New Physician Guideline Touts Non-Drug Treatment For Low Back Pain

The American College of Physicians (ACP) has issued a clinical practice guideline for the management of low back pain, recommending non-pharmacological approaches as first line treatment.

The guidelines were based on the ACP clinical guidelines committee’s systematic reviews on noninvasive pharmacological treatments for low back pain published until April 2015.

The new guideline is designed for all clinicians and adult patients with acute, sub-acute and chronic low back pain. In the guideline, the ACP recommends that patients with acute, sub-acute and chronic low back pain should first seek non-drug treatments to relieve their pain.

For acute and sub-acute low back pain, the guideline recommends superficial heat, massage therapy, acupuncture or spinal manipulation (adjustment).

For chronic low back pain patients, non-drug treatment options should include exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction, tai chi, yoga, motor control exercise, progressive relaxation, electromyography biofeedback, low-level laser therapy, operant therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, or spinal manipulation.

Clinicians should only consider pharmacological treatment for chronic low back pain if patients have responded inadequately to non-drug therapies.

“Clinicians and patients should consider pharmacological treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as first-line therapy, or Tramadol or duloxetine as second-line therapy,” the guideline recommends. Opioids should only be considered an option for patients who have failed “the above treatments and only if the potential benefits outweigh the risks for the individual patients and after a discussion of the known risks and realistic benefits,” it added.

The American Chiropractic Association welcomed new guidelines from the ACP citing a “growing body of research” that points to the effectiveness of non-drug treatments for low back pain.

“The chiropractic profession has long advocated for doctors and patients to use a more conservative approach to treating low back pain,” said ACA president Dr. David Herd. “These new guidelines by the American College of Physicians support a growing body of research as well as increasing recognition in the healthcare community regarding the value and effectiveness of non-drug approaches, such as spinal manipulation, for acute and chronic low back pain.”

– April 2017, Canadian Chiropractor (Pg. 11)