Suffering from back pain can be agonizing. But hold on, visiting a doctor can make things worse.

According to the findings of a new study, back pain is often over-diagnosed and over-treated.

Surprisingly, straying away from the clinical recommendation physicians are increasingly prescribing more and more imaging tests and treatment with surgeries, the survey revealed.

The study
For the purpose of the study, researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center reviewed data from 23,918 spine-related outpatient entries recorded between 1999 and 2010.

Researchers found that far more patients were now being prescribed narcotic pain relievers for relieving pain. The prescription went up from 19.3 percent in 1999-2000 to 29.1 percent in 2009-2010.

On the contrary, the prescription of commonly recommended over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen which help cut inflammation and pain decreased from 37 percent in 1999-2000 to 24.5 percent in 2009-2010.

More patients were now undergoing advanced imaging techniques including MRI or CT scans. The rates soared from 7.2 percent in 1999-2000 to 11.3 percent in 2009-2010.
Also, the referrals for physical therapy and exercise remained low at 20 percent for both time frames, researchers highlighted.

“Despite numerous published clinical guidelines, management of back pain has relied increasingly on guideline discordant care,” the researchers wrote in the findings published in the JAMA Internal Medicine.

Help for Low Back Pain
“Most routine back pain will improve on its own with conservative therapy in three months, often shorter than that,” says Dr. Bruce E. Landon, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School.

“Even more importantly, when we do more aggressive things—such as injections, imaging, and surgery—the long-term outcomes don’t change at all. These things have very little impact on what is going on, and they have the potential to make things worse,” Landon averred.

• Starting with an ice or cold pack at the onset of the flare-up and switching to gentle heat 48 hours later helps ease pain.

• Although rest is beneficial if you are in severe pain while sitting or standing, limiting it to a few hours is important. Most importantly, bed rest should not be for more than a couple days.

• A regular exercise program will reduce muscle stiffness. It also helps the healing process during an acute flare-up and prevents repeated episodes of back pain.

• Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, are the best to relieve acute low back pain. They are more effective if taken on a regular schedule, rather than popping one after pain flares up.

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