In a recent study published by the American College of Physicians (ACP), it is now recommended that doctors treating back pain sufferers change their approach. While the traditional approach to managing back pain is to use pain-alleviating medications; not anymore. The ACP recommends using non-drug therapies to treat acute or sub-acute lower back pain. This includes such treatments as applied topical heat, massage, acupuncture, or spinal manipulation. In a recent press release, the ACP stated:
“For patients with chronic low back pain, ACP recommends that physicians and patients initially select non-drug therapy with exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction, tai chi, yoga, motor control exercise (MCE), progressive relaxation, electromyography biofeedback, low level laser therapy, operant therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or spinal manipulation.”
A Strategy Change for Treating Lower Back Pain
Notably this change is a stark difference to how doctors have historically managed pain. Western medicine tends to treat pain using pain medications. This ranges from OTC ibuprofen or aspirin products, to much more potent prescription medication. Patients will generally need increasing amounts to keep pain at bay and they run the risk of addiction.
However there have long been physicians and patients who argue that medication is not always the best course of treatment. Studies have shown that non-medicinal approaches can be as effective than traditional medication treatments. In these new guidelines, the ACP made two pioneering recommendations for the treatment of lower back pain.
Recommendation #1: Patients With Low Back Pain Tend to Improve Over Time
Studies show that the majority of patients with acute or sub-acute lower back pain will see improvement naturally over time regardless of treatment. Therefore, the ACP recommends less invasive techniques with fewer potential side effects as the first course of action. Non-pharmacologic treatment modalities like superficial heat, massage, EMG biofeedback, acupuncture, or spinal manipulation can be highly effective in managing symptoms until the pain subsides organically. Still, should pharmacologic treatment become warranted, doctors should use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or skeletal muscle relaxants.
Recommendation #2: Chronic Low Back Pain Sufferers Can Benefit from Non-pharmacologic Treatment
For chronic back pain sufferers, doctors should initiate treatments using non-pharmacologic methods first. This includes exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction, tai chi, yoga, motor control exercise, progressive relaxation, electromyography biofeedback, low-level laser therapy, operant therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy or spinal manipulation. In fact, these methods offer patients the opportunity to gain strength, reduce potential side effects and decrease chronic pain.
Newly explored methods like progressive relaxation, electromyography biofeedback and low-level laser therapy are showing great potential in managing pain and other disorders. With the American College of Physicians seal of approval, more will begin treating back pain without the use of medications.