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Skip the pain killers when treating back pain

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.
By | 2017-02-27T19:31:46+00:00 February 21st, 2017|Categories: Nursing news|Tags: , |9 Comments

About the Author:

Sallie Jimenez
Sallie Jimenez is content manager for healthcare for published by OnCourse Learning. 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 22 years of healthcare journalism, content marketing and editing experience.


  1. 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. 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.

  3. 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

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

    Interesting read. Thanks for the tips

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

    thanks for sharing, this is really nice article.

  8. 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. 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.

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