are able to move quite find. My very thin 87 year old uncle swears that he feels so much better now than before, having lost a lot of his weight, and that he can move around much more easily. The skeletal system with only a very slight help from his very weak skeletal muscles is moving him around.
Put ice on your back. You put ice on a forehead injury (the bump on children when they hit a low ledge), your chin when it swells up, your teeth when they hurt (the dentist tells you to put an ice cube), and sports injuries in legs and arms-we all know that athletes always ice their swellings. That is exactly what you need to do for your back. Why that works I don't know (there are 100 theories-it takes away inflammation, numbs nerves, etc etc) but it works. Do not put heat or heat packs on your back. We know that cuts and wounds hurt less in extreme cold, but hurt more in warm weather, it numbs out the nervous system. People will bleed in cold weather but won't even feel the pain. Heat treatments will make your pain worse.
Pain killers work well (ibuprofen, ketoprofren, etc), if necessary go for injections. There are lots of them-NSAID, Cortesone, etc. but they work to take away the pain. They do not cure the problem, the torn tissue, which only rest seems to cure.
Your body is muscle and bone, and other stuff in between. Discs in your spine are gel like-they are like muscle. All muscles, even for the oldest people (and animals) recover after rest. Even bone fractures will recover considerable for the older people-as long as the bone is immobilized well (the cast, of plaster of paris). There is never a need to get operations on herniated discs-they will recover. It might take months, but surgery is almost always a bad idea (no matter how much data they show you, the docs are very skilled at hiding the bad data of all these people who were not cured by surgery). Procedures like verterbrae fusion should be avoided as much as you would avoid a severance of your arm. Even if you are completely bed-ridden after a really bad lift or shock to your back, your best bet is rest and regeneration/recovery of the herniated disc (discs).
We can learn a lot of medicine from animals. A cheetah sleeps 12 hours a day, and goes 0 to 100kmph in 5 seconds. Tigers, all carnivores, spend a lot of time sleeping around or just resting. That does NOT take away their physical ability-it seems to be a necessary condition for them to show massive agility in catching prey. You will not atrophy because you sleep a lot. No dog or tiger or cheetah did.
In modern workplaces, postures are blamed for back problems. There are posture specialists-ergonomists, etc. all kinds of "ists" which make them look professionals. They might be good people at heart, but 1) the science behind all this is bogus and 2) they need to make money, and will recommend you stuff just to keep getting money from you.
What's the best posture for working in office cubes? Try to sit in a chair which is well padded. To simulate the horizontal resting position (sleep), which my mind is the best position to be in for back pain sufferers, your chair must have a large back rest. And you should lean back as much as possible, maybe 120 to 135 degrees. If that means you have your computer in your lap, no problem; try to stay as close to the 180 degrees sleep position as possible. That is the resting position for the body, as physics tells you (ignore medicine-physics is really an exact science). By lying horizontally, or slouching back in your chair as much as you can (posture experts hate this position; it is the most common natural position for office workers, because the body is pleading them to rest in a horizontal position!), you give the back the maximum support. This in turn reduces the stress on your spine and the muscles; who have full chance for recovery. I don't think a tiger or hyena could catch a prey if they were sitting in office chairs or constantly exercising; they need more than 15 hours of sleep, of lying in a horizontal position, to do well in the other 9 hours they are awake and hunting for food. We need to learn this from animals, and implement this in our lives, together with our understanding of Physics (mechanical support systems). So try sitting in your office chair like this-and you will see immediate relief from pain. The worse thing you can do is sit upright -that is almost like standing, and that will be very very hard on your back.
Rest is the best thing for alleviating back pain. Do not exercise. Do not put heat or hot packs, use ice. Ice packs are good for pain relief. Painkillers like ibuprofen are good stuff-it doesn't matter how they work (Aspirin was discovered in 1890 and only in 1971 of WHY it worked was solved-until someone comes up with a better explanation...). Most of the medicines you take are empirically tested and designed from trying out similar compounds, and it is not known why they work), but lots of good painkillers-and that is real medicine, the good part-will take away your pain. Surgery to fix back pain should be avoided at all costs. And those digital imagery they show you with all the defects in your spine-if you mix 10 images of normal people with 1 image of yours, the doctor or analyst can't pick out which one is the bad one. Those images are digital representations, open to interpretation, and they see what they want to see (problems). In fact your best bet is not even to get an X-Ray or MRI etc. for them.