Chronic lower back pain is one of the most common afflictions faced by Americans today. While a major quality of life issue, lower back pain isn’t in and of itself a serious condition… but the mistreatment commonly applied to people who have it is.
Maybe you’ve felt it for a day or two. Maybe you’ve been dealing with it for weeks, months, or years. Either way, it’s rare to find a person who doesn’t have some idea of how awful it is to be struck by lower back pain that just won’t go away. It can feel like no position is comfortable, no combination of hot or cold works, and that focusing on anything other than the excruciating sensation is impossible. In fact, that’s why experts estimate that a whopping 3 million years of productive life is drained off the workforce due to lower back pain… each year!
Yes, you read that right. Thanks to productivity losses while dealing with chronic pain, as well as time completely missed from work, lower back pain is that much of a thorn in the side of Americans. Worse yet, it’s notoriously difficult to pin down what causes lower back pain (in fact, some experts believe there may not always be a cause at all). However, some risk factors for chronic back pain have been identified: smoking, obesity, and physically demanding jobs lead the pack as predictors for experiencing moderate to severe back pain.
Considering back pain isn’t necessarily part of a larger, more serious biological problem, you might think that the issue of lower back discomfort is more of an inconvenience or annoyance than anything. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. In the United States, lower back pain patients are being prescribed powerful opioids to help manage the pain at a shocking rate.
Remember, opioids are much, much different than over the counter pain medications; and they’re actually much different from some prescription pain medications, as well. Opioids can be thought of as the “front line” of pain treatment, because they just work so darn well at easing even severe pain. However, their efficacy comes at a cost. Opioids are notorious for instilling a sense of well-being and pleasantness in addition to their intended effect, and this leads many unsuspecting people who were prescribed a bottle to fall into desperate opioid addiction. And because opioids are easy to overdose — and die — from, these medicines are tearing families apart from the rural south to the coastal metropolises.
Opioid addiction is so bad in this country that it’s been categorized as an epidemic. In order to start making progress against this epidemic, doctors across America need to follow stricter prescribing guidelines to ensure that opioids only fall into the hands of those who truly need them the most. There are a ton of alternative treatment plans for lower back pain that don’t need to immediately jump to the most powerful option, including exercise, physical therapy, and less powerful painkillers.
So, if you’re one of the many experiencing lower back pain, be an active participant in your own medical care by making sure that you don’t start down a vicious cycle of opiates. Other treatment options are out there, and they should always be pursued first.