Back pain is a strange, modern problem. Almost everyone will at some point experience some back pain, and for many, it can become a debilitating limitation and annoyance.
I’ve experienced my share of back problems, which seemed to have been caused or exacerbated by bad movement and over-training at the gym (under the guidance of well-meaning trainers!) For a while, I even experienced a strange problem in my feet that was caused by a compressed disk in the lower back.
For a while, my back problems were plaguing me. Nowadays, I never think about my back because it’s not bothering me. What changed?
The main thing that I discovered about back pain is that most treatments are useless at best, and counterproductive at worst. I do not trust chiropractors, osteopaths, doctors, personal trainers, massage therapists, and most other health practitioners when it comes to back pain. Physical therapists may offer some useful guidance, but I believe that in most cases, they are not necessary.
What I’ve discovered is that the main thing that helps back pain is time. Time and the avoidance of those activities that may have caused your pain in the first place (sitting or standing for long periods, over-training, etc.). If you have money to throw away, you may consult a series of specialists, waste thousands of dollars, but in the end, the main thing that will help you is time.
This is my conclusion, and it may not apply to everyone. But science seems to be supporting it.
According to a review study published in American Family Physician:
- Imaging with x-rays, CTs, or MRIs is not warranted unless there are red flags.
- Bedrest should be avoided.
- Adding chiropractic techniques to established medical treatments does not improve outcomes.
- Acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), and muscle relaxants are somewhat useful.
- Opioids are strongly discouraged. “Opioids are commonly prescribed for patients with severe acute low back pain; however, there is little evidence of benefit.” They cite three studies, and they point out the risks associated with opioids.
- Physical therapy, ice, and heat treatments are supported by evidence.
- No substantial benefit has been shown with oral steroids, acupuncture, massage, traction, lumbar supports, or regular exercise programs.
Of course, I’ll probably get a torrent of emails from health practitioners who swear that they are helping people with their method. But again, my own experience showed me that all you get from these practices is temporary relief. What matters is letting time do its thing, take care of yourself, stay moderately active, avoid bad posture, and hope for the best.
The worst places to visit would be chiropractic offices that advertise back pain solutions or treatments, or so-called “pack pain centers” with big ads in the newspapers or even along the highway. Those places are cash machines designed to suck every penny out of you, while you wait to feel better.
Your thoughts? (Let the hate mail begin…)