Pain of the lower back can limit movement and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. About 31 million Americans today experience lower-back pain at any given time. Experts estimate that as much as 80 percent of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives.
Being such a prevalent issue, many methods and remedies for relieving back pain have been developed. One such treatment involves the use of electrical currents being sent directly into the spinal nerves, called radiofrequency denervation. It eases pain arising from joints in the spine and has become increasingly popular.
However, new research into radiofrequency denervation has found that this form of electrical shock therapy does no more than strength and mobility exercises.
“Our findings do not support the added value of radiofrequency denervation to a standardized exercise program. Based on our results, a standardized exercise program alone has to be the first choice in the treatment of these patients, ” said study author Esther Maas, who conducted the investigation while at Vrije University in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
The study in question involved 681 individuals with chronic lower back pain across three clinical trials. These patients were not responsive to conservative treatment—medication and physical therapy.
Each received a standardized exercise program for three months and psychological support if needed. Randomly selected patients received radiofrequency denervation alongside their exercise program.
After the three-month period, no observable difference or differences in pain levels was found in those receiving radiofrequency denervation.
Instead, the researchers suggest improving core strength though plank exercises and quadricep strengthening by performing lunges or wall sits. Promoting flexibility in the hamstrings is also recommended.
Not all exercises are beneficial, say the researchers, as performing crunches or sit-ups to strengthen the abdominal muscles may aggravate lower back pain.
The researchers stress that more research is needed to find the best treatment option for those suffering from lower back pain. They recognize the expressed need to help these individuals and hope that studies like theirs will help steer lower back pain suffers toward the best treatment.