Consumer Reports notes in its June 2017 issue that there is a new approach in the treatment of lower back pain. It describes a gentleman who had originally injured his lower back as a combat soldier in the Vietnam War who received chiropractic treatment, massage, acupuncture, yoga and tai chi through the Veterans Administration to help him gain relief of his pain. He states that in past years he was not able to obtain these types of therapies as they were considered alternative and fringe.
Traditionally the common medical approach to the treatment of lower back pain has been through the use of medication and surgery. However, new research shows that nonsurgical, nondrug therapies are more effective in the treatment of back pain. Consumer Reports reveals that a study published in February 2017 by the American College of Physicians- which represents primary care doctors, the providers patients consult most often for a back ache- issued new guidelines for the treatment of back pain. The research declares that the first order of treatment for lower back pain should be nondrug, hands-on therapies.
The hands-on treatment recommended include chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage, yoga, and tai chi. These therapies are now considered to be the gold standard approach to the treatment of lower back pain.
This is especially important with the growing opioid medication addiction crisis prominent in the United States. Some feel opioid pharmaceuticals such as Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin have been prescribed capriciously for lower back pain. Yet a recent review in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that opioids didn’t provide significant relief for people with chronic lower back pain. It is now common knowledge that opioid drugs are not safe due to their strong tendency to create narcotic addictions and overdose deaths.
Consumer Reports also notes that back surgery should also be the last option. Even conditions like a herniated or slipped disc may respond, over time, with less aggressive, simpler therapies.
It is important to realize that everyone responds differently in the treatment of a painful back. It is best to consult with doctors and therapists who use an alternative, conservative approach to care. When consulting a health care specialist about lower back pain certain factors should be observed. First the clinician should sit down with a patient and take a thorough initial history. Much information about the lower back condition can be obtained through a complete background of the patient’s past and present history. Next, a proper examination should be performed. The doctor or therapist should palpate, or feel the affected area. Most of the time spasm of muscles and tenderness of the area as well as possible inflammation can be felt. Also checking the patient’s range of motion may reveal limited and painful movements. A doctor, such as a chiropractor, will also perform orthopedic tests, and check neurological tests such as reflexes, strength and skin sensation to determine what areas of the spine and pelvis might be the cause of the problem. A chiropractor is also likely to order x-rays to inspect for possible arthritis, past traumas and degenerative joint disease. Finally, the patient should expect the expert they are seeing to take time to explain exactly what is causing the problem and to outline a treatment plan, including what modalities and therapies will be used. A reasonable timeframe and goals should be set to expect and see progress.
Some conditions will resolve in days or weeks. Others may take months. Some conditions may improve greatly but require ongoing supportive or maintenance care to continue benefits and manage the back pain.
Consumer Reports is to be congratulated for studying lower back pain treatments and recommending the approach it boldly endorses.