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The American Osteopathic Association Encourages Patients Not to Assume the Worst, Even if Pain is Intense
CHICAGO—January 26, 2016—Patients with new, acute back pain are calling physicians’ offices across the East Coast, illustrating the high personal cost of digging out from winter storm Jonas. Many are concerned that treating their injuries will require expensive tests or surgery, but that’s typically not the case, according to the American Osteopathic Association.
While new or sudden onset back pain is cause for concern, patients shouldn’t assume that their condition will cost thousands to diagnose or be difficult to treat, according to Jennifer Caudle, DO, assistant professor of family medicine at Rowan University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Caudle urges her patients to start with over-the-counter medication and home treatment for relief while waiting for an evaluation from their doctor.
“The severity of pain is not always indicative of the seriousness of the injury,” explained Dr. Caudle.
Non-specific low back pain caused by overuse injuries are common following big winter storms and can often be treated with ice and over-the-counter medications. Many patients can get relief with gentle stretching and a few days of being careful not to overtax painful muscles.
For more debilitating or ongoing pain, it’s important to see your physician to pinpoint the cause of the discomfort. “The pain in your back may actually be coming from neck or leg strain, which an osteopathic physician can determine in the office. But you won’t know that icing your neck will improve your back pain if it isn’t properly diagnosed,” Dr. Caudle explained.
In most cases, X-rays and MRIs aren’t necessary. However, a physical exam will help your doctor determine if additional testing is needed. The key to effective treatment lies in accurate identification of the source of the back pain, which surprisingly may not be the back.
Healing the Hurt
If treatment is needed, osteopathic manipulative treatment, practiced exclusively by DOs, is clinically proven to provide drug-free pain relief for low back pain. If your physician doesn’t offer OMT, he or she may be able to refer you to a DO provider.
“Besides the training to pinpoint the source of back pain, one of the unique differentiators of osteopathic medicine is osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). Clinical studies have shown OMT to be an effective, drug-free method for treating back pain,” Dr. Caudle noted.
Opioids, a highly addictive class of pain medication, are not necessary for most back pain patients, she added, because soft tissue injuries tend to respond better to treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications and pain relievers.
Fortunately, non-specific back pain is known for disappearing as quickly as it arrived. Time is an effective remedy, Dr. Caudle noted, with the majority of patients resuming their usual activities in three to six weeks.
Prevention is the best medicine, and in the case of shoveling snow, a dose of patience is just what the doctor ordered.
Shoveling heavy snow is equivalent to lifting weights in freezing temperatures and should be approached with caution, noted Dr. Caudle. She recommends tackling snow in stages so that muscles and the cardiovascular system are not overwhelmed, and selecting a smaller shovel to limit the weight.
“Pain is the body’s way of communicating with us,” Dr. Caudle added. “Fortunately, with the right support, it can be managed effectively.”
About the AOA
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 123,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; and is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools. To learn more, visit www.DoctorsThatDO.org.