Lower Back Pain Treatment Options
Epidural steroid injections, a treatment option to relieve lower back pain, have shown variable results. An analysis of 12 randomized clinical trials showed that epidural steroid was no better or worse than the reference treatment (Koes, et al. 1995). In a randomized, controlled clinical study at the University of Maryland (Annals of Internal Medicine, 2005), it was shown that acupuncture was more effective than injections.
The efficacy of lumbar surgery as a back pain treatment option compared to non-operative treatment has also recently been called into question (Weinstein, et al. 2006). Non-invasive adjunctive therapies such as corsets and braces have also been used, although their efficacy has not been demonstrated in methodologically sound studies (Walsh and Schwartz 1990). In non-controlled studies, however, up to 89% of patients report benefit from such therapies.
Other chronic lower back pain treatment options include transcutaneous nerve stimulator devices (TENS) and various electromagnetic stimulation protocols. Both treatments have had varied results. In fact, TENS treatment has little effect above placebo in patients with chronic low back pain (Brosseau, et al. 2002). Despite the equivocal results from TENS clinical studies for lower back pain, it is clear that weak, non-ionizing electromagnetic fields can exert a wide range of beneficial medical effects (Ieran, et al., 1990; D. Foley-Nolan, et al, 1990).
It is important to note that the reported positive results have been with low energy, low wavelength treatments; however, these technologies have been cumbersome, requiring expensive equipment residing in medical facilities (such as pulsed electromagnetic therapy, or PEMF).
With the advent of inexpensive, self-administered semi-conductor technology, the use of low level energy to relieve pain is possible.