Skip the pain killers when treating back pain

By | 2017-02-27T19:31:46-05:00 February 21st, 2017|Tags: , |25 Comments

Physicians often prescribe pain medication as a first line of therapy for lower back pain, according to the American College of Physicians. Now, the college’s new guideline on lower back pain treatment is encouraging patients to try massage, yoga, exercise, acupuncture and other similar therapies before reaching for a pain killer. Being active and waiting it out might, in some cases, be all that’s needed for the pain to go away, according to the guideline.

“For acute back pain, the analogy is to the common cold,” spine researcher Rick Deyo, MD, MPH, said in an article published in February by the New York Times. “It is very common and very annoying when it happens. But most of the time it will not result in anything major or serious.”

Lower back pain is one of the most common reasons for physician visits in the U.S., according to the guideline published Feb. 14. “Low back pain is associated with high costs, including those related to healthcare and indirect costs from missed work or reduced productivity,” researchers wrote in the guideline. They developed the guideline after reviewing studies on treating lower back pain.

Their recommendations include the following:

• Most patients with acute lower back pain improve over time regardless of treatment. These patients should choose heat, massage, acupuncture or other methods, rather than pain killers.

• Patients with chronic lower back pain should first choose treatment involving exercise, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction, tai chi, yoga, biofeedback and other nonmedicine-based therapies.

• Patients with chronic lower back pain who haven’t responded to nonmedication treatment should choose nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs first. Opioids should only be used if the potential benefits outweigh risks for patients.

A recent online blog on offered similar suggestions for treating lower back pain without using medication.

• Get aerobic exercise.

• Exercise the core.

• Receive massage therapy.

• Meditate.

•Address any sleep problems.

• Stretch hamstrings twice daily.

• Use heat or cold to soothe pain.

Click here for information on how to prevent and treat back pain.

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About the Author:

Sallie Jimenez
Sallie Jimenez is content manager for healthcare for from Relias. She develops and edits content for the blog, which covers industry news and trends in the nursing profession and healthcare. She also develops content for the Digital Editions. She has more than 25 years of healthcare journalism, content marketing and editing experience.


  1. Avatar
    Frances Covarrubias February 26, 2017 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    What if none of these have worked. Tried yoga, pt , meditation, acupuncture . Am not on any medications but gabapentin . Was on etodolac but stoped cause I have severe. Gerd and am having problems with that. Aleve helps a little but try not to use it if possible. Have 4 discs lower back , neck disc and neuropathy both legs.severe arthritis , finto and am 74 , slightly over weight . Try to do my bike daily and sit down exercises but do not help that much . Muscular relaxers work and atavan , digoxin help to sleep . Got a lot of trouble sleeping with lots of gas and muscle pain in neck and shoulders. Help!!!!

  2. Avatar
    Stefan Salvatore February 28, 2017 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    Hi, the nice blog regarding back pain. Most of the people suffering from the back pain due to different reasons. Thanks for sharing informative information regarding how people can get rid of it. Keep share informative information like this.

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    Dr. Randy McCracken March 17, 2017 at 12:42 am - Reply

    Your article failed to provide all the facts! The American College of Physicians also recommended spinal manipulation as was first noted by the US Department of Health and Human Services for acute lower back in adults in 1994! It is truly amazing that certain health professionals continue in their failure to recognize chiropractic for its non-drug, non-surgical treatment in this day and age of opioid crisis and escalating health care costs.
    Randy McCracken a licensed D.C. since 1979

    • Avatar
      Tahani August 14, 2018 at 1:10 am - Reply

      I agree! My mother has been suffering with chronic back pain for years until recently I took her to a chiropractor. She is doing so much better. It is a slow process, but there is progress.

  4. Avatar
    Ruben K. Salvador May 5, 2017 at 5:02 am - Reply

    Hi Sallie!

    I like your article, it is very informative. I would like to add spinal manipulation, as one of the most effective non surgical and nonmedicinal way of treatment. If pain doesn’t go away by means of non surgical treatments, considering surgical treatment is paramount.

  5. Avatar
    Wyndham Physio May 25, 2017 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    Interesting read. Thanks for the tips

  6. Avatar
    Pro Inverter May 30, 2017 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    Earlier this year I developed lower back pain and sciatic nerve pain that kept me awake at night. Then several months ago I developed pain in my lower neck that radiated down my left shoulder blade. As if that wasn’t enough, the pain traveled down my left arm and two of my fingers would go numb. I would have my wife to massage my back but that didn’t help. Tried ice. That made it worse. I was taking anywhere from 12 to 16 ibuprofen every day. The doctors told me that the ibuprofen was hurting my kidneys and that my creatinine levels were too high. But I felt like I had no choice because the pain was unbearable.

    Do you think exercise could help? Or should I undergo therapy?

  7. Avatar
    Susan George June 26, 2017 at 12:44 pm - Reply

    thanks for sharing, this is really nice article.

  8. Avatar
    Ridley Fitzgerald August 14, 2017 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the tips for dealing with back pain. I definitely don’t want to go straight to pain killers, but I also want to get rid of this pain quickly. Trying massage, acupuncture, or chiropractic sounds like a good idea. I’ll have to give them a try.

  9. Avatar
    Ron August 16, 2017 at 1:56 am - Reply

    I agree that pain killers should be a last resort because their harmful addictive properties. One thing that is sometimes forgotten is chiropractic care. If done properly it can help clear up neck and low back pain as well as break up adhesions and scar tissue which form around the joints. This decompresses the joints allowing the nervous system to function as it should, and it also helps to reduce any inflammation.

  10. Avatar
    Cameron Page May 4, 2018 at 6:37 am - Reply

    I have a pretty intensely long history with chronic low back pain post 2 failed back surgeries, have posterior tibial tendinitis in both ankles, had four unrelated foot surgeries, have arthritis in both hands, have had 2 right knee surgeries and here’s what I have to say about medical marijuana products like this here in some of it is like using whatever over the counter stuff works best for your pain if there is something that does. Some aren’t made with any THC and some are (depends on who is making it). You can get either one. If for any reason you have to drug test don’t do it having had used something with THC in it. Whether it works for one person or not is probably pretty subjective though I have heard a lot of people say it does work for their discomforts. I find it helps my hands/fingers re arthritis. For my low back, I often use a Thermacare heat wrap (has magnets) and that seems to help me quite a bit. I don’t think medical marijuana properties or ointment is snake oil tho I would suggest getting it from a reputable collective or person knowledgeable in this industry. Good luck!!!! Whatever helps you to keep moving and stay functional and isn’t creating worse problems for you! Medical marijuana products are pretty benign from what I can tell so if it works for you that’s great

  11. Avatar
    Allen Macey May 23, 2018 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    I was previously focusing on just stretching the areas of my back that hurt but a physical therapist friend told me I needed to start building the affected and surrounding muscles. So I altered my fitness regimen to help strengthen the areas that were bothering me. At first it was a tad hard but Ive really improved in not that long. I use Absorbine Jr to help relieve my muscles after working them. Its all natural and really just soothes my back. I have both the cream and the back pain patches. Highly recommend analyzing your fitness regimen as well as incorporating all natural pain relief methods like Absorbine, they have a coupon on their site right now actually and further info on back pain and other pain that really helped me understand how to deal with it all.

  12. Avatar
    Haley Mark July 4, 2018 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    Thanks for such a nice article. All your Tips for controlling upper back pain is really good. Its help me to get rid my back pain. Keep sharing the good work!
    For more pain management tips you can visit here:

  13. Avatar
    Living well therapy July 21, 2018 at 11:12 am - Reply

    Pain killers don’t do any good when it comes to getting rid of a pain in long term. All it does it provide you with comfort for the time until the permanent fix is made.

  14. Avatar
    James August 4, 2018 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    I never had any issues with my diet or exercise but I was still experiencing back pain. I even started doing yoga and other types of stretching like mentioned in the article and it helped a little bit but finally I mentioned it to my doctor and he mentioned that sometimes the pain you experience could be associated with tightness of the hip flexors. So I did some research and found this program:

    It is pretty cheap and just walks you through some basic stretches and it is available on your phone, So I wake up a little early every morning and do the stretches before starting my day and it has really helped. I hope this helps! The information in the article is great as well but if it doesn’t help do some research to see if your back pain comes from your hip flexors. 🙂

  15. Avatar
    Keith Helmendach August 24, 2018 at 3:56 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing such a useful information. You have so much knowledge about medical field.

  16. Avatar
    living Thearpy October 28, 2018 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    Hi Keith Helmendach,I agree with you this was a excellent informative post you have shared on this page about the lower back pain at night near a spinal cord , but there are a few that you should stay away from. Two of the worst ways to sleep for those who suffer from lower back pain at night are on the stomach and on the side in curled up in a ball. However you sleep best, there are ways to enhance your sleeping position to restore proper alignment to your spine.

  17. Avatar
    Nathan Carter April 9, 2019 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    I like that you include improving mobility and increasing strength with aerobic as options for back pain management. My dad is getting a little further on in years, and his back is becoming more stiff and painful. We want to get him on some sort of regimen, or into some sort of pain management facility. I will keep this in mind when we are looking into our options.

  18. Avatar
    Stella Mary July 2, 2019 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    Thoughtful post. We usually rush to pain killers and get temporary relief. This will not be helpful in the long run. We need a permanent cure for the pain as we are in a world where we can not spend time on pain. Thank you for the nice blog.

  19. Avatar
    lisa September 26, 2019 at 5:28 am - Reply

    Thank you Sallie Jimenez, very valuable information, could you suggest me aerobics video links?

  20. Avatar
    Robert November 16, 2019 at 3:30 am - Reply


    Thanks for sharing this information. There are some conferences happening in which medical specialty would be Pain Medicine and here is one of those conferences the conference details are given below.

    American Osteopathic Society of Rheumatic Disease Organizing Congress of Medical Excellence 2.0: 48th Annual Conference of AOSRD and Integrative Health Alliance from Feb 28 – Mar 01, 2020 at Peppermill Reno, Reno, Nevada, USA.

    For more information please follow the below link:

  21. Avatar
    Pharmacy RXS May 31, 2020 at 8:34 am - Reply

    Prescription medications are best when other solutions will not work. For example, after a surgical procedure, a prescription medication is the best way to handle pain. On the other hand, back pain from tight muscles might respond well to massage therapy or a different mattress.

    Asking about alternative solutions will help the doctor re-evaluate the level of pain and the situation. A prescription pain reliever is best used as a last resort when other options are no longer available, especially if it is an addictive drug. Alternative medicine will not work for every individual, but it might be an appropriate solution in certain situations.

    If a doctor feels that the medication is still necessary, then it is still appropriate to ask about the possibility of combining alternative treatments with the medication. A doctor might decide to give a lower dosage, which will give the benefits of some pain relief without the risk of accidentally overdosing by using the medication incorrectly.

  22. Avatar
    Anna Dotsnko June 18, 2020 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    Hi Sallie, thanks for this informative post. Just would like to add that chiropractors can really help with headache and back pain – thanks to this article I learned about this opportunity. How do you think the effect of visiting these guys is long-term?

  23. Avatar
    Jenna July 26, 2020 at 9:54 pm - Reply

    Well i don’t think so yoga or any tricks could help pain relieved because for me it needs an expert to see if there is need a treatment, medicine, or therapy.

  24. Avatar
    Recovery Tips May 23, 2021 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    No doubt that yoga and massage therapy can help in mild and acute back pains. However, moderate and severe pains still need some sort of medications and prescribed supplements. So, always see a doctor before going to any treatment method.

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