According to a study conducted by Mayo Clinic, more adults in the United States visit the doctor for back problems each year than for almost any other medical issue. Whether that back pain resulted from a recent muscle strain … an old, unresolved injury … or a chronic condition, many people’s first response is to pop a painkiller. But studies show that the pills are unlikely to alleviate back pain, and may cause additional problems. Read on to learn what really works.
Pain Killers Can’t Kill Back Pain
Thorough testing reveals that common painkillers like aspirin … Aleve … Advil … and Tylenol fail to treat back pain for most people. A recent review found that only one out of every six people found that taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), the most common class of over-the-counter painkiller, effectively addressed their back pain.
The researchers stated that not only did over-the-counter painkillers fail to ease back pain, but they also may cause gastrointestinal issues. They arrived at the conclusion after tracking the experiences of roughly 6,000 individuals. “Commonly used NSAIDs have only small effects on pain relief and improvement of function,” said lead author Gustavo Machado, a research fellow at the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Australia. Machado and his fellow investigators also found that participants taking the NSAIDs were 2.5 times more likely to experience gastrointestinal side effects than those taking the placebo.
The review was focused on over-the-counter painkillers, not opioids like OxyContin, but Machado said that related research done by the institute indicates those are also ineffective.
5 Proven Ways to Treat Back Pain
If you’re dealing with back pain, you might want to try one of these 5 methods, all of which are proven to be more effective than pain pills.
- Yoga: A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that when individuals who suffered from low-back pain took a weekly yoga class, they saw greater improvements in function after three months than those who received conventional medication.
- Massage: Another option shown to work well for individuals with chronic low-back pain? Weekly massages. Individuals reported a reduction in ongoing pain levels after just ten weeks, according to a separate study also published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
- Talk therapy: Can simply talking about back pain cure it? According to one U.K. study, the answer to that question might be yes. Back pain sufferers who went to group cognitive behavioral therapy sessions for 90 minutes a week reported lower levels of pain after six weeks. After a year, nearly 60 percent of participants reported that their pain had been completely cured!
- Stress reduction: One reason why talk therapy might help to treat back pain is that negative thoughts and anxiety can be an underlying cause of the condition, according to one European study. Finding strategies to reduce your stress and increase your happiness could be the key to resolving lingering back pain.
- Comfrey root: According to a 2009 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a comfrey root ointment can quickly and effectively relive back pain. Participants reported that after using the ointment for just five days, the intensity of their back pain decreased by 95%!