Expert Tips for Curing Lower Back Ache

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A recent New York Times article interviewed Dr. James Weinstein, a back pain specialist and chief executive of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health System, and other experts regarding the best ways to ease lower back pain.

The piece coincided with the publication of new guidelines from the American College of Physicians recommending alternative therapies like exercise, acupuncture, massage therapy or yoga before any anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxants are used.

Dr. Weinstein advises patients to stay active and apply patience to letting the issue resolve itself. “Back pain has a natural course that does not require intervention,” he said. These passages from the article support his view:

“In fact, for most of the people with acute back pain — defined as present for four weeks or less that does not radiate down the leg — there is no need to see a doctor at all,” said Dr. Rick Deyo, a spine researcher and professor at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Ore., and an author of the new guidelines.”

“For acute back pain, the analogy is to the common cold,” Dr. Deyo said. “It is very common and very annoying when it happens. But most of the time it will not result in anything major or serious. ”

“Many people with chronic back pain tend to shut down, avoiding their usual activities, afraid of making things worse,” Dr. Christopher J. Standaert said. Helping them is not a matter of prescribing drugs but rather teaching them to set goals and work toward returning to an active life, even if they still have pain, he said.

“Dr. Weinstein has a prescription: “What we need to do is to stop medicalizing symptoms,” he said. Pills are not going to make people better and as for other treatments, he said, “yoga and tai chi, all those things are wonderful, but why not just go back to your normal activities?”

“I know your back hurts, but go run, be active, instead of taking a pill.”

Read the article, Lower Back Ache? Be Active and Wait It Out, New Guidelines Say. Follow  author Gina Kolata on Twitter @ginakolata.