Low back pain doesn’t get as much attention as cancer and heart disease do. But in the United States, it’s one of the most common reasons why people visit the doctor. In fact, if you suffer from low back pain, you’re part of a whopping 29% of American adults who experience it. How can you treat low back pain so that you can stop missing out on your life? Find out why painkillers and steroids usually don’t work and learn about the 5 strategies you should try instead.
What doesn’t seem to work?
Traditionally, doctors have used opioids, steroid injections, bed rest, and surgery to treat low back pain. The problem? Researchers have failed to find evidence that these treatments actually work. And that’s not all. Science even shows that they can produce harmful side effects and complications.
Why aren’t traditional medical treatments effective for treating low back pain? Because they target only physical causes of back pain. This is a limitation because scientists now believe that psychological factors also contribute to low back pain. That’s why they’ve found that among people with the same physical low back injury (for example, a bulging disc), some may experience excruciating pain whereas others experience no pain at all.
5 alternatives you can use to treat low back pain
If traditional ways to treat low back pain don’t work, what can you use to find relief? Check out these 5 alternatives, all of which are backed by scientific evidence:
Doctors used to think that rest was the best thing you could do to treat low back pain. But this isn’t what the research shows. In fact, science provides evidence that staying in bed is one of the worst ways to treat low back pain in most cases. This is because there is consistent evidence that staying active can reduce low back pain whereas being inactive can delay recovery. Exercise helps to treat low back pain by boosting muscle strength, enhancing flexibility and range of motion, and reducing stiffness.
Yoga isn’t just good for managing stress and reducing anxiety. It can also help you treat low back pain. In a systematic review of research on yoga and low back pain, scientists found that people who practiced yoga experienced an improvement in back-related function after 3 to 6 months. In comparison, people who didn’t engage in any exercise didn’t experience this change.
3. Tai chi
Like yoga, tai chi emphasizes the mind-body connection and has been shown to be effective in treating low back pain. In a systematic review, researchers at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that tai chi reduces chronic low back pain in comparison to no exercise. In addition, they found that people who did tai chi also returned to work sooner.
4. Massage therapy
Although experts believe that active treatments, such as exercise, yoga, and tai chi, are the best way to address low back pain, passive treatments may also provide some relief. For example, science shows that massage therapy, which involves manipulating muscles and soft tissue, reduces symptoms and improves function in the short term.
5. Multidisciplinary rehabilitation
Studies reveal that physical therapy isn’t any more effective in treating low back pain than exercise is. However, there are now treatments that combine physical therapy with psychological therapy. Known as multidisciplinary rehabilitation, this treatment targets both the physical and psychological factors that contribute to low back pain. As a result, researchers have found that it works better than traditional physical therapy both in the short term and long term.
Use evidence-based strategies to treat low back pain
If you’ve been suffering from low back pain, you may be desperate to find relief. As a result, you may feel tempted to turn to medication or steroid injections for a “quick fix.” However, science shows that these treatments don’t work most of the time and can even be harmful. That’s why experts recommend alternative ways to treat low back pain, such as exercise, yoga, tai chi, massage therapy, and multidisciplinary therapy. These treatments are backed by scientific evidence and are less likely to cause harm.
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