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Medicine has no answers to low back pain

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Current treatment options aren’t working, says Prof Martin Underwood from Warwick University, one of the authors of the review. “Quite a lot of people get exposed to high-tech medical and invasive procedures. There’s very little evidence base to support their use.”

But the doctor’s hands are tied by ‘best practice’ guidelines that prevent him from suggesting or prescribing alternatives, such as acupuncture, traction or electrotherapy, the review says.

The best advice for any sufferer is to stay active, which goes against most of the myths surrounding back pain, such as getting plenty of bed rest. Instead, staying active and even bending or lifting (with care, and from the hips and knees) is allowable, and may speed recovery.

Painkillers, on the other hand, won’t help the sufferer, although they can offer relief. The problem is that the drugs can be part of a track that leads to stronger opioid painkillers, which can be highly addictive.

Low back pain should be treated seriously if the sufferer has difficulty passing urine, or has the need to pass urine, impaired sexual function or feeling, numbness in the genitals or buttocks, loss of bladder or bowel control, or loss of power in the legs.

(Source: Lancet, 2018; doi:

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