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Prescribing patience for low back pain
August 3, 2020

This article is for all providers caring for our members

With more people working from home at makeshift workstations—like beds, couches, and kitchen islands—you can expect a rise in the number of people who experience low back pain.

Since back pain is one of the most common reasons for a doctor’s visit, you play an important role in diagnosing, treating, and educating our members about this condition.

Patients can often be quick to ask for imaging; however, they may face out-of-pocket costs. As a best practice, you should avoid ordering imaging within the first 28 days of a low back pain diagnosis.

Instead, it’s helpful to set realistic expectations and educate your patient about treatment and prevention. This includes reassuring them that the pain can go away in 2-3 weeks and that an X-ray or MRI is usually not required.

A note about quality:

The Use of Imaging Studies for Low Back Pain (LBP) is a HEDIS measure that looks at adults, ages 18-50, with low back pain who did not have imaging within 28 days of the diagnosis. This HEDIS quality measure is also included as an ambulatory measure in our value-based contracts.

Alternative treatments that can help soothe an aching back

Although there is no single method to prevent future back pain, there are ways to reduce recurring episodes, like focusing on posture, practicing yoga, and doing core exercises to strengthen the lower back. Other options include:

  • Chiropractic care
  • Moderate physical activity
  • Pain relievers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen and medicated back patches)
  • Physical therapy
  • Rest

Keep in mind that several alternative treatments are also covered by member’s benefits—including acupuncture, fitness and weight loss reimbursements, and discounts for wholistic care. 

Resources to help you and your patients manage low back pain