Experts Claim Back Pain is Being Treated Incorrectly

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According to a host of experts, lower back pain is the most common cause of disability worldwide. However, lack of the correct treatment is potentially causing more damage for patients across the globe. 

In their paper entitled “The Lancet” these experts ask the medical profession to stop advising their patients to have ineffective and potentially harmful treatments such as strong drugs, injections and surgery. They suggest that there is not that much evidence to warrant any conclusive statement that they actually help with lower back pain.

Instead of going down the surgery route, the experts advise patients to keep active as it is the most effective way to manage this type of pain.

The recommendations that UK doctors adhere to are clear about what investigations and treatments their patients should expect. Some patients will need to have a scan in order to eliminate any underlying causes, and in many cases they aren’t seen as a necessity because most scans tend to be inconclusive.

Some signs to look out for that could tell you that you are suffering with lower back pain are; difficulty passing urine, impaired sexual function such as loss of sensation during intercourse, loss of bladder or bowel control, loss of power in legs, numbness or tingling in the genitals or buttocks and/or feeling the needing to pass urine, when there is none there.

It is extremely common for most adults to experience some form of back pain within their lives, but luckily these episodes normally last for only a short period of time with no consequences. Unfortunately, according to the researchers, recurring back pain is quite common, as around a third of people will have a recurrence of their back pain within a year of recovering from their initial back pain.

To help UK patients enjoy a better quality of life and cope with their symptoms, guidelines recommend a mix of physical exercise, advice and support. Health staff should also avoid using equipment such as belts, corsets, foot supports or shoes with special soles when treating back pain or sciatica.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, say that acupuncture, traction (stretching the back using weights or machines), or electrotherapy (passing electric current or ultrasound waves through the body) should never be offered as treatment for any form of back pain.

A doctor can offer an opioid pain medicine, such as codeine, if anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, have not helped or the doctor thinks they are not suitable for the patient. However, patients can become very dependent on opioid pain medication.

Prof Martin Underwood, from Warwick University, - one of the 31 authors of The Lancet papers - said: "Our current treatment approaches are not reducing the problems associated with back pain disability.

“The way we approach back pain treatment in the UK needs to be altered, and we need to stop low and middle income countries developing services that are costly but have limited effect.

“Many patients are treated with high-tech medical and invasive procedures yet there is virtually no evidence suggesting that it actually helps.”

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, who chairs the Royal College of GPs, said:
“We should all know that being active and working will improve our patients’ health and wellbeing, so GPs and our teams will always suggest lifestyle changes to patients, to help reduce their pain and keep them in employment.
“However, some patients which are suffering with a severe case of back pain are limited to how much exercise they can physically do.

“Drug therapy should not be dismissed completely, as this can provide patients with significant pain relief. But when this medication is prescribed, it should be at the lowest possible dose for the shortest period of time.”

She added: “It should also be noted that talking therapies and other psychological treatments which can help patients suffering with lower back pain may not be as helpful as we once thought, as these results are hit and miss throughout the UK.”


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