New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA, suggests that some of the standard steps taken when it comes to treating lower back pain may be as helpful as previously thought. Traditionally, the advice has been to wait a week or two to see if the pain goes away on its own. If not, it’s often recommended that patients pursue physical therapy as quickly as possible. However, the authors of this study found that there is no clinically significant evidence supporting the idea that patients benefit from a quick move into physical therapy.
When evaluating findings like these — which sound relatively black and white — it’s important to remember that when it comes to different people’s individual health needs, there are many shades of gray. While these findings present something significant to consider when it comes to treating lower back pain, it’s important to keep in mind that “one size fits all” care often doesn’t fit every single patient. A unique treatment plan will take into account a wide range of factors relating to your specific condition, your overall health, and your specific needs (for example, the demands of your work).
With this new knowledge, doctors may recommend that patients wait a longer time before pursuing physical therapy. In other cases though — for example, if the lower back pain is the result of a sports injury — patients may still benefit from going straight into physical therapy. Some injuries can become more serious if left untreated, while other problems will likely require a more intensive form of treatment. Again, it all comes down to getting an accurate diagnosis and working with physicians who will work with you as a person, not just a set of symptoms, to move forward with an individualized treatment plan.
If you are experiencing intractable lower back pain, it’s important to get a professional opinion. While pain that resolves within two weeks may simply have been a minor problem, like a muscle strain, pain that lasts longer should cause concern. Even if longer-lasting pain subsides, if the issue has not been properly addressed it’s possible that you could be setting yourself up for a larger problem down the line.
Remember that when it comes to health, you are your own best advocate. Examining research and studies can help you to better understand your options, but the findings in these articles aren’t set in stone. Working with physicians who can provide coordinated care and help you to make informed decisions about your health is key to finding the treatment options that will work best for you. Want to work with a team that’s dedicated to helping patients get back their lives? Call the Spine Institute Northwest at 206-496-0630.