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Is There a Perfect Formula to Cure Low Back Pain?

If you’ve ever suffered from a bout of low back pain, then you know that finding relief is often any patient’s main goal. And with low back pain sending 2.5 million Americans to hospital emergency rooms every year, that’s a lot of patients seeking treatment options to relieve the pain.


Medications—or combinations of medications—are often the standard of care for low back pain, particularly in the emergency department setting. But according to recent research, including an Annals of Emergency Medicine study, certain commonly prescribed combinations of drugs proved no more effective in alleviating pain than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs alone or no medications at all. Besides proving relatively ineffective in managing back pain, some commonly prescribed medications come with a long list of side effects from drowsiness to nausea for many patients.


What about surgery? As it turns out, researchers have found that some surgical procedures for back pain are no more effective than sham procedures (used as a scientific control in clinical studies, these faked surgical procedures omit the step thought to be therapeutically necessary). In fact, a study that published in the journal Pain Medicine revealed comparable long-term outcomes regardless of whether patients were assigned to the procedure or sham procedure cohort.

Of course, there is a time and place for surgery and sometime that is the best option for the individual. Everything is person dependent.

Physical Therapy

Luckily, patients are beginning to see the benefits of pursuing safe alternatives to medications and surgery. A physical therapy regimen for low back pain is designed to reduce soft tissue pain, improve function and build muscle strength.

Although studies show that the long-term outcomes of surgery and physical therapy are similar for the low back pain patient population, the short-term risks differ. Surgical procedures for low back pain are invasive and like any surgery, come with the risk of infection, nerve damage and blood clots. However, similar outcomes can be achieved with an active, standardized physical therapy regimen without the high price tag and prospect of complications. PTs design programs for low back pain that involve general conditioning, lower extremity strengthening exercises and postural education.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for back pain so patients should work with rehab professionals, doctors and other healthcare practitioners to find the best course of treatment for them.

If you are experiencing low back pain, then give us a call at Advantage Physical Therapy, located in the Falls Church and Arlington, Va region.

About The Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association
Founded in 1956, the Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association champions the success of physical therapist-owned businesses. Our members are leaders and innovators in the health care system. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) represents more than 85,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants and students of physical therapy nationwide. For more information, please visit
Alana Hamilton Alana Hamilton is a physical therapist at Advantage Physical Therapy in Falls Church, Virginia. She is a proud Hokie from Virginia Tech with a major in Biology and a minor in psychology and sociology. Following graduation, she immediately got her doctorate in Physical Therapy from Radford University. She is an avid fan of Pilates, running, and hiking. On the weekends, she can be found hanging out with her family and baby as well as doing Spartan races with her old physical therapy classmates and friends. She is a big believer that during rehabilitation, "Motion is the Lotion" and that staying active is key to remaining healthy.

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