Patients with very bad lower back pain often have X-rays or imaging scans to be able to see the source of the problem. But new studies show scanning to find the source of back pain may be more harmful than helpful.
Researchers from Oregon Health and Science University in Portland reviewed 6 clinical trials made up of nearly 2,000 people with lower back pain. They concluded that back pain patients who underwent scans didn’t get better any faster or have decreased pain, depression or anxiety than people who weren’t scanned. More important, the data showed that people who get scanned for back pain may end up with more pain than those who are not scanned, according to the report published this week in the medical journal Lancet.
About two thirds of adults wind up suffering with low back pain at some time in their lives, and low back pain is the second most recognized symptom that sends people to the doctor (upper respiratory problems are first). Studies suggest that more than half the people who see a doctor for back pain undergo X-rays or another imaging study as a result.
The problem, say researchers, is that back scans can bring out physical changes in the back that aren’t realistically causing any problem. One well known research from The New England Journal of Medicine put 98 individuals with no back pain into a magnetic resonance imaging scan. Even though all of them had healthy backs, two out of three of them came back with magnetic resonance imaging results that showed disk issues.
You can discover lots of things on X-rays and M.R.I.’s like degenerative disks and arthritis, but these things are very weakly correlated with low back pain, said study author Dr. Roger Chou, associate professor of medicine at Oregon Health. We think we’re helping patients by doing a test, but we’re adding cost, exposing individuals to radiation and individuals may be undergoing unnecessary surgery. They begin to think of themselves as having a horrible back problem and they cease doing exercise and things that are good for them, when in reality, a lot of people have degenerative disks and arthritis and have no pain at all.
Dr. Chou said individuals should ask their doctors why a scan or X-ray is necessary rather than using pain relief and exercise to cope while a back heals on its own. Most back pain gets better within 30 days if a person takes normal precautions after a pain episode. If back pain persists for longer than a month, or if symptoms suggest a more serious problem like an infection or tumor, then an X-ray or M.R.I. may be necessary, Dr. Chou said.
I think people should question whether they really need it, Dr. Chou said. From a societal perspective, it’s important because we’re wasting a large amount of money that could be used for better things. But from an individual patient’s view, doing X-rays and image scans can lead you down a path that you don’t want to go down.
Some Ways To Lessen The Pain
One of the popular natural pain relievers is acupuncture. A recent study conducted in the UK showed that people who underwent the acupuncture therapy not only experienced a considerable reduction in pain, they also were less likely to use medicines. However, you need to check with your doctor to make sure that you are physically ready to recieve acupuncture. Capsaicin cream is another popular back pain remedy- it is actually an analgesic, which means that it depletes the neuro-chemicals that transmit pain. Be careful when using this as it can cause stinging or burning if you touch irritated skin or your eyes.
Replenishing your vitamin intake can also help beat a injured back. Studies have shown that chronic muscle pain is often caused due to a deficiency of vitamin D. You can easily supplement this by eating more cereals and drinking fortified milk. Its also interesting to note that music is an effective form of back relief. How? Most back-related problems are related to stress. This often causes the muscles to get tense and bunch up, thus causing pain. Listening to soothing music can soothe you and cause those tense muscles to loosen up.
You can also treat a bad back with exercise. This method will also increase your bodys overall strength and flexibility. Those who have opted for yoga have experienced a reduction in pain, more mobility and a decreased dependancy on medication. So the next time your back starts acting up, dont just reach out for the pain medication. Instead, meet with your doctor and find out whats actually wrong. Then you can easily find a back relief method that would actually work for you.
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