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Poll: Doctors Are Still Prescribing Lots Of Opioids For Low Back Pain

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Millennials are more apt to treat low back pain themselves, and with treatments like exercise and massage. Getty Images/iStockphoto hide caption

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More than half of people say they’ve suffered lower back pain in the past year, according to the latest NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll.

That’s not a surprise; low back pain is very common, and one of the biggest reasons that people seek medical care. But people told us that they’re making very different choices in how they treat that pain, with some stark differences among age groups and income levels.

And doctors often aren’t giving people advice based on the best medical evidence, instead prescribing treatments that don’t relieve back pain and can expose people to serious risk, including addiction.

Fifty-five percent of people polled said they treated the back pain themselves without going to a doctor. That makes sense; most back pain gets better on its own, and the self-prescribed remedy that people say they reach for more often, over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, can offer some relief without significant risk.

Still, the current advice is stay active and try non-pharmaceutical remedies such as

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