More than 80% of Americans experience low back pain at some point in their lives. These people may be interested to learn that the American College of Physicians has recently released new recommendations regarding the best way to treat low back pain. According to the new guidelines, a patient’s first resort should be noninvasive, drug-free treatments like spinal manipulation by a Doctor of Chiropractic or superficial heat. These types of treatments have high rates of success in alleviating back pain, and do not come with the major risks associated with treatment by drugs or surgery.
How the recommendations were selected
The American College of Physicians (ACP), a national physician’s group that uses scientific knowledge to recommend treatments for patients, released their new recommendations in February of this year. They reviewed several systematic reviews of scientific research on the treatment of low back pain and compiled their findings in the new guidelines document. The systematic reviews were summaries of the most rigorous scientific experimental research from the past several decades, so patients can be assured that these recommendations are based on the best scientific evidence.
The reasons behind the new recommendations
Diagnoses of low back pain ranges from acute cases (lasting less than 4 weeks) to chronic (lasting more than 12 weeks), and can be debilitating for many people who experience it. Treatment options include natural, noninvasive methods like chiropractic adjustments, heat application, and particular exercise regimens, as well as more invasive and risky methods like medication and even surgery. The new guidelines note that medication has a low rate of success in treating back pain and can cause serious side effects, while noninvasive methods have few risks or side effects.
When assessing the success of treatment options, the ACP considered several positive outcomes. These outcomes included decrease or disappearance of pain, improvement in back-specific and overall functioning, increased quality of life, return to work from disability, and patient satisfaction. The ACP also considered the adverse effects of treatments, which was a major reason for the recommendation that prescription of medication should be a last resort. They noted that even taking medicines as gentle as over-the-counter acetaminophen may lead to liver damage over time. Patients who struggle with low back pain for several weeks or more are at an even greater risk for suffering from side effects. This means that natural, noninvasive treatment is especially important for chronic cases.
Types of noninvasive treatment
The recommendations from the ACP include many different types of noninvasive and non-drug treatments. They stress the importance of first attempting to ease pain using non-drug treatments, and moving on to prescription medicines only if you have tried several different types of therapies and have not seen improvement. The recommended “first response” therapies fall into three main categories, which are physical treatments, lifestyle changes, and stress reduction treatments.
The physical treatments are the most likely treatments to help people with a recent onset of low back pain, since acute back pain is most often related to physical problems as opposed to chronic stress or something similar. These physical treatments include spinal alignment by a chiropractor, low level laser therapy, massage, and superficial heat application. All of these treatments can correct different root problems, so your healthcare provider should be able to help you select which method to try first.
The second category of noninvasive treatments is lifestyle changes. Depending on the source of your low back pain, particular exercise regimens may help alleviate your pain long term by strengthening certain muscles or making them more limber. Your doctor or a physical therapist can help you select exercises to appropriately treat low back pain or lose weight.
The third category includes stress reduction treatments, which can help alleviate back pain caused by chronic stress. These types of therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy with a licensed psychologist, which will train you to handle stress more effectively and healthfully. Your doctor may also recommend practicing breathing exercises in stressful situations or making a regular practice of mindfulness meditation. Yoga is also commonly used for stress reduction.
Out of these three categories, the physical treatments have the possibility of treating the broadest range of root problems because they can help with low back pain related to stress and weak muscles, but also can treat other sources of pain. Spinal alignment by a licensed chiropractor is a particularly beneficial treatment.
What is chiropractic treatment?
Many Americans haven’t sought treatment from a chiropractor because they do not understand what their treatment methods are or inaccurately believe that they may not understand their condition. However, the truth is that chiropractors have a great deal of specialized training before they are allowed to practice. In fact, they earn a doctorate degree (a DC, or Doctor of Chiropractic) just like your primary care physician has earned a doctorate degree (likely an MD, or Medical Doctorate, or a DO, a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). Chiropractors attend a college or university and an additional four-year Doctor of Chiropractic degree. Many chiropractors also train under more experienced chiropractors before they earn their degree. So if you know someone who warns you that chiropractors are less qualified, you can tell them their fears are unfounded and ill informed.
Your visit to a chiropractor will begin in a similar manner to your visits with a primary care physician. The chiropractor will ask questions about your general medical history and your current low back pain, such as when it began and how frequently you experience this pain. Your chiropractor will likely do some diagnostic tests, like checking the range of motion of your spine, and this will help your chiropractor to more accurately pinpoint the source of your pain. Your chiropractor may also use techniques like X-rays to get a better look at your spine. Low back pain can often be treated with spinal alignment, so your chiropractor will probably recommend this treatment.
In addition to spinal adjustments, many chiropractors offer other types of treatments that are recommended for low back pain, such as massage therapy, physical therapy, and laser therapy. These are all included on the ACP’s recommendations for treating low back pain. Your chiropractor will help you choose the most appropriate and beneficial treatment for your needs.
Spinal manipulation (or spinal adjustment) is a standard procedure that chiropractors use often. It typically involves repositioning the vertebrae or joint. Although this can sometimes cause temporary, minor discomfort, this discomfort won’t last long. Most often, patients report a feeling of relief.
In certain cases (for example, if you have osteoporosis or particular health issues), your chiropractor may use a gentler approach known as spinal mobilization. Spinal mobilization can take many forms. Sometimes your chiropractor may help your lower spine to stretch using a series of slow, repetitive rocking motions. In other cases your chiropractor may use equipment like an Activator tool or a drop table. You chiropractor will choose the method that has the highest likelihood of alleviating your particular problem with minimal negative effects.
Good chiropractors will also explain why they have chosen particular treatments and how it will help you before beginning. Patients shouldn’t be shy about asking questions and providing as much information as possible.
Low Level Laser Therapy
Low level laser therapy, often called ‘cold laser therapy‘ is also a treatment that can be used to resolve low back pain. By directing specific wavelengths of light into the painful area, the cold laser can increase the cellular activity in the region, can reduce inflammation, and can allow for improved healing. Combining the recommended therapies can have added improvements.
Benefits of the new low back pain recommendations
In addition to having higher rates of success, the new recommendations for treating low back pain come with a host of benefits for patients. Many of the recommended treatments are less expensive than buying medicine regularly. They also don’t come with side effects associated with pharmacologic treatment, which can cause liver damage, stomach ulcers, allergic reactions, and more.
Additionally, patients now have the option of getting treatment much closer to home since most people can find excellent chiropractors in their area. For example, people suffering with low back pain who live in the area of Canton, Ohio can easily find a chiropractor near them. Seeking treatment at a nearby location is an excellent way to ensure that you have easy access to good care and can visit as often as necessary. Because follow-up visits for maintenance are often recommended for low back pain, choosing a treatment option that’s conveniently located can help you to feel your best more often. Belden Village Chiropractic & Wellness Center is especially convenient because they offer multiple methods of noninvasive, non-drug treatment for low back pain. Having easy access to superior treatment can change patients’ life for the better.