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By: Dr. Donna A. Pontoriero, Chiropractor

In 2017, more than 30,000 Americans will die from opioid overdoses. Opioid prescribing is common among people with back pain, with almost 20 percent receiving long-term opioid prescriptions.

Her's the outrageous part: All these opioids were being prescribed before we actually knew if they helped people with chronic lower back pain. It gets worse: Now high-quality evidence is coming in, and opioids don't actually help many patients with chronic low back pain.

A recent trial was the first to compare the long-term use of opioids versus non-opioid medications (such as anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen) for low back pain. After a year, the researchers found opioids did not improve patients' pain or function, and the people on opioids were actually in slightly more pain compared to the non-opioid group (perhaps the result of "opioid-induced hyperalgesia" -- heightened pain brought on by these drugs).

Steroid injections for back pain, another popular medical treatment, tend to have similarly lackluster results: They improve pain slightly in the short term, but the effects dissipate within a few months. They also don't improve patients' long-term health outcomes.

It's not entirely surprising that the surgeries, injections, and prescription drugs often fail, considering what researchers are now learning about back pain.

The best alternative: Doctors of Chiropractic (Chiropractors). Chiropractors are trained in alleviating lower-back pain and specialize in doing so. They can offer a range of non-drug therapies for back pain and recommend exercises and important lifestyle changes to help prevent future back pain and injury.

Please contact our office if you would like further evaluation on your condition.

Dr. Donna Pontoriero can be reached at 299 Franklin Ave, Nutley NJ 07110, 973-235-9393.