Prescription painkillers do more harm than good for back pain

From over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers like ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin to prescription drugs like tramadol, morphine, and hydrocodone, these meds are omnipresent in modern American life. They have become more widely used than tobacco, according to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report.

In 2015, more than 36 percent of Americans, aged 12 years or older, were given painkiller prescriptions by their doctor. Prescription drugs can knock out chronic aches and pains to some extent, but they come with serious side effects. One of the biggest risks is that they are highly addictive, adding to America’s opioid addiction epidemic.

Even when used short-term and as prescribed, these painkillers can cause severe side effects including kidney issues, stomach or intestinal bleeding, heart attacks, and strokes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioid painkillers killed more than 15,000 Americans in 2015.

Pain medications are ineffective in the treatment of lower back pain

Due to America’s growing hunger for opiates, more and more mainstream news sources, such as the New York Times and NBC, are exposing the pharmaceutical world. Recently, they confirmed that painkillers do little to help back pain, particularly lower back pain, as reported by The Hearty Soul.

“While the drug industry may not appreciate the negative press, this is an issue that the public needs to know about,” they wrote.

Lower back pain is the second greatest cause of disability in the United States. In many cases, ineffective fixes such as over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers and anti-inflammatories lead to addiction issues. According to the American College of Physicians (ACP), people with acute or subacute lower back pain don’t need medication. Nonetheless, many doctors are prescribing these harmful drugs to treat even the most temporary pains, bringing about a greater risk for opioid addictions. Once addicted to these legally prescribed drugs, the step to heroin is easily made to feed the user’s growing need.

Therefore, the ACP has revised its clinical guidelines, encouraging doctors to step away from these meds as the go-to therapy for lower back pain and look at nonpharmacological treatments first. After analyzing the effects of commonly used medicines and non-invasive methods for treating lower back pain, the ACP concluded that many non-medicine and non-surgical treatments may improve the condition, without adding any side effects.

The ACP’s guidelines recommend following alternative treatments such as: heat therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, spinal manipulation, exercise, rehabilitation, yoga, mindfulness meditation, tai chi, motor control exercise, progressive relaxation, electromyography biofeedback, low-level laser therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Natural therapies found to be as effective as painkillers without harmful side effects

While members of the ACP don’t claim that painkillers are completely ineffective and useless, they just don’t want doctors prescribing them unless nothing else works. Furthermore, they urge people to take note of the signals their bodies are sending. Pain is the body’s way of showing that something is not right. Painkillers like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can mask the underlying issues, which may cause more harm to your body over time.

Furthermore, multiple studies have shown that some of these meds are ineffective. The Hearty Soul reported on a few scientific studies that found that many painkillers have no significant effect on pain reduction. These studies found that opioids are useless in the treatment of sciatica and back pain. And acetaminophen (commonly known as Tylenol) showed no effect in the treatment of spinal pain and osteoarthritis.

As more of these studies emerge, it becomes evident that these addictive painkillers are not the answer. If you, or one of your loved ones, is struggling with chronic pain, don’t let these health damaging chemicals make it worse; try the natural route first. These non-invasive methods are free of side effects and often more effective in reducing pain long-term.

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