Second Opinion: Back Pain

Back pain is the most common and recurrent type of pain in America and 80% of Americans will experience it sometime in their life time. A new study shows that for every year a person has back pain, their brain shrinks 10-20 years of normal aging. It’s the second reason for doctor visits. Not to sound like the prophet of doom, but if you have had back pain in your life you have a really good chance of it coming back to bother you again and again. What will you do? Back pain can come from many causes and it’s important to figure out what the cause is before trying any treatment. The right treatment at the wrong time is still the wrong treatment.

Common causes of back pain that I see are disc issues, stenosis, arthritis, degenerative joint/disc disease, post surgical pain and nerve pain. New studies are showing that conservative pain care like spinal manipulation, acupuncture, nutrition, herbs and lifestyle can dramatically help these conditions feel better.

Like I tell my patients, what helps one person with back pain doesn’t help another. That’s why we need to try as many things as possible and it might be a combination of things that gets the result you are looking for. You need to keep looking. If you stop at one or two things you might be suffering needlessly.

Manipulation for back pain has been shown effective, for some people this is also true if they have had pain for years or have not tried manipulation. A certain type of traction has been shown to be helpful for back and leg pain. In fact in about 75 quality studies on manipulation all found it now less effective than anything else and some showed it more effective than exercise, medication, acupuncture and massage. If you haven’t tried manipulation then you need to try it. If you had a bad experience with it then try another at least one more time. It doesn’t help everyone but it’s worth a try.

I just said manipulation was better than acupuncture but now I’m going to tell you that acupuncture helps acute low back pain and might help chronic low back pain. I’ve definitely seen both. There are many forms of acupuncture, some more aggressive than others. I do the aggressive kind because I see good result with it. That just my opinion. Acupuncture should be tried for both types of back pain.

Vitamin D, Fish oils, devils claw and white willow have all recently been shown to help back pain. Many of these herbs and supplements are as good as or better than NSAIDS. And who would have though Vitamin D would help back pain. Many people with low back pain are deficient in Vitamin D and in several good international studies it show great benefit. It also showed to be helpful in fibromyalgia and slowing arthritis but that’s another Second Opinion.

If you have back pain and your current treatment is not helping or causing undesirable side effects then please consider some of the proven remedies listed in this article. Not everything helps every person. You need to find what works for you.

Keep in mind this publication is meant solely to be informative and entertaining and not an alternative to proper medical diagnosis or treatment. Seek proper medical care if you have any symptoms.

And look for a Second Opinion next week.

Mark Testa, DC PC