Harmonized (Natural) versus Suppressive (Artificial) Treatments for Low Back Pain

When it comes to low back pain, there are so many treatment options available that it can get confusing in determining the correct treatment approach. This is true for many conditions, but especially so for back pain. Particularly when the primary cause of back pain is only known for 1 out of every 10 patients(1).

Adding to the confusion is the need to discern whether or not a recommended treatment or therapy is really in your best interests. Is the treatment just the way all back pain has always been treated, or is it truly the best option for your specific condition? Sometimes it even feels like you have to wonder if a treatment option is being recommended because it’s in the best interests of the medical professionals (whose livelihoods depend on performing expensive procedures). For example: 

  • The use of spinal injections has grown rapidly. One study reported a 629% increase in Medicare expenditures over the previous decade(2).

  • Spinal fusion for lower back pain increased 67 percent between 2001 and 2011(3) despite that there’s strong evidence that lumbar fusions are not more effective than conservative treatments(4).

While your physician can recommend a treatment option for your specific condition, it’s really up to you to be your own advocate. You should ask questions and consider exploring all the different treatment alternatives. One important factor to consider: Does the therapy work “in harmony” with the body’s natural function, or does it artificially limit or suppress the body’s normal function to provide a temporary solution. Other factors include: how long the treatment might work, future impacts on the body’s ability to function or potential limitations, and of course costs. For example:

  • The BioBack is designed to engage the abdominal muscles and support your body’s natural core “bracing” function. BioBack’s “opposing forces compression” enhances or re-activates the way abdominal and lumbar muscles work together to reduce strain on lower back muscles. BioBack also provides support and encourages neutral spine posture.

  • Chiropractic care is another natural therapy. Chiropractors make adjustments to the muscles and/or joints that have shifted out of balance, helping the body to maintain an improved alignment and proper functioning.

  • Treatments such as TENS units, nerve blocks, or spinal injections are designed to suppress normal functioning. While dampening the nerves (pain receptor) function may effectively relieve pain for a period of time, like drugs these treatments simply mask the pain and are generally temporary.

  • Lumbar or spinal fusions, as the name implies actually fuse segments of the spine together, limiting movement and clearly limiting normal function. In many cases, a fusion will shift stress to another area of the spine (above or below the fusion) with the potential for future issues.

As you determine what treatment option is right for you, make sure you (and your doctor) have considered how the treatment works (with or against your body) and keep in mind that natural treatment options are typically effective, less invasive and also generally less expensive.

(1) American Academy of Family Physicians (2007) Nonspecific Low Back Pain and Return to Work. [Online] Available from: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/1115/p1497.html

(2) Deyo R. A. et al (2009) Overtreating Chronic Back Pain: Time to Back Off?. [Online] Available from: http://www.jabfm.org/content/22/1/62.full

(3) The Dartmouth Institute (2014) Treatment of Spinal Stenosis Shows Vast Regional Variance. (Online) Available from http://tdi.dartmouth.edu/press/press-releases/treatment-of-spinal-stenosis-shows-vast-regional-variance 

(4) Saltychev M. et all (2014) Lumbar fusion compared with conservative treatment in patients with chronic low back pain: a meta-analysis. (Online) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23820296