Low Back Pain

Low Back Pain (aka lower back pain and lumbago) is back pain in the lower back that occurs as a result of a musculoskeletal disorder in this area, or as a secondary symptom of a disease (see diseases that cause back pain). 4 out of 5 people experience low back pain in their lifetime, though a much smaller percentage of those people experience it as a chronic condition. Most cases of low back pain are likely resolve on their own within one month, or through conservative measures within a few months. In some cases, though, patients may elect for more invasive treatments (such as spinal surgeries) , or for less conventional treatments.

Conventional vs. alternative therapies for low back pain. The line between conventional versus alternative therapy is becoming more blurred today, as many more doctors are becoming open to holistic therapies (using natural medications and eastern pain treatments) than ever before, and encouraging patient to explore more options other than just pain pills, physical therapy, and surgery. What exactly is considered conventional therapy and alternative therapy? The question and answer is relatively complex. I will give two you three answers to the question that I think will most clearly express the concepts.
  1. Conventional therapies are practiced and encouraged by doctors. These are therapies that your doctor will not try to talk you out of or discouraged.
  2. Conventional therapies are pain for by the average health insurance plan. These therapies include medications that are prescribed for by doctors, medical diagnostic testing (blood tests, medical imaging), physical therapy, injections at pain clinics, and surgery. Chiropractic and acupuncture are covered by some insurance plans, though you would pay a high deductable.

As stated above, conventional treatments are encouraged and prescribed by medical doctors, and "alternative therapies" are more likely to go outside the mainstream, and include natural treatments (natural supplements and foods) and therapies that use "eastern" treatments such as Unani and Acupuncture.

Huh, well, who gets to decide what treatments are conventional and what are considered alternative? You just want to get treated with the one that works right, you don't care which one it is. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins might have said it best with the proclamation, "there is no alternative medicine. There is only medicine that works and medicine that doesn't work."

The conventional therapies used to diagnose back pain include a physician examination, blood testing (to test for the presence of disease), X-Ray, MRI, CT, and bone density scan. The treatments for low back pain include medications to reduce pain and inflammation of joints and muscles (analgesics), medications specific to pain reduction (opoids), treatments at pain management clinics (corticosteroid injections), physical therapy, and surgery when all of the above don't provide significant relief. Alternative therapies include biofeedback, yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, homeopathy, and herbalism. Herbalism is a practice of using plants and plant extracts to provide treatment for pain syndromes. Advantages of herbal therapies are that they are all natural (meaning that they are not synthetically derived, like most prescription medications). Since herbal therapies are all natural, they have no toxicity associated with them and few or no associated side effects, unlike the pharmacy meds.