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Experts Available: Back Pain is Overtreated and Overmedicated

Last updated: 04-24-2020

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Experts Available: Back Pain is Overtreated and Overmedicated

Newswise — When it comes to treating lower back pain, Americans tend to rely too heavily on interventions such as injections and surgery, when less invasive methods often work better. Studies have shown that staying active, massage, and being educated about what to do and what to expect are a few of the treatments that are more likely to set pain sufferers onto the road to recovery, say a group of international experts.

That’s not the only misperception on the subject of lower back pain. Experts cite an overreliance on strong pain relievers, including opioids, when guidelines specify starting slow. Recommendations are for using the smallest dose of the safest medications for the shortest period of time.

These evidence-based guidelines and more are detailed in “Prevention and treatment of low back pain: evidence, challenges, and promising directions”, one of a series of three papers discussing the worldwide health issue. The Low Back Pain Series will be published online in the medical journal, The Lancet on March 21.

Lower back pain is the number one cause of disability worldwide, and 80% of Americans will experience the nagging ache during their lifetime. Because these numbers have only continued to rise in recent years, a group of leading experts are bringing attention to the issue and calling for changes in medical practice, workplace education, and disability policies.

The following experts are co-authors of the prevention and treatment publication and are available for interview:

Julie Fritz, PhD, PT, is a professor of physical therapy and the associate dean for research in the College of Health at the University of Utah. She is a licensed physical therapist and an expert on multiple aspects of back pain including exercise and back pain, recovery, cost, and evaluating interventions. Currently she is co-leading a federally funded six-year, $6.5 million investigation evaluating holistic approaches to back pain, including patient education, sleep management, exercise and stress reduction. Listen to an interview with Dr. Fritz.

Judith Turner, PhD, Judith Turner, PhD, is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine and treats patients at the University of Washington Center for Pain Relief. She is the president of the International Association for the Study of Pain and has been engaged in research on back pain throughout her career. She is a clinical psychologist who offers her patients cognitive-behavioral therapy, which enables patients to learn skills for effectively managing their pain and reversing the negative impact pain has on their lives. She helps patients to learn and apply behavioral and mental techniques effective in improving pain, sleep, psychological distress, and ability to participate in meaningful and pleasurable activities. 

Roger Chou, M.D.,is director of the Pacific Northwest Evidence-based Practice Center atOregon Health & Science University.His research interests are systematic review methodology, meta-analysis, screening and preventive services, guideline development, and drug effectiveness. He has conducted systematic reviews in a number of areas, including chronic pain, screening and prevention, diagnostic testing, and prognosis, and has served as Director of the American Pain Society clinical guidelines program. In 2016, he co-authored a set of opioid-prescribing guidelines adopted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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