LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - One out of every four American adults suffer some kind of lower back pain at some point in their life. Now, a new report is saying medical doctors don't need to be the ones we turn to first to relieve the pain.
The report from the American College of Physicians was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It means a leading conference of medical doctors are saying the first choice when it comes to treating back pain is by following the Hippocratic oath: “first do no harm.”
They say powerful drugs and expensive tests do more harm than good.
“Most people that take care of back patients kind of intuitively know this,” said Dr. Ted Saer, a spinal surgeon with Arkansas Specialty Orthopaedics.
But now, that intuition is printed in black-and-white; treat acute or sub-acute lower back pain with non-drug therapies first.
The report said physicians should avoid prescribing unnecessary tests and potentially harmful drugs. Time and exercise help heal just as well as medications.
“Being active is very important to getting over an episode of back pain or to living with chronic back pain,” said Dr. Saer.
The report lines up with what chiropractors have known for years. Spinal manipulation along with acupuncture, hot-or-cold therapy or even yoga work better than drugs for most patients.
“Pain pills tend to mask the pain and cover up the symptoms instead of correcting or treating what's actually causing the pain,” said Dr. Darren Beavers, from one of his exam rooms at his Little Rock chiropractic practice.
The report also said that the drug in Tylenol is not effective when it comes to the lower back.
If you do take a pill, NSAIDs like Advil work best along with good ole fashioned aspirin.
From there, take a muscle relaxer, but there's no need to take an expensive opioid.
“For chronic back pain that's been going on for months, opioid medications are not a good idea,” said Dr. Saer.
The report could hasten a trend to get insurance coverage for more non-traditional care, so a benefits plan would pay for a message session or a yoga class along with a medication regimen.
And experts say doctors could soon ditch the prescriptions for pain pills and instead things to get the heart pumping.
“In the human frame, basically if you can get the spine moving better it's going to decrease pain,” said Dr. Beavers. “It's going to help the body function better.”
Both the doctor and the chiropractor said that when you are in the middle of a back spasm, the solution isn't a yoga class. They do say the best solution is right in your freezer: an ice pack to get the swelling down, then go do those stretches.