Lower back pain is, arguably, the most prevalent ailment people suffer from around the world. According to a University of North Carolina study, 80 percent of all Americans will experience lower back pain at some point in their life. The costs in the US alone, from lower back injuries, exceeds $100 billion dollars a year. Most of the loss is in productivity and work hours from injured workers.

In Australia, lower back pain is the No. 1 reason people have to retire early. The inability to work means decreased wages and income for many people.

For decades, the response of the medical community has been to treat lower back pain with anti-inflammatories or opioids.

A study by University Of Sydney researchers examined the current responses of medical communities around the world when dealing with lower back pain.

New drug-free therapies for lower back pain

The study found patients reporting lower back pain to their doctors may be given a list of exercises to do instead of pain medication. Science Daily reports new protocols are being used by doctors around the world to combat lower back pain.

One of the protocols is to teach the patient exercises for strengthening and stretching the back muscles.

The hope is patients will do the exercises instead of taking medications to alleviate the pain. Doctors and researchers hope the new protocol will aid in cutting back on opioid abuse.

Also, long-term studies show pain medication, including anti-inflammatories, are remarkably ineffective for alleviating back pain.

Here is a video that provides information on exercises specifically designed to aid in the relief of back pain.

What alternatives are doctors recommending?

According to the guidelines of the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the US-based American College of Physicians, doctors are encouraged to recommend activities such as yoga, mindfulness, and meditation to patients with lower back pain.

The recommendations are for the initial treatment of the pain. If the exercises and other therapies don’t work, doctors may turn to more traditional therapies, including prescribing medications or performing surgeries.

However, the use of medication isn’t considered a long-term solution.

New treatment doesn’t cost less initially

While many physicians are happy with the new guidelines and doing exercises may sound less expensive than taking medication, it isn’t.

Dr. Adrian Traeger, the lead author of the University of Sydney research, said it is cheaper for medical systems to prescribe a painkiller than it is to have a patient attend long-term physical therapy. However, in the face of a growing worldwide opioid problem, having patients do exercises instead of turning to powerful and addictive medications may be the less expensive option for the long run.