Lower back pain is a worldwide issue, and physicians are finally admitting that treating pain with traditional methods of pills just doesn’t work.
According to an excerpt from a study posted by The Lancet, acute and sub-acute low back pain has a lifetime predominance reported to be as high as 84% with chronic low back pain affecting up to 23% and 11-12% classified as being disabled by it globally. When you think about those statistics, the results are rather staggering.
Exercise and treatments like heat wraps, yoga and mindfulness meditation is recommended before turning to the use of opioids, NSAIDs or other over-the-counter medications.
Roger Chou, a professor at Oregon Health and Science University tells Vox,
“Our best understanding of low back pain is that it is a complex, biopsychosocial condition — meaning that biological aspects like structural or anatomical causes play some role, but psychological and social factors also play a big role,” he explains to us.
Depression, anxiety, smoking and obesity are factors that can be linked to back pain but the cause is not quite fully understood. According to an abstract from PubMed, The biopsychosocial model has now been accepted as the most inquiring approach to chronic pain.
Although there is a multitude of treatments that can help in the alleviation of pain, there is no permanent solution to what doctors call “Non-specific low back pain”.
In light of all of this, with the aid of Dr Chou, The American College of Physicians (ACP) has recently developed a guideline which was published in annals.org that provide recommendations for the treatment of this overwhelming disorder.
Based on the studies conducted that validate the outlines of this guideline, it was found that:
For acute or sub-acute low back pain (cases with a duration of less than 12 weeks) given that patients in this category improve regardless of treatment, heat therapy should be the first course of action to be applied. Acupuncture, spinal manipulation and massage should follow as a secondary means of treatment.
For patients that suffer from chronic low back pain (cases that endure for 12 weeks or more) exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, yoga, Tai Chi, motor control exercise, progressive relaxation and mindfulness-based meditation yield better results than any pharmagological treatments.
Non Steroidal Anti-Inflamatory Drugs like Ibuprofen should be administered if previous non-pharmacological treatments have not worked.
The last line of treatment, which should only be considered if all previous treatments show inadequate results in pain relief, is the use of opioids. Which also is not recommended due to their addictive properties and terrible side-effects. Plus natural remedies, like cannabis, have been found to promote a safer, and more comprehensive way to manage pain.
Exercise, as Dr Chou summarizes, should be the first line of defense in the treatment of chronic low back pain.
Active therapies (exercise, meditation, yoga, Tai Chi) should be used in conjunction with passive non-pharmacological treatments (such as spinal manipulation, massage, acupuncture etc.) to notice any significant difference.
There are several ways we can help our bodies to heal and recover from the knowns and unknowns that contribute to our pain. While it may be a natural response to reach for a bottle of pills when we are hurting, the best way you can relieve pain is to start taking better care of your physical (and mental) health.
By Raven Fon