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Is the new way of looking at back injuries a setback for workers?

Job-related lower back injuries are common for almost any industry. From white-collar employees to blue-collar workers, the pain can affect their daily duties. The smallest task can lead to significant pain.

In response to the serious and sometimes deadly epidemic of opiod addiction, doctors nationwide are rethinking their prescription practices.

The American College of Physicians updated their guidelines for noninvasive treatment of people suffering from lower back pain. Instead of prescription medication and over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, first-line therapy should focus on non-pharmacological methods.

Many doctors believe that back pain should take a natural course that does not require medical intervention. As common as the “common cold,” it likely will not lead to anything serious. For people with acute symptoms for four weeks or less, a doctor visit is not needed, unless the pain radiates down the leg.

Treating symptoms that last at least 12 weeks should still not involve pharmacological treatment. The strongest medication that patients should take is aspirin or ibuprofen. Acupuncture and massage therapy are also considered valid options.

Instead of avoiding routine activities, doctors claim that normal daily activity may be the best method. While the temptation for the injured is to shut down and stop doing anything that causes pain, setting goals can return them to an active life, even if a small amount of pain is part of it.

How these recommendations will affect workers’ compensation claims remains unknown. The medical community must do their part to address a serious drug problem. However, methods that do not involve what was once traditional treatment for back pain could be seen as minimizing the severity of the injury and related benefits associated with it.

With clarity from doctors come questions for workers. Can they be required to remain maintain the same pace of activity on the job following an accident? Should they “tough it out” based on a doctor’s recommendation?

It may be a bitter pill for workers to swallow.

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