Low back pain affects nearly everyone at some time during their lives. Only 5 to 10
percent progress to chronic low back pain. Along with influenza and headaches, back
pain is one of the most common reasons people seek medical help.
Here’s how the standard line goes from a conventional medical doctor: “You have
back pain. We have a cure. You can be pain-free. Your insurance will pay.”
For decades, conventional doctors offered patients prednisone, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain pills like acetaminophen. If the pain didn’t go away in a few weeks, they were referred to a neurologist or an orthopedist. These specialists offered steroid injections, stronger pills, or surgery.
Then along came powerful, addictive pain drugs. Pain clinics and specialist opened
walk-in clinics across the country. Americans got hooked.
But, is it wise to go to an orthopedic surgeon or pain specialist who is behind the
times? The current evidence suggests there are better ways.
Researchers have long questioned invasive and addictive approaches for back pain.
New recommendations for back pain focus on non-invasive, non-addictive, long-term
Questionable Back Pain Treatments:
- Steroid injections and pills
- Pain drugs
- Addictive opioid drugs
Non-Invasive Treatments for Back Pain:
- Physical therapy including ultrasound therapy
- Stretching and strengthening exercises
- Chiropractic or osteopathic adjustments
New Clinical Guidelines
On February 14, 2017, the American College of Physicians published new, evidencebased
clinical guidelines for back pain. The research showed that acetaminophen was
no more effective than a placebo. The evidence revealed that steroid pills were not
effective in treating acute or subacute low back pain. Surgery can be very useful, but
not all of the time. And, there are often severe consequences including botched
surgery and scar tissue. Patients who have surgery trade one type of pain for another.
The new study encourages doctors to try anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle
relaxants first. Addictive opioid drugs have no place in treating common back pain,
even when severe. MRI imagining is often misleading and is not recommended unless
surgery is the only option.
The recommendations are that back pain patients should keep moving, try yoga, get
acupuncture, start physical therapy, and consider chiropractic or osteopathic
Treating Back Pain Naturally
In my practice, for patients with acute back pain, I recommend taking it easy for a
few days. I suggest they apply ice if the area is hot from inflammation. But not too
much, because inflammation is part of the body’s natural healing process. Then, after
a bit of rest, I encourage patients to keep moving. If they have recurring back pain, I recommend hot yoga, back strengthening exercises, and stretching the hamstrings and
other leg muscles. Walking often works wonders for back pain.
Deep tissue massage helps relax chronic muscle spasm. Acupuncture releases deep muscle spasms and helps repair the function of tendons and muscle fibers.
For chronic back pain involving degenerative discs and pinched nerves, I offer my patients medical acupuncture and injection therapies.
Minimally Invasive Treatments:
- Biopuncture injections
- Prolotherapy injections
- Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections
- Ozone injections
Biopuncture uses sophisticated German homeopathic medicines like Traumeel and
Zeel. Prolotherapy uses a sugar solution to permanently strengthen ligaments and
tendons providing stability to joints and spinal vertebrae. PRP uses a serum made
from the patient’s own blood that stimulates tissue regeneration. Ozone injections
are used extensively in Cuba, Spain, Italy, and Russia to treat back pain.
Natural anti-inflammatory compounds include ginger, curcumin, the traditional
Chinese herbs Stephanie and the resin Boswellia. Proteolytic enzymes like protease
and chymotrypsin have a long history of use in Europe. Wobezym, a scientifically
studied German enzyme blend, is useful for all types of chronic inflammation like
Bottom Line on Treating Low Back Pain
These may be “new” rules for conventional doctors, but they are not new at all to
acupuncturists and chiropractors. Considering that doctors already knew that most
acute back pain improves on its own over time regardless of conventional treatments,
what took them so long to recommend safer more efficient ways to manage common
Natural therapies work as well or better than conventional drugs therapy or surgery. If you develop low back pain, start with natural anti-inflammatory medicines. Apply ice and rest. Then get moving again. If pain persists, try yoga and massage. If you still have pain, try acupuncture or spinal manipulation. If you have chronic low back pain, consider medical acupuncture and injection therapies.