Back pain is a frustrating condition that many of us suffer at some point in our lives. Chronic pain refers to pain that lasts for at least 3 months or more. It usually starts from a muscle strain as a result of sudden trauma, stress, or accident, or simply due to physical inactivity. Once the condition is persistent, it becomes intolerable and discomforting, affecting your daily routine and overall health.
Chronic back pain may not seem a common issue, but it requires an appropriate treatment program keeping in view the specific condition and medical history of the patient. Although clinical practice guidelines related to surgical intervention in chronic back pain are not clearly defined. Many patients with functional disabilities and severe conditions with recurrent pain are treated through surgery.
Thankfully, non-surgical treatments are preferred in most cases of chronic pain some of which are covered in this article. How do you treat back pain without surgery? We look at some options below.
There is sufficient evidence that supports the use of exercise-directed therapy to treat chronic back pain. In fact, exercise is one of the most important and effective treatments for this condition. For the best results, you need to do it under the guidance of a physician and spine physical therapist.
But it is important to note that not all sets of exercises will work for everyone, advises Nava.
Your exercise program will need to be tailored to your specific condition and resulting symptoms. Continuing with the exercise routine at home will go a long way in helping you realize success.
Physical Therapy For Patients Suffering From Chronic Back Typically Includes:
- Core strengthening
- Aerobic exercises
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Stretching and flexibility exercises
- Testing your pain threshold
Chronic back pain can have a profound impact on both your physical and mental wellbeing. A rehabilitation psychologist can help you manage the stress, depression, irritability, and other psychological effects associated with chronic pain. They might recommend cognitive and relaxation strategies such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, etc., to help distract your mind from the pain.
Certain foods are known to cause inflammation, particularly processed foods, refined sugars, and foods rich in Trans fats. Consider talking to your doctor to determine whether your diet might be aggravating your chronic back pain.
If so, they will advise you on how you can improve it. In addition, it is highly advisable that you maintain a healthy weight as it can help to ease your pain by lowering the pressure on your spine.
If you are suffering from chronic back pain, coming to terms with your limitations and making the necessary changes will be important to your recovery. Nava advises that you listen to your body and try to pace yourself. For instance, when carrying groceries, consider making several trips, and taking periodic breaks when mowing the lawn instead of pushing your body.
This will not only help to provide some relief to your pain, but it will also help to prevent an underlying condition from getting worse.
Also, if you have a smoking habit, it might be time to think about stopping. This is due to the fact that nicotine has been found to increase pain sensitivity and reduce healing.
Prescription medications including muscle relaxants, analgesics, and anti-inflammatory drugs are commonly used to manage chronic back pain. But on the downside, they come with adverse side effects and aren’t ideal for prolonged use.
Opioid medications need not be recommended as the first or the only or the long-term line of chronic back pain treatment, advises Nava. Most of these medications are not only highly addictive, but they also don’t address the root cause of your problem.
Opioid medications should only be prescribed after a comprehensive exam by a specialist and in cases where other drugs haven’t worked. In case you find yourself heavily relying on opioids to cope with the day, you need to get a second opinion.
There are many different types of injection-based treatments available for chronic back pain. These include nerve ablations, epidural steroid injections, nerve blocks, and so on. These types of procedures are recommended when the source of pain has been identified. They can also be used to rule out certain causes, should the recommended treatment not work.
While they are not meant to provide a long-term solution to the pain, injections help to stop or alleviate the pain for a limited duration of time. As such, they are used to supplement other forms of treatment.
Non-surgical treatments such as massage, laser therapy, acupuncture, electric nerve stimulation, and biofeedback therapy among many others can go a long way in your recovery. Try retraining your posture and testing the limit of pain tolerance as indicated before.
Once you have tried stretching exercises and heating pads, consider using some homemade ointments or synthetic gels, sprays, and relief creams.
These contain natural ingredients obtained from plant extracts that have been used for hundreds of years to ease pain and discomfort in the back and reduce inflammation. The key benefit of these gels and creams is their easy and controllable application and instant relief effect. Consult a spine specialist to see what alternative treatment can benefit you.
To conclude, it is preferred to develop and follow a proper management plan that includes physical therapy, diet, exercise, oral medications, and ointments. Over the years, surgical treatments have failed people with chronic back pain and alternative treatments are opted as usual.
But in the case of patients with functional disabilities and refractory pain despite non-surgical treatment, a surgical evaluation must be considered.