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Doctors provide new advice to treating lower back pain

After a decade or more at a blue collar job, back pain can creep up on even the most careful workers. Injuries to the back and spine can be more debilitating than other "wear and tear" maladies, but because the pain can be gradual, a workers' compensation claim can be harder to prove.

Prescription and over the counter painkillers are often used to "just make the pain go away." Although injuries can be painful, should the pill bottle really be the first resort for workers hurt on the job? New guidelines from the American College of Physicians (ACP) suggest that waiting it out could be a better treatment option than popping pills for back pain.

Guidelines designed to fight America's opioid epidemic

In 2015, doctors across the country wrote approximately 300 million prescriptions for painkillers - nearly one per person in the United States. To add to the problem, 99 percent of doctors exceeded the recommended three-day supply when prescribing painkillers. Although painkillers are a popular option, ACP doctors remind us that their use does nothing to treat the real cause of pain.

Instead, doctors recommend that those experiencing back pain should look for noninvasive, pill-free options when seeking long-term care. Alternative treatments could include exercise, acupuncture, massage therapy or yoga.

Employers may be more open to alternative treatments

When a company is faced with a workers' compensation claim, the first thing they see is an expensive medical bill. Surgery and prescription drug regimens often come with a high price tag, but alternative treatment could cut costs for employers and speed recovery time for workers.

Injured workers should not be discouraged from seeking compensation, and finding a balance between short-term relief and long-term recovery may be a way to provide optimal treatment. Employees will likely be required to see a doctor assigned by their employer to obtain a diagnosis and treatment options for back pain.

After consulting with an employer's doctor, injured workers should seek a second opinion from their primary care physician and ask about the potential for alternative treatment options. Workers should be sure to keep all documents related to treatment plans and out of pocket costs for medical visits.

Documentation of an injury and careful attention to deadlines are often found to be the "make or break" factors in a workers' compensation case. Employees may encounter complex paperwork barriers when filing a claim for a spine injury, which is why workers' compensation attorneys are there to "have the back" of injured parties. 

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