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It’s Official: Doctors Admit that Drugs Can’t Fix Most People’s Back Pain

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Do you suffer from lower back pain? If you do, you’re definitely not alone. Medical studies have shown that nearly seven out of eight adults suffer periodically with this painful condition, and for about 23 percent of adults lower back pain is considered “chronic” which means it lasts 12 weeks or more. Lower back pain is one of the top reasons people see their doctor and one of the main causes for people missing work.

Because we’re no strangers to lower back pain ourselves, we were intrigued by this recent article on the news website Vox that presented a stark fact: not only are physicians still in the dark about what causes nonspecific lower back pain, but they’re finally admitting that the drug treatments and painkillers they’ve been prescribing all these years don’t work. The article is called “Doctors finally admit drugs can’t fix most cases of back pain,” and it refers to a recently released set of recommendations from the American College of Physicians.  “America’s doctors have finally admitted it,” says Vox. “Their pharmaceutical tools to treat one of their patients’ most common ailments don’t work.” In fact, the article suggests, “drugs should often be the last line of treatment” for nonspecific lower back pain.

Before we dive further into this article, let us be clear up front that our purpose here at AgingOptions is not to impart medical information particular to your situation. For that you definitely need the advice of a qualified physician who knows you and your physiology well. We highly recommend you seek out and hire a geriatrician to be your medical “quarterback,” someone who understands the medical realities of senior adults. Contact us here at AgingOptions and let us refer you to a qualified geriatric physician in your area. It could be one of the most important calls you ever make. Instead, this article talks about the kind of common back pain that periodically nails just about everybody.

According to Vox, nonspecific lower back pain is the type that has no discernible cause such as tumors, pinched nerves, osteoporosis and fractures – just a few of the detectable triggers for back pain. Most lower back pain sufferers can’t point to a specific cause – they just know they hurt. Doctors have theorized about several possible contributing links to lower back pain, including obesity and smoking, but the actual cause is both complicated and elusive. Doctors are now increasingly realizing that a big part of the underlying cause is seldom just physical – it’s often psychological and emotional, aggravated by depression, anxiety and stress.

Here’s a tidbit of information we found particularly revealing. Sometimes a sufferer with lower back pain is sent to get an MRI, and the scan seems to reveal a physiological problem, but it may not be that simple.  “In patients who have nearly identical results from an imaging test like an MRI, those who are depressed or unsatisfied with their jobs tend to have worse back pain than people who aren’t.” For this reason, says the Vox article, doctors don’t generally recommend an MRI for cases of lower back pain because they can lead to misdiagnosis and overtreatment, often with drugs that can be addictive (such as opioids).

So what does work? Anyone who has suffered with lower back can tell you that relief is hard to come by. But the American College of Physicians does have some recommendations, starting with heat therapy as what they call “a first line of defense.” After that, you might want to try massage therapy, acupuncture or chiropractic manipulation, but as Vox puts it “the evidence isn’t as strong for these alternatives.”  The best outcomes appear to result from a combination of exercise and stress-reduction. If you feel you need a painkiller, ibuprofen seems to work best, but you’ll want to check with your physician since too much ibuprofen can create health problems in some people. Also, for most people, lower back pain tends to resolve over time, so it may be best, if you can, to go about your normal routine and have patience. Typically the discomfort tends to subside – gradually

Here at AgingOptions our goal is to help seniors enjoy a happy, healthy, fulfilling retirement. Getting the right health care, staying active, controlling your weight and avoiding injury are obvious steps you can take to keep you on the right track medically. But planning for your retirement means far more than meeting your medical needs with good health and the right insurance. Your financial plan has to be well crafted to make sure your assets are protected in your retirement. You’ll need to make certain you’re fully protected with the right legal preparation. You’ll want to plan ahead to ensure you choose the right housing options to match your needs and preferences. You’ll want to know that your family is completely on board with your wishes, too. Is there a retirement plan that weaves these elements together?

Happily the answer is yes – with an AgingOptions LifePlan. You owe it to yourself to find out more about this breakthrough in comprehensive retirement planning, and you can do that with no obligation. Simply take a few hours and attend a free LifePlanning Seminar at a location near you. Click here to select and register for the seminar of your choice,  or contact us and we’ll be glad to assist you.

(originally reported at

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