Smithfield, RI – The American College of Physicians (ACP) released new guidelines to steer doctors away from scribbling scripts for painkillers in favor of noninvasive treatments such as physical therapy for low back pain. This news affects a large population, as low back pain is a close second to the common cold in a list of ailments driving Americans to the doctor’s office.
Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the ACP committee developed these guidelines to target adults with acute, subacute or chronic low back pain. The committee aims to influence physicians to consider alternatives to costly imaging, medication, and surgery when devising a treatment plan for patients with low back pain. About 25% of Americans report incidences of low back pain lasting at least one day in the past three months.
According to the guidelines, most cases of acute and subacute low back pain eventually resolve themselves despite the treatment prescribed. For chronic cases of low back pain, the ACP recommends beginning with nonpharmacologic treatment such as exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, yoga, superficial heat, and massage. Due to high risk of addiction, opioids are being reserved as a last-resort treatment option and only in patients who have failed other interventions.
“Most patients I treat with low back pain show significant improvement in symptoms and increased function with physical therapy usually of non-invasive manual therapy and therapeutic exercise without any use of prescribed opioids or even over the counter medication, ” says Dr. Tyler Foster, DPT – Performance Physical Therapy
Treatment plans for low back pain should be tailored to specific needs because the cause and symptoms may vary from person to person. A physical therapist begins with a patient evaluation to identify the factors contributing to a patient’s specific back program and will individualize the program based on the results and observations.
“Low back pain is probably the most common symptom we see in the clinic, however, patients can have different presentations of low back pain with differing symptoms and functional deficits. We use a systematic approach to evaluate the patient’s presentation and identify impairments, activity limitation and participation restriction in order to develop appropriate plans of care to help that patient return to full function” says Dr. Foster.
Now that the ACP has used new evidence to update the guidelines released more than a decade before, those experiencing low back pain have even more reason to explore the benefits of alternative treatments such as physical therapy.
Dr. Tyler Foster, DPT, is a physical therapist at our Sanderson Road, Smithfield location. Dr. Foster specializes in general and post-surgical orthopedics, as well as sports injuries. If you would like to reach out to him you can by email, phone, or text.