You may have heard that doctors are getting away from prescribing opioids for chronic low back pain. New guidelines from the American College of Physicians (ACP) advise doctors to start with options that don’t involve any type of medication.
This breaks from the World Health Organization tiered medication scale favored in the past. The scale previously focused on drugs that included opioids.
What to try first for your back pain?
1. Physical therapy
“Cleveland Clinic very much advocates active physical therapy,” says Dr. Mayer. An exercise prescription can help to ease back stiffness and strengthen muscles that support the spine.
This ancient Chinese technique involves inserting hair-thin needles into key points to ease the pain. “Acupuncture is better at relieving the radiating leg pain that can accompany low back pain. We often recommend acupuncture because relieving pain allows you to exercise and be active,” says Dr. Mayer.
Individual, group or supervised exercise can make you sore at first. “But it can help improve your core strength, spine flexibility, endurance and balance,” he notes.
4. Yoga and tai chi
Practicing these meditative forms of exercise from ancient India and China “has shown good benefit for those with low back pain, improving their function, endurance, and symptoms,” says Dr. Mayer.
5. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
“Research shows this popular form of talk therapy improves coping, lessens social isolation and decreases the social impact of pain on your life,” he says. Combining psychological therapy with physical therapy and social work support is also beneficial.
Placing electrodes at certain points allows you to control and release tension in your back muscles. “This improves function, positional tolerance, and muscle pain,” says Dr. Mayer.
7. Stress management and mindfulness
Relieving stress and focusing on the present help to take your mind off the pain.
8. Progressive relaxation
Gradually releasing tension in each part of the body can be helpful in easing pain, especially before bed.
If you’ve been suffering with long-term low back pain, it’s worth exploring these non-drug treatment options before resorting to pills. You’re likely to find your quality of life improving.