New Low Back Pain Guidelines From The ACP


Low back pain treatmentIn the last week, the American College of Physicians (ACP) published new guidelines for the care of low back pain. The guidelines are their recommendations based on the available research on the subject. The most important thing to remember is this information is designed for physicians to assist with the management of particular problems.

However, the recommendations are only as good as the knowledge and ability of those who put together the data. These guidelines provide some reasonable information, but they do not contain significant information from board certified pain practitioners who are treating the problem every day. The reason why we need to highlight this issue is because the guidelines attack back pain as if it has one single cause, which we know is not always the case.

Where The Guidelines Fall Short

For the pain practitioner and as it should be for every doctor, pain is one symptom, and the low back region covers a large number of structures that can cause problems. A diagnosis is based on a history of symptoms, a physical exam, and then the application of medical knowledge to determine the causes related to the problem.

The new guidelines move away from coming up with a specific diagnosis of the pain problem. They also recommend any number of treatments that have a limited scientific basis, like acupuncture and spine manipulation, and they did not address medications very well. Muscle relaxants are recommended as well as duloxetine (Cymbalta), while many more common medications like Celebrex were not studied. The guidelines also recommend many psychological therapies and exercises that are not readily available or not covered by insurance.

Treating Back Pain

Guidelines are meant to serve as a road map to help practitioners establish appropriate treatment for patients. The new ACP guidelines lack instruction on establishing appropriate diagnoses and true evidence-based treatment alternatives. The guidelines appear to be the answer to what is the cheapest way to get a complex problem patient out of an office. They recommend everything but appropriate diagnostic testing, referrals to experts in pain, or advice on all the non-opioid options available and when to use them. These guidelines made headlines in the national news, but they surely are not truly newsworthy.

Acute, subacute, and chronic low back pain all have different meanings and can be quite well treated with a variety of interventions. It is true that most acute back pain is short lived, but primary care physicians should learn much more about all the causes and treatments available.  For the patient, telling them “No matter what you do, it usually gets better in a month,” as these guidelines suggest, is poor quality care. No patient wants to be sidelined for a month, and they want to have a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan. These guidelines fall short of offering the best care for each patient with back pain.

Can Alternative Medicine Really Help Your Back?

The following is a guest blog post from our friends at North American Spine. 

AcupunctureIf you’re experiencing mild or chronic back pain, there are a variety of traditional and alternative treatments that can both ease the pain and help address the root cause. When most patients complain of back pain, their doctor’s first reaction may be to refer them to an orthopedic or osteopathic surgeon. However, there are other options that have been effective in treating patients for centuries. These include:

  • Acupuncture
  • A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods
  • Myofascial release
  • Physical manipulation
  • Back-strengthening exercises
  • Yoga and meditation

Help a Bad Back by Sticking Needles in It

That’s right. Acupuncture, which is the art of inserting thin needles into certain parts of your body to help reduce or relive discomfort, is an effective drug-free method for relieving back pain. Although the results are not long-lived, treatments help when pain medicine and other therapies have failed.

Scientists are still working to understand how acupuncture relieves pain and stimulates endorphins. Acupuncture is endorsed by the American Pain Society, the American College of Physicians and the National Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. In fact, one of the main reasons people choose acupuncture is because it’s been so successful at treating back pain. If you’re worried about being stuck with needles, don’t be. Patients rarely feel pain. If anything, it’s more of a slight tingling sensation.

Rest, Relaxation and Less Pain

Myofascial release is another type of therapy that uses pressure to effectively loosen the tension and tightness that contributes to upper and lower back pain. Myofascial techniques are often included in massage therapy and chiropractic care. When done correctly, these techniques can both decrease pain and increase your range of motion.

Down Dog Your Way to Less Back Pain

Yoga is a unique method for treating back pain because it stimulates the mind AND the body. Breathing and meditation coupled with low-impact exercises calms the mind and relieves the stress that is caused by chronic pain. With help from cushions, certain yoga poses are great for stretching and strengthening the back.

A 2011 study conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that 12 weekly yoga classes improved function and mobility for patients with recurring or chronic back pain better than traditional therapies.

Eat Better, Feel Better

Just as certain medicines relieve inflammation, a healthy diet can reduce the swelling that may cause back pain in the first place. A good anti-inflammatory diet includes vegetables, fruits, fish, high-fiber foods and certain spices. North American Spine recently talked about the correlation between your diet and your back in a back pain eBook.

If possible, try to shy away from eating too many carbohydrates, as they affect insulin levels and promote inflammation. The same holds true for dairy, eggs and wheat—especially if you’re sensitive to these foods. The key to a healthy back is a healthy diet, so be sure to eat foods rich in zinc, iron and fiber and less rich in hydrogenated oils and fats.

The goal of alternative treatments is to increase mobility, reduce pain and lessen your dependence on medications. Above all, these simple methods should encourage you to take an active role in your care.

Pain Care: The Benefits of Pain Management

Pain Care BenefitsPain is a complex problem with physical and emotional components. It can affect all aspects of a person’s life. When pain is treated early and aggressively, often it can be cured. Sometimes the injury that has caused the pain cannot be completely reversed and the damage needs to be managed on a long-term basis. Medically, we are always looking to find a diagnosis and treatment for every problem. Pain Care is aimed at finding the individualized, comprehensive diagnosis and management plan for a patient’s symptoms and problems.

Pain Care

Pain Care has been developed to take the next step in managing a patient’s symptoms. A new patient will undergo a comprehensive evaluation by a Board Certified specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation with a subspecialty in Pain Care. These physicians are medical doctors with extensive special training in the musculoskeletal, medical and neurologic systems, which allows them to better diagnose and treat almost any painful condition.  As Physical Medicine doctors, they are the “Family “ physicians coordinating and delivering care to those with pain.

Since pain often is a complex problem, Pain Care is designed to help the patient move forward with management. Every patient is unique with their own set of important problems. If all the answers were obvious, there would be no need for our services. Unfortunately, pain is the most common problem bringing a patient to the doctor’s office. When it does not resolve in short period of time, consulting a specialist is often extremely beneficial. There is not one solution, one medication, one shot, or one specific intervention that is right for every patient. Pain Care is designed to integrate and coordinate our skills into the community to treat these challenging patients with their current care team.

Pain management is not a new medical field, however there are not many providers with the Physical Medicine and Pain specialty skills. Pain is complex and Pain Care is designed to address these issues and bring a solution to the patient and community.