Back pain can be sudden or gradual; mild or debilitating. As we have mentioned in previous posts the treatment for back pain depends on the precise cause of the pain as well as how much it interferes with your quality of life.
Since many forms of lower back pain are mechanical and not caused by any specific illness or debilitation, their treatment often involves over-the-counter pain medication, healthy lifestyle changes and alternative therapies.
Let’s discuss the typical treatments for chronic back pain.
Over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and NSAIDs are the most commonly recommended drugs to help back pain sufferers. These medications help control pain and inflammation when it flares up. These drugs are not to be taken without caution, however. They, too, have side effects and should only be used when necessary.
In some cases, a pain management specialist may prescribe a prescription medication such as an opioid painkiller, muscle relaxant, or anticonvulsant.
Physical therapy focuses on the prevention of injuries and disabilities, as well as decreasing pain. Physical therapists use various forms of passive or active therapy, such as the application of cold/hot packs and massaging the affected area to relieve pain. Physical therapy is also used to strengthen the core muscles to lower the risk of subsequent injuries and helps patients by utilizing a variety of strengthening activities, stretching exercises and low-impact aerobic conditioning.
Diet and Exercise
Since many causes of back pain can be attributed to lifestyle choices, many patients are urged to make better choices when it comes to eating, increasing their physical activity, and quitting harmful habits like smoking and drinking excessive alcohol. Losing weight from an improved diet will take excess stress off an already strained back. Fresh fruits and vegetables also contain essential nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants that can naturally reduce pain and inflammation. Exercise will strengthen the muscles and make them less vulnerable to injury.
Chiropractic care is a common treatment for those with back pain, especially when the pain is from a sports injury, muscle strain or accident. Chiropractic care is effective at re-aligning the body’s musculoskeletal system, relieving pain in the joints, bones and muscles and helping the body to heal without the need for surgery. Safe and effective, this treatment can also help with neck pain and headaches.
Acupuncture is another form of alternative therapy that is relatively safe and effective. This therapy releases natural painkillers in the body to alleviate back pain, and it can affect the function of nerve impulses
Axial (spine) Injection Therapy
Axial (spinal) injections are used for diagnostic purposes and to direct treatment options. A solution containing local anesthetic and/or anti-inflammatory steroid is injected into very precise areas such as the epidural space or the small joints in the back, using x-ray guidance. There are different types of injections available, such as therapeutic and diagnostic injections. While each injection serves a unique purpose, they all involve injecting nerve-numbing and/or anti-inflammatory medicine into a specific area of the body to help develop an effective plan to alleviate your pain.
TENS and Spinal Cord Stimulators
TENS is a form of electrical stimulation that is used for pain management. This type of therapy involves placing a small, battery operated device on the affected areas, and delivers low-voltage electrical currents. The currents send signals to the brain that may temporarily attenuate chronic or acute pain symptoms from the affected area. Pain reduction from TENS may be modest, and may not continue long after the device is removed. Spinal Cord Stimulation is a newer treatment that also uses electrical stimulation to reduce pain and can provide stronger relief over a much longer period of time than TENS.
Surgery is only advised in extreme cases when all other treatment options have failed. While surgery certainly has its benefits, there are many risks to consider as well, especially compared to alternative therapies like acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments. If the doctor and patient find that back surgery is right for them, the patient may enjoy a range of benefits such as increased activity, better physical fitness, enhanced mood, increased productivity and less reliance on medication.
No two patients with back pain are the same, which is why there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s important that you speak with your doctor about what options are available to you and how you can best treat your pain with the lowest risks and greatest results. The good news is that many patients are able to achieve pain relief by following simple lifestyle changes like developing a healthier diet, introducing low-impact exercises and at-home remedies like hot/cold therapy and OTC medications.