Most Effective Nonsurgical Back Pain Treatments

About 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their life according to the National Institutes of Health. Thankfully, there is nonsurgical back pain treatment options for most people.

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top 5 nonsurgical back pain treatments
Medical therapies aim to relieve pain but do not address the underlying cause. In addition to medical treatment, a doctor may recommend a physical therapy regimen.
Traditional medical approaches to treating back pain may not all work for everyone, but they have been proven to be effective in most cases.

Although it may seem easy to simply hand your suffering over to a professional, it is best to find out what the doctor has recommended. This will allow you and your doctor to determine if a medication or treatment is working.

This article will focus on nonsurgical back pain treatment. You can be sure that science backs these claims because it isn’t about alternative medicine. While not all of them will work for everyone, they have been shown to be successful in the majority of situations. They have been recommended by experienced doctors who have seen their effectiveness in treating other patients.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is first, nonsurgical back pain treatment option, that can be customized to your body’s specific needs. That is the beauty of physical therapy. You may need a few sessions or a lot of appointments to get your life back on track. It all depends upon your individual situation and how much progress you are making. Sessions can last for 20 minutes or one hour. Insurance often covers physical therapy prescribed by a doctor.

Physical therapy should not end when you leave the clinic. You will reap the greatest benefits if you do the exercises that the therapists have taught you daily. Give the exercises a few weeks. It won’t be easy to feel better immediately. In fact, you may feel worse for a few weeks until your muscles adapt to the new marching orders.

A doctor will typically refer patients to physical therapy (also known as physiotherapy). A physical therapist is someone who specializes in anatomy, body mechanics, and movement. A physical therapist’s role is to get you moving as quickly as possible. The principles of successful physical therapy include education and therapeutic exercise.

Education

Your spine’s health is directly affected by your posture, how you stand, sit, and move. If you’re considering nonsurgical back pain treatment option, you should learn correct movement and body alignment during physical therapy. Daily life and work often require you to use unique movements, such as lifting children or sitting at a computer for long periods of time. Good posture habits will help you maintain a healthy back.

This may mean that you need to do some neuromuscular rehabilitation. Your body’s current use may be a contributing factor to your back problems. You may have developed bad habits while you’ve been lifting, walking, standing, and sitting since the age of two.

Balance, coordination, and good back posture are all important components of exercises that target neuromuscular rehabilitation. One example is that therapists might ask you to do exercises such as standing on one foot or stabilizing one part of your body while moving the other. This is a hallmark of Pilates. You’ll learn to let go of bad habits and develop healthier movements over time.

Therapeutic

People with back problems, particularly those with chronic pain, are more likely to have them.

Deconditioned means that their muscles don’t have the strength they need to support their daily activities and bodies. Exercise is an important aspect of physical therapy.

Physical therapy is a movement-based profession. Expect to receive customized exercises as homework. Many of these will be related to activities of daily life, such as proper form for getting in and walking out of the car, walking, and sleeping.

Participation in your recovery is key to speeding up your recovery. This nonsurgical back pain treatment option exercises with large inflatable balls, hand weights, and treadmills may be part of physical therapy.

Applying Hands-On Treatments

Physical therapy does not only include exercises. It also includes hands-on techniques, often called modalities. This nonsurgical back pain treatment option includes soft-tissue massages to loosen muscular tension and hot-and-cold packs.

Some days you may resist the gentle pressure of the therapist’s hands, while other times you might be passive to the massager’s pulling on a muscle or pulling on a part of your body.

Physical therapy can sometimes be difficult and uncomfortable. But it’ll be well worth the effort. Your body will feel better, and you’ll get it. You’ll also know how to maintain it.

Prescription Medication

You want to be an educated consumer when it comes to prescription medication. Different drugs serve different purposes. Some drugs only target pain, while others treat inflammation. Others can be combined.

If you already tried other nonsurgical back pain treatment options, then prescription drugs can be stronger than the best otc for back pain. If your doctor has instructed you, don’t mix OTC medications with prescriptions. Ditto regarding supplements. Talk to your doctor about all the things you are taking. While some drugs and supplements can be taken together, others could cause an unwanted reaction.

Pain Meds

The pain ladder is a method for controlling pain that was developed by the World Health Organization. If your pain persists, you should start at the bottom with over-the-counter drugs. You may have a prescription for pain medication if you have tried other over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or aspirin and they didn’t work well enough as a part of nonsurgical back pain treatment.

Opioids (or opiates) are the most powerful drugs in the category of pain meds. Opioids, also known as narcotics, are a group of drugs that include morphine (or codeine) and other opioids. While they can reduce pain, they also have the potential to cause addiction and tolerance. They have the potential to be stronger than they already are. They do have a place, but only for a short time.

Most likely, you’ll be given a prescription for codeine (or a semi-synthetic relative such as oxycodone or hydrocodone). These brand-name pharmaceuticals can be combined with other drugs. Combining these drugs reduces the need for opioids. These are often prescribed for back pain.

  • Tylenol 3 (codeine with acetaminophen)
  • Vicodin (hydrocodone acetaminophen)
  • Percodan (oxycodone containing aspirin)
  • Percocet is an oxycodone-containing acetaminophen.
  • A Fentanyl patch (a synthetic drug many times more potent than morphine)
  • OxyContin (long-acting oxycodone)
  • Dilaudid (hydromorphone)

Opioids can cause sleepiness, lightheadedness, constipation, and other side effects.

Anti-Inflammatory Meds

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most common prescription anti-inflammatory drugs for back pain. They function in the same way as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs.

They reduce inflammation by decreasing prostaglandin formation (chemicals that have many functions, including protecting the stomach lining and promoting inflammation). Side effects can occur with these drugs, the most common being an upset stomach. Most likely, your prescription will contain a higher dose of the drug than what is currently available.

COX-2 inhibitors, a relatively new class of NSAIDs, have the advantage of reducing inflammation and not causing gastrointestinal problems. Heart attack and stroke risk: Bextra and Vioxx were both taken off the market due to their long-term effects. Celebrex is the only COX-2 inhibitor that is currently available in the United States.

NSAIDs generally work quickly and can be used within a half hour as a great nonsurgical back pain treatment option. These drugs are used to treat a wide range of back conditions, including arthritis and strain or sprain injuries.

Muscle Relaxants

As a part of nonsurgical back pain treatment, your doctor might prescribe a muscle relaxer if muscle spasms cause excessive pain. These drugs are a type of drug that can be combined with many different chemical compounds. They have no effect on inflammation, so it is possible to take both an anti-inflammatory and a muscle relaxant.

Muscle relaxants do not affect muscles. They work on the brain and spinal cord, reducing motor activity, which in turn reduces muscle spasm. They relax the entire body. It can help you gain more range of motion by reducing muscle spasms. These drugs can also cause sleepiness. These are the most common muscle relaxants:

  • Soma is usually used for a short-term purpose due to its habit-forming properties.
  • Valium, another short-term drug that can interrupt sleep cycles, may be prescribed for longer periods.

Neuropathic Pain Treatments

Some people suffering from chronic pain might be prescribed antidepressants and anticonvulsants. This nonsurgical back pain treatment option reduces anxiety and boosts biochemicals that reduce pain signals.

Anticonvulsants can also block nerve communication by suppressing the nervous system and thereby causing pain. These drugs can be used to relieve neuropathic pain, but they may also be prescribed for other conditions.

It is not unusual for pharmaceutical drugs to treat more than one condition or indication. Drug companies promote the drug that is most effective for the greatest number of patients. Pregabalin, or Lyrica (pregabalin), is commonly prescribed to people suffering from neuropathic pain.

Gabapentin (Neurontin) was initially developed for epileptic seizures. Both drugs affect the central nervous system. They can also be prescribed for back pain due to nerve damage.

Injections

Do you remember the pain ladder? Now, we’re at the top of the pain ladder. When other medications are not working for your nonsurgical back pain treatment, doctors recommend injections. Injections deliver medication directly to the pain source.

They are highly effective because of this. The medication is more likely to stay in one spot than oral medications that have to travel through many body systems before reaching the area of pain. This is an aggressive and more invasive procedure. Specialists are skilled because they must target the exact point in the nervous system or musculoskeletal system.

Injections can be performed as an outpatient. The injections are usually administered by specialists such as radiologists or anesthesiologists, pain doctors, physiatrists, and neurosurgeons. There are many medications available and different ways to administer them.

It is important to understand that injections should not be used as a standalone procedure. They should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan that also includes physical therapy. Below are some common injections.

Trigger-Point Injections

It is easy to feel a trigger point in your muscle. It hurts when you press on one of these knotted muscles. The pain radiates to your back. Because they cause pain elsewhere, the name “trigger” is appropriate.

Massage or other hands-on methods are the first treatments for trigger points. Trigger-point nonsurgical back pain treatment injection may be necessary if the trigger points are still in pain after several weeks.

To relieve the muscle knot, you can inject local anesthetics, saline solutions, or Botox. It is not recommended to inject more than three times into the trigger point at the same time as it could permanently damage the muscle.

Facet Injections

Do you remember those joints between your vertebrae? They are known as “facet joints.” They are just like any other joint in the body and can be damaged by wear and tear, as well as diseases such as osteoarthritis, which cause pain and inflammation.

A combination of an anesthetic and a steroid is used to inject medicine into the facet joints.

Radiological fluoroscopy is required for these injections. This nonsurgical back pain treatment is basically an X-ray that allows doctors to see the needle and bones as they move in real time. To show that the medication is flowing in the correct area, dye may be injected around the nerve.

Epidural Steroid Injections

This nonsurgical back pain treatment might be recommended for people who have severe shooting pains, such as sciatica. The injection works best if it is administered within the first few weeks of the pain. According to studies, it’s less effective to wait longer than recommended.

The epidural space is outside of the spinal canal, and a steroid is injected. This procedure requires a specialist to perform. The area is affected by a variety of nerves. The sciatic nerve is made up of many nerves whose roots are located in the lower back. This injection can be especially effective in relieving sciatic pain.

This nonsurgical back pain treatment procedure, like the facet-joint injection, is performed under fluoroscopy. Although patients may feel better immediately due to the numbing effects of the anesthetic, it can take several days for the full effects of an epidural drug to kick in.

The average injection lasts about six months. Patients usually need another dose to complete the natural healing process. Sometimes, the injections may last only a few days.

Nerve Root Blocks

While epidural injections affect more nerves than nerve-root blocks, they target specific nerves. The procedures are comparable in terms of medication and technology.

To ensure that the nerve root block is injected correctly, the specialist will first inject an anesthetic. The specialist must ensure that the needle is placed at the point where the nerve leaves the spine.

The needle is not actually injected into the nerve; it is inserted into the area around the nerve. Once the pain has subsided, the anesthetic is removed. The steroid can then be injected into the affected nerve.

Sometimes, selective nerve root blocks can be used to diagnose the problem nerve and guide future treatment options such as specific nerve-root decompression surgery.

Although for this nonsurgical back pain treatment it can take several attempts before you find the right nerve, the process is not difficult. Each injected nerve root can be tested in about 10 minutes.

Because the nerve responsible for the pain is known and treated, nerve-root blocks are more effective. This procedure is most commonly used to treat sciatica and nerve pain.

The Use Of Electrical Stimulation Therapies

It’s amazing to see how many nonsurgical back pain treatment options are available for treating back pain. We couldn’t resist. It’s not difficult to see how electrical impulses could be used.

After all, the body produces electrochemical impulses. The electrochemical highway is the traveler’s pain. Some people have found that blocking pain signals with electric impulses works for them. However, the research is mixed.

These options won’t make you crazy, but don’t be alarmed. External stimulation can be dangerous because it might not work.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation has been around for over 30 years. Small pads are attached to the body and send electrical impulses through the skin. These pads are connected to portable devices via wires (battery-operated or plugged-in).

TENS is often used by physical therapists and other rehabilitation specialists for nonsurgical back pain treatment. The electrodes are placed near the painful site and the intensity of the electrical impulses can be controlled. TENS is believed to work by stimulating nerve fibers, which turn off pain signals.

TENS could trigger the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers produced by the body. A TENS device can be purchased for at-home use.

Percutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.

Percutaneous refers to under the skin. To deliver electrical impulses, this device uses needles rather than pads. This is because electrical charges are more likely to reach nerves.

Bracing

A brace supports your body, as the name suggests. They can correct and support your posture. A brace can be great nonsurgical back pain treatment option to help you keep your shoulders back while keeping your upper spine straight. This is especially helpful if you work long hours at a computer.

Braces can also be used to restrict movement. This is useful if you are recovering from surgery or need stability for healing. If you lift, braces may also restrict your movement. This allows the muscles to contract in a straight line and do not bulge out, which can cause abnormal strain.

Most doctors recommend that bracing be done for a short time. Your goal is to strengthen your muscles so that your spine supports itself as nature intended.

Summary

  • Physical therapy can help you heal and move better, keeping your back healthy for the rest of your life.
  • Different medications are needed to reduce pain. Prescription medication can be used for pain or inflammation or both.
  • When oral medication isn’t working, injecting medicine directly into the pain site can be very effective.
  • Some people can feel less pain from devices that emit electric impulses.
  • It is important to strengthen the spine muscles. Braces may be helpful for rehabilitation, particularly after surgery.

Sources:

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  • Low Back Pain: Should I Try Epidural Steroid Shots? | Michigan Medicine. (2020, November 16). Low Back Pain: Should I Try Epidural Steroid Shots? | Michigan Medicine. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/abk1059.
  • Facet Injections | National Spine & Pain Centers. (n.d.). https://www.treatingpain.com/. https://www.treatingpain.com/treatments/facet-joint-injections/.
  • Benefits Of Trigger-Point Injections | Delaware Back Pain. (2020, July 30). Delaware Back Pain. https://www.delawarebackpain.com/2020/07/30/benefits-of-trigger-point-injections/.
  • What Kinds Of Injections Can Be Used for Back Pain? – Southern Pain And Neurological. (2021, October 5). Southern Pain and Neurological. https://southernpainclinic.com/blog/what-kinds-of-injections-can-be-used-for-back-pain/.
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  • Effects Of Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs At the Molecular Level. (2018, June 1). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6039135/.
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  • Stephenson, B. (n.d.). Neuromuscular Rehabilitation Therapy Techniques: What To Expect. Neuromuscular Rehabilitation Therapy Techniques: What to Expect. https://blog.rehabselect.net/neuromuscular-rehabilitation-therapy-techniques-what-to-expect.
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