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Living With Low-Back Pain

| October 1, 2015

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A conservative care approach may include chiropractic treatment and less reliance on prescription painkillers

The American Chiropractic Asso­ciation (ACA), in response to recent research calling into question the efficacy of acetaminophen in the management of spinal pain, strongly encourages patients and healthcare providers to consider the benefits of a conservative approach to back pain. According to the British Medical Journal study, the widely used painkiller is ineffective against low-back pain and offers only “minimal short-term benefit” for people with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee. Similar conclusions were reached in a study published in The Lancet in July 2014, that acetaminophen “does not ease low-back pain.”

“People need complete information about their treatment options,” said ACA President Anthony Hamm, DC. “Research supports the use of more conservative treatments as a first-line defense against pain. This sensible approach not only reduces healthcare costs, but may also help some patients avoid riskier treatments altogether.”

A “conservative care first” approach to health care encourages emphasis on more cost-effective and safer approaches over potentially addictive medications for pain management and health enhancement. Conservative management of painful conditions may include chiropractic manipulation combined with exercise and stretching prior to moving on to high-risk procedures. Chiropractic physicians are the highest-rated healthcare practitioners for low-back pain treatments due to their patient-centered, whole-person approach that provides greater interaction and communication for appropriate diagnosis and development of more cost-effective treatment plans.

“There are effective, more conservative treatments that help many patients lessen reliance on addictive painkillers and get back to their normal lives and activities,” Hamm said. “The services provided by chiropractic physicians are not only clinically effective but also cost-effective, so taking a more conservative approach at the onset of low-back pain can also potentially save both patients and the healthcare system money down the line.”

Numerous recent studies have clearly shown the dangerous overreliance in the U.S. on prescription painkillers. This has tremendously increased Americans’ risk for overuse and abuse of these drugs if taken for long periods, leading to more than 17,000 related deaths in 2010 — more than heroin and cocaine combined. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls the abuse of prescription pain medications an “epidemic.”

For those who are currently pain-free, exercise tips, posture recommendations and guidance on injury prevention routinely provided by chiropractic physicians can help people maintain a healthy back throughout their lives. To learn more, visit acatoday.org/backpain.

Back Pain Facts & Statistics

Although chiropractors care for more than just back pain, many patients visit them looking for relief from this pervasive condition. In fact, 31 million Americans experience low-back pain at any given time. A few interesting facts about back pain:

  • Low-back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease study from 2010.
  • One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.
  • Back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections.
  • Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic — meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer.
  • Americans spend a least $50 billion each year on back pain — and that’s just for the more easily identified costs.
  • Experts estimate that as many as 80 percent of the population will experience a back problem at some time in their lives.

Tips to Prevent Back Pain

  • Maintain a healthy diet and weight.
  • Remain active under the supervision of your doctor of chiropractic.
  • Avoid prolonged inactivity or bed rest.
  • Warm up or stretch before exercising or other physical activities.
  • Maintain proper posture.
  • Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
  • Sleep on a medium firm mattress to minimize any curve in your spine.
  • Lift an object with your knees, keep the object close to your body and do not twist when lifting.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking impairs blood flow, resulting in oxygen and nutrient deprivation to spinal tissues.
  • Work with your doctor of chiropractic to ensure that your computer workstation is ergonomically correct.

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