Patients experiencing lower back pain should try heat wraps and exercise first, and only take prescription drugs as a last resort, a doctors’ group recommends.
The American College of Physicians released new guidelines detailing how to deal with back pain, which affects about one-fourth of all Americans at any given time, NBC News reports. In its statement, the group says, “Given that most patients with acute or subacute low back pain improve over time regardless of treatment, clinicians and patients should select nonpharmacologic treatment with superficial heat massage, acupuncture, or spinal manipulation.”
This may be a big change for doctors, who often prescribe painkillers first for patients complaining of back pain. The ACP says,
For patients with chronic low back pain, [the] American College of Physicians (ACP) recommends non-drug therapy first.
Instead, heat wraps, massage and exercise can help a great deal in addressing such health problems.
The ACP says, “Exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction, tai chi, yoga, motor control exercise, progressive relaxation, electromyography biofeedback, low level laser therapy, operant therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and spinal manipulation are shown to improve symptoms with little risk of harm.” They also say that such therapies must be conducted by trained providers.
In case none of these treatments work, then over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen can be taken. Acetaminophen, the main active ingredient in Tylenol, has been proven inefficient against back pain, the group adds.
The recommendations come after an alarming increase in opioid overdose incidences across the country this past year, and the subsequent deaths associated with them.
Dr. Nitin Damle, president of the ACP, says, “Physicians should consider opioids as a last option for treatment and only in patients who have failed other therapies, as they are associated with substantial harms, including the risk of addiction or accidental overdose.”
The guidelines were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.