Treating chronic low back pain can be frustrating. Part of that frustration is because the outcomes vary so dramatically from one patient to the next. Although acupuncture might offer relief to one person, it may do nothing for another. Neurologists speculate that this may be due in part to the way pain signals travel up the spine to the brain. It also may be because most people who see a doctor for low back pain actually have several things wrong with their back.
Emerging research suggests we are getting closer to discovering what works best. A review in the February 2009 “Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons” concluded that physical therapy combined with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen or naproxen) is the most effective treatment for degenerating discs. If physical therapy isn’t doing the trick, it’s time to try other approaches. Here are a few of the most commonly prescribed therapies for chronic low back pain—and the potential benefits of each:
Chiropractic: A study published in 2002 found that patients with low back pain treated by chiropractors showed greater improvement after one month than those treated by physicians.
Acupuncture: Studies show that the needles used in acupuncture cause the brain to release natural opiates which relieve pain.
Medication: NSAIDs, including ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve), help reduce swelling and inflammation.
Adapted from an article by Perry Garfinkel in the AARP Magazine
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Next Month—More invasive procedures to treat low back pain and the major causes of low back pain.