Last month, the American College of Physicians published updated guidelines regarding making recommendations for treatment of lower back pain. The guidelines are officially saying that doctors should recommend to patients with back pain that they try alternative therapies such as exercise, acupuncture, massage therapy, or yoga. These guidelines also address prescribing opioid painkillers for relief of back pain saying it should be avoided, as should steroid injections, which are not helpful. These new recommendations come as the opioid epidemic in the United States rages on.
An article on the topic, published in The New York Times, asks a loaded question, “Will the new guidelines be adopted?” There is still the added problem of the incentives encouraging doctors to prescribe medication and urging patients to take it. Dr. James Weinstein, a back pain specialist and chief executive of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health System, asserts that pills are not going to make people better. He says, “What we need to do is to stop medicalizing symptoms. I know your back hurts, but go run, be active, instead of taking a pill.”