Low back pain (LBP) is the leading cause of disability worldwide affecting people across age groups, right from an adolescent to an elderly person, leading to decreased quality of life due to restrictions in activity and common absence from work which in turn results in increased economic burden on the individual and his/her family. LBP is the second-most common reason for visiting a physician. All these factors lead to a major shift in treatment techniques for primary care of LBP.
During the 1980s, one week or more of complete bedrest was often recommended as the treatment for arresting low back pain. Along with this was given pain relievers, non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and muscle relaxants. But now, research shows this treatment procedure to be no better (or rather worsening) than taking rest for a day or two and then slowly increasing activity along with strengthening and stretching the back. Results force physicians to take upon a completely different approach to treat low back pain effectively.
While a recent study recommends physicians to stop prescribing NSAID drugs to treat LBP, the latest study goes one step further and advises doctors to stop all medications and drugs prescribed as a treatment procedure for LBP. The American College of Physicians has revealed this treatment option after completely studying and analyzing more than 150 studies on LBP.
Medications can only suppress pain, relief is temporary and the benefits are average. Such average outcomes have constantly kept researchers on their feet trying an alternative solution to pain-relief medications. The specifics however, depend on the type and duration of back pain.
When low pack pain strikes you for the first time and lasts less than 4 months try treatment options such as heat, massage, acupuncture and spinal care (such as chiropractic care). Only when all of this fail to produce the desired result, physicians are advised to prescribe NSAIDs or muscle relaxants. If LBP is chronic lasting for more than 12 weeks, researchers advise opting for physical therapy, acupuncture, mindfulness-based programs such as yoga and meditation and exercises (stretching, balance and strengthening core muscles). Absence of positive outcomes after practicing these techniques might push doctors to suggest NSAIDs, tramadol or duloxetine. But, opioids must be prescribed only after thoroughly evaluating the pros and cons.
Remember, any of these suggestions are relief methods for LBPs that arise as a result of simple causes such as strenuous exercising, lifting heavy load or shoveling manure while gardening. It cannot be applied as a treatment routine for severe cases of back pain resulting from major injury, cancer, infection and fractures.
After years of analyzing and witnessing innumerable cases, we now clearly know that back pain goes away on its own, regardless of treatment options. The hard work here has been to work out on certain techniques and practices that safely ease symptoms while waiting for relief and improvement.
When there is lasting pain despite non-medication approaches and medication-based treatments, physicians might advise taking an MRI or prescribe additional tests. Every person has different response rates, situations differ patient to patient and medications that don’t work well on average might work well for some individual.
Yes or No
99% of low back pain causes are trivial. But it is our duty to ensure that our causes don’t fall under the 1% clause that might lead to dangerous consequences. Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following questions and meet your doctor immediately even if your answer to a single question is undoubtedly a ‘yes’:
The result outcomes suggest treatment options that would have been declared unhelpful or incorrect if these were prescribed a few years back. Now, people are self-aware of lack of effective results from medications for LBP and come forward to try out alternative medicines or choose therapies such as yoga and tai chi to ease pain. Tai chi, also known as meditation in motion (reason behind this naming is available at the website www.firsteatright.com), is an excellent exercise form for those who have been inactive all these years but would like to start practicing physical activity hereon. In the long run, such non-pharmacological treatments for back pain could become the standard set of prescriptions for treating LBP.
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