People who see a doctor for low-back pain are often prescribed opioids (Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet) even though, according to a review of studies published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine, they're clinically ineffective at treating the problem. While in some cases these drugs can provide modest short-term relief, they haven't been shown to increase mobility. In general, the analysis found, opioids work about as well as NSAIDs like ibuprofen. Yet people can quickly build a tolerance or become physically dependent on them—and suffer withdrawal when they stop.

Earlier this year, the American College of Physicians issued new guidelines for noninvasive treatment of chronic low-back pain. Opioids, they say, should be a last resort. First resort? Exercise—in the form of a rehab plan that involves physical therapy as well as movement like tai chi, yoga, or walking (which Deborah does daily). Talk to your doctor about what kind of exercises are best—and worst—for you. If moving is daunting, consider mindfulness-based stress reduction plus the following short-term aids:


A heating wrap may help lessen the severity of acute low-back pain.


Try scheduling a gentle rubdown to take the edge off.


Some people find this can lessen the intensity of pain.

NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen)

In some cases, NSAIDs can help with inflammation, alleviate pain, and improve function; however, they also block fatty acids called prostaglandins, which could cause GI and renal damage. They're best as a short-term solution.

Read More: This Woman Exercised Her Back Pain Away–And You Can, Too and Studies Find that Exercise Might Be the Best Way to Relieve Back Pain


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