The next time you go to your doctor for low back pain, don’t be surprised to leave with a “prescription” for a massage or yoga instead of pain pills. New guidelines from the American College of Physicians recommend trying drug-free strategies first.

The guidelines say you should start with the safest treatment options—and that means nondrug approaches. They have a lower risk for side effects than medications.

Work with your doctor to find the best pain-control strategy for you. Studies show that these approaches can ease some types of low back pain:

  • Heat wraps
  • Exercise
  • Acupuncture
  • Mindfulness strategies

Although the evidence is weaker, other approaches may also be helpful, including:

  • Massage
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
  • Spinal manipulation (by a health professional)

If drug-free approaches don’t bring enough relief, talk with your doctor. Medication options include ibuprofen and muscle relaxants.

Opioid pain relievers have serious risks, including side effects and addiction. The guidelines say they should be considered only as a last resort.

Relax for Pain Relief

Progressive relaxation is another approach that may be helpful. Want to give it a try? Follow along with the video at




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