Archive for "September, 2017"

Responses to Lower Back Pain Is Changing

Back Pain, blog Sep 20, 2017 No Comments

Back pain is one of the most common reasons for seeking medical care in the United States. According to the NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll, people are responding to their lower back pain differently than in the past, and their choices seem to vary depending on their education and income levels.

The Survey on Back Pain

On a regular basis, the TruvenHealth Analytics-NPR Health Poll surveys roughly 3,000 Americans to get their opinions on various health topics. During the first half of March 2017, 3002 participants were questioned on their experiences with lower back pain and their responses to it.

Roughly half of the participants (51%) reported that they suffered from lower back pain in the past 12 months. Of these, 58% sought medical care, while 55% said that they found a way to treat the pain themselves, that is, without going to a doctor. Since back pain, in many cases, can get better on its own, it would make sense that some individuals can skip seeing their physician. Furthermore, over-the-counter medication does provide some relief for back pain.

Here are additional results of the study:

  • 69% of those who treated the back pain themselves used over-the-counter pain medication; 21% reported using exercise or physical therapy; 18% said they used heat to manage their lower back pain; 17% used rest; and 12% used prescription pain medication.
  • Of those that sought medical care, 70% went to a doctor, 14% went to a chiropractor, 4% went to a nurse practitioner, and 3% went to an alternative medicine practitioner.
  • Of those who went to a medical professional, 40% were given prescription pain medication, 31% were told to exercise, 20% were given injections, 17% were told to get a massage, 17% were given steroids, 13% were recommended to take over-the-counter medication, and 12% were recommended to have surgery.
  • Among the 51% who reported experiencing back pain in the last 12 months, 45% reported that their back pain got better, 25% said that it remained about the same, 25% said that it went away completely, and 5% said that it got worse.

Back Pain | Comprehensive Pain Management Center

What’s interesting about this survey is that the responses to lower back pain varied depending upon age and annual income. For instance, young adults were the least likely to go to a doctor for back pain; 64% of them reported that they treated the pain themselves.

There were also apparent correlations between income level and a person’s experience of low back pain. For instance, those with an annual income over $50,000 were more likely to say that their pain went away completely. A correlation was also found between education level and level of back pain: those who hadn’t graduated from college were more likely to report a continued problem with lower back pain. It’s important to keep in mind that these correlations need more research, especially exploring some of the contributing factors. For instance, those with a lower level of education might not have access to adequate medical care and have less disposable income to spend on complementary treatments such as acupuncture or massage.

For more information on the relationships between income, education, and reported experiences of back pain, read the survey’s full report.

Lower Back Pain May Not Require Opioids

Every person’s experience of pain is different. Yet, with lower back pain, many people may find that the aches and discomfort will go away on its own with time. Of course, each person’s level of pain and circumstances are different so it’s best to consult with a doctor. However, for those who are have sedentary jobs, do little exercise, experience a great deal of stress, and/or who are overweight, reducing back pain may simply be a matter of making changes to one’s lifestyle. Organizations such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Physicians (ACP) are recommending that individuals try other resources first before asking for a prescription for pain medication. For instance:

  • In April of 2017, the ACP published clinical guidelines for managing chronic pain, in which they recommended non-pharmaceutical remedies first such as a heating pad, then over-the-counter medication, and then, if needed, prescription pain pills, beginning with NSAID’s (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) first.

The explosive reliance on opioids over the past 15 years to manage pain has in some ways conditioned the American public that they simply need to take a pill to eliminate their pain. Fortunately, with education and growing awareness about the dangers of opioids, more and more people are making better choices, and finding their own ways to manage pain. In fact, in some cases, going to a doctor may be more risky especially if that doctor still endorses the use of opioids as a primary means of relieving pain.

Good Diet- Options for Relieving Pain | Comprehensive Pain Management Center

Options for relieving back pain include:

Of course, keep in mind that the above list is simply to provide options. However, these tips may not work for everyone. To get a sense of whether any of the above suggestions may be effective for your condition, speak to a health professional. The point is that there are other methods to help relieve pain without taking prescription drugs. It may be important for anyone who experiences chronic lower back pain to assess their options, discuss those options with a health professional they trust, and develop a plan for living a healthy and pain-free life.


Comprehensive Pain Management Center