Lower Back Pain Often Treated Incorrectly, Research Finds

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. look into / lʊk ˈɪn tu / (phrasal) – to examine an issue

    The doctor looked into the patient’s medical history before recommending any treatment.

  2. backed / bækt / (adj) – supported by something

    The new treatment is backed by several studies.

  3. chronic / ˈkrɒn ɪk / (adj) – continuing for a long time

    His chronic heart disease prevented him from participating in sports since he was young.

  4. misuse / mɪsˈyus / (n) – the improper or incorrect use of something

    Antibiotic misuse can lead to serious health issues.

  5. resort / rɪˈzɔrt / (n) – someone or something that people go to for help

    The doctor said I should try other treatments first and that surgery should be my last resort.


Read the text below.

Lower back pain is usually being treated incorrectly, a new research has found.

A series of reports published in the medical journal The Lancet looked into the ways doctors around the world treat lower back pain. According to Nadine Foster, one of the lead authors, doctors rarely prescribe exercising—a research-backed treatment to the condition. Instead, they usually prescribe painkillers, which only have short-term benefits.

The reports also revealed that the United States has the highest number of patients being improperly treated with opioids / ˈoʊ piˌɔɪds /, which are painkillers that can be addictive, for lower back pain. Over 60% of people suffering from lower back pain in the country use this drug as treatment.

The increase in wrongly prescribed opioids for chronic lower back pain has aggravated the opioid crisis in the country. According to the researchers, the misuse of the drug for treating chronic pain in the past 20 years has led to the increase in cases of addiction to and even death from opioids.

To avoid these negative effects, the reports emphasized the importance of treating lower back pain using proven methods.

Previously, the American College of Physicians (ACP) released a guideline on the proper treatment of lower back pain. It suggests therapies like massage, acupuncture, and other non-invasive methods to people who experience short-term lower back pain. Meanwhile, the guideline recommends non-drug approaches such as exercise and other low-intensity physical activities like tai chi and yoga for those with chronic lower back pain.

The guideline also indicated that painkillers should be used only if these non-drug treatments are ineffective, and that opioids should only be a last resort.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Despite research against misuse of painkillers, why do you think some doctors still prescribe them?
• Would you resort to using opioids for treating chronic pain? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Do you think that people in your country receive proper medical treatment? Explain your answer.
• Why is it important to be educated on proper medical treatment?