NPR Segment Features Treatments for Low Back Pain

As part of their “Your Health” segment, NPR aired a piece about the effectiveness of various treatments for low back pain, with a focus on spinal manipulation. Lower back pain is a common complaint to physicians, and, as the article states, a common reason for the prescription of addictive narcotic painkillers. Other interventions can include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
  • Chiropractic treatment

A recent publication appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) analyzed results from 26 randomized clinical trials. The key takeaway from this article is that spinal manipulation, an act of mobilizing the joints of the spine, provides modest pain relief of 1 point on a 0- to 10-point rating scale. This is approximately equivalent to the pain reduction achieved with the use of NSAIDS.

“Low back pain can often be debilitating, leading to missed work, a decreased ability to participate in social and family activities, and chronic conditions. This says nothing of the side effects of medications prescribed.”

This represents an important finding. You can quickly become overwhelmed by the number of interventions available that claim to aid or alleviate low back pain, and very few of them are backed by evidence. But low back pain can often be debilitating, leading to missed work, a decreased ability to participate in social and family activities, and chronic conditions. This says nothing of the side effects of medications prescribed, from ones as benign as gastric irritation to those as dangerous as opioid dependency. Because of this risk, a number of conservative treatments, such as spinal manipulation, need to be considered. Also worth examination is an intervention known as percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (PENS).

Michelle Ostrander, PhD, Product Manager, Medical Technology Directory