The concept of doctors not prescribing pills for pain may seem novel to many people. However, a growing number of physicians throughout the country are now encouraging patients to turn to drug-less remedies as their first line of defense when it comes to treating lower back pain. These include such therapies as, heating pads, tai chi, yoga, acupuncture, massage, stress reduction, chiropractic spinal manipulation, biofeedback and even cognitive behavioral counseling.
“Physicians and patients should really seek the treatment that causes the least harm, the least costly,” stated American College of Physicians President Dr. Nitin S. Damale, who went on to caution against the use of over-the-counter acetaminophen drugs such as Tylenol which has proven ineffective. At the same time, Cymbalta (duloxetine) has been found to increase suicidal tendencies in some people.
Damale’s statement comes just as his organization released new guidelines for handling lower back pain, oxycontin which emphasizes that opioid painkiller oxycontin and hydrocodone, etc, should be considered only as a last resort.
Lower back pain is now considered to be the #5 most common reason people go to see their doctors. In fact Ronald J. Wisneski, MD, an orthopedic surgeon, a specialist in spinal disorders and spine surgery, and associate in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA predicts that “80% of the population in the US, is going to suffer from it.” Meanwhile, the American Chronic Pain Association stated that treatments for low back pain “costs the health-care system close to $30 billion every year.”
While the majority of cases may be due to soft tissue and muscle strain that goes away on its own, approximately 2%-10% of patients end up suffering from chronic pain on the lower back, which can affect their daily lives for 3 or more months, and cause them to miss work at least one day during that time.
This is often due to fractures or compression fractures of bones, or injuries to the small joints between the bones of the spine, as well as herniated discs and spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal column). In addition osteoarthritis not only puts tremendous pressure on nerves, arthritis in the hips can affect the way people walk, which can also lead to aching backs.
Less common causes of spinal discomfort include another form of arthritis called Ankylosing spondylitis, bacterial infections in the discs, spinal cord or vertebrae, as well as various tumors, which may require surgery and more drastic pain management treatments.
Note: While many of the drug-less back treatments mentioned above have been found to help patients improve, not all insurers are willing to cover alternative therapies.