Lower Back Pain Treatment Options: Physical Therapy vs Opioids

Lower Back Pain Treatment Options: Physical Therapy vs Opioids hover background

Jun 05

Looking at lower back pain treatment options? Often, people who suffer from chronic lower back pain tend to get modest and short term pain relief when they use opioids. However, according to JAMA Internal Medicine, May 23, 2016, based on the research conducted on “efficacy, tolerability as well as dose-dependent effects of opioid-analgesics for low back-pain” on nearly 8,000 participants, a result of 20 trials revealed that when it comes to opioids’ long-term treatment, there is no evidence to support its effectiveness.

In addition, with reference to The New York Times, May 25, 2016 on “opioids often ineffectiveness for low-back pains” it was revealed that opioids only relieve pain slightly though its effects weren’t clinically significant and their effectiveness towards disability improvement were minimal.

However, there was some evidence that showed larger doses could work better though most trials tend to have high dropout rates with some as high as 75% due to adverse side effects or even inefficacy.

Both the JAMA Internal Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have urged patients suffering from low back pain to reduce opioids usage mostly for long-term pain management and instead use safer alternatives such as physical therapy.

[ Related article: Physical Therapy Helps Combat Opioid Crisis In Arizona ]

Lower Back Pain Treatment Options: Physical Therapy vs Opioids

Apart from physical therapy being the best option for lower back pain, it is also budget friendly in the long term. In addition, reliance on opioid painkillers carry their own risks.

Lower Back Pain Treatment Options: Benefits of Physical Therapy

Based on research conducted by the University of Washington, Seattle and George Washington University, Washington, D.C. on more than 150,000 in regards to commercial health insurance,  patients who went physical therapy earlier before trying other modes of treatment had:

  • a 89% lower probability of finally needing an opioid prescriptions
  • a 28% lower probability of going through any advanced imaging services
  • a 15% lower probability of visiting ER once or more

However, some patients fail to begin with physical therapy due to health insurance restrictions, lack of insurance or as a result of high co-payments. Despite all these, physical therapy can reduce a patient’s pain as well as improve their movement.

[Related article: Spinal Cord Injury & Physical Therapy ]

Often, therapists guide patients through various exercise regimens which strengthen their muscles as well as help develop control over patients’ movements and improve their posture as well.

Lower Back Pain Treatment Options: Side Effects of Opioid Use

Opioids are commonly prescribed to help treat different types of pain. When abused or not administered correctly, opioids carry the risk of these side effects and more:

  • Addiction
  • Cravings
  • Sweating
  • Discontentment
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea
  • And more

[ Related article: More Americans Are Choosing Physical Therapy Over Painkillers ]

Lower Back Pain Treatment Options: What’s The Verdict?

For lower back pain treatment options, physical therapy is the best choice. Opioids only help reduce pain temporarily, thus it’s a short term treatment with high risks associated to it.

When it comes to long term treatment, physical therapy is the most preferred option since, if a patient makes a first visit to the physical therapist, they will be able to identify serious problems causing your lower back pain.

In addition, based on those who seek first treatment on physical therapy, there was a dramatic decrease on chances of being prescribed with opioids for pain. Henceforth, physical therapy is a better way to help patients suffering from lower back pain manage pain as well as prevent it from reoccurring in the future.

Our Physical Therapists Can Help

If you are looking for a physical therapists that specializes in this area, contact us today.

Our therapists can provide patients with ideas on movements, exercise and ways of living so as to prevent your lower back pain from worsening or reoccurring.

In addition, we can provide non-invasive treatment, that can include heat, massage, dry needling, as well as physical therapy as the first option for defense against lower back pain.


Queen Creek Location
21321 E. Ocotillo Rd., Suite 122
Queen Creek, AZ 85142
Ph: 480.987.1870
F: 480.987.9289

3201 W. Peoria Ave., Suite D800
Phoenix, AZ 85029
Ph: 602.866.2231
F: 602.866.2261