Exercise offers advantages over drugs and surgery for managing back pain
Source: NPR, Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, NPR
Though 25 percent of the American adult population experiences back pain and spend more than $80 billion a year seeking treatments, many common treatment plans, including painkillers, surgery and spinal injections, do not provide the solutions people hope.
In fact, a study out of a Boston hospital found that doctors have been getting statistically worse at prescribing treatments for back pain that reflect the latest scientific research, and were prescribing prescription opioids in 10 percent more cases of back pain in 2010 when compared to 1999.
This, despite the fact that these opioids only help with slightly acute back pain and offer no long-term benefit for chronic back pain, not to mention the fact that opioid abuse has surged in the last decade, particularly among women.
Invasive treatments for back pain have also grown more popular in recent years. The more regular availability of MRI scans are often to blame for this increase, because the the scans often “look alarming,” though some doctors say that this is not related to the patient’s actual pain. Many people who have disturbing-looking MRIs are actual pain free.
Age-related back pain is especially not responsive to surgery (as opposed to certain specific conditions like a herniated disc.)
Researchers like Dr. James Rainville explains that pain is often treated as an alarm that warns people to stop people from doing what they’re doing, but it can actually be a result of hypersensitive nerves. Many patients can actually learn to ignore the pain, and learning not to fear it, particularly through the strategic use of exercise.
Patients who go through Rainville's back pain boot camp, which focuses on strength and flexibility exercises, report that they experience relieved pain, and sometimes the disappearance of pain altogether.