Lower back pain is a common, chronic condition that shows no sign of abating. Desk workers hunched over computers and people who are overweight frequently develop aching backs. The condition often is accompanied by related comorbidity factors, the worst of which may be opioid addiction. The global obsession with smartphones suggests the incidence of text neck and lower back pain will only increase in the decades to come. According to the latest CDC figures, 8.15% or approximately 11.9 million U.S. adults have frequent, severe back pain. Of that number, roughly 8.3 million people or 5.68% of the adult population have back pain attributed to their work. Patients seeking relief from back pain contribute to the rising use of opioids in the United States, according to the American Medical Association Journal, which also stated that the net benefit of opioid treatment was inferior to non-opioid treatments.

Hinge Health recently published a report in Nature Journal Digital Medicine that results for the company’s digital musculoskeletal care program. Patients who followed the treatment demonstrated dramatically reduced chronic back pain and disability. The Hinge Health exercise regimen calls for 15-minutes personalized workouts of stretching and exercising, performed just three times per week. In the 12-week study, test subjects also engaged in the program’s education and behavioral coaching components. The test group had vastly better results than a control group; participants reduced chronic low back pain by an average of 62% and improved daily life impact by 64%, using standard clinical measurement methods. The control group, on the other hand, scored only 3% pain improvement and a 9% daily life impact increase on average.

Rather than just sending patients to a physical therapist or a personal trainer at a gym with a prescription or suggestions for rehab and strengthening, the Hinge Health combination of moderate intensity at-home exercise accompanied by individualized behavioral coaching did the trick for participants. The startling difference in results begs additional studies to determine the validity and reliability of the Hinge Health program. At the same time, a non-pharma approach to an increasingly prevalent health problem that also exacerbates opioid abuse could be a much-needed call for a different approach.