Healthy Living

Treatments for Back Pain

Treatments for Back Pain?

Key Takeaways

  • Staying active, taking OTC pain medications and hot and cold packs are the simple treatments initially given for back pain.
  • Exercise classes, manual therapy and acupuncture is suggested by doctors if the pain lasts for 6 weeks or more.
  • Surgery is only recommended if all other treatments have not been effective and the back pain is affecting your normal daily activities or sleep.

The aim of treatments for back pain is to relief pain and restore mobility. Adjusting your activities is the essential treatment for easing acute back pain caused by minor injury or strain. Back pain treatments are determined by the duration you have experienced the pain, the severity and your personal requirements and preferences.

The following are the different back pain treatments:

Acute Back pain

At first, home therapies and over-the-counter painkillers are normally used to treat back pain. In 6 weeks, majority of individuals will improve significantly.

  • Stay active - Although it was believed that resting will make your back recover, it has now been discovered that individuals who stay active will probably get well faster. This can initially be hard if the pain is serious, but try moving around whenever you can. You can try taking a walk to the shops or move around your home. Keep off anything that results in severe pain, but you will have to allow some discomfort.Do not wait until you are free from pain to resume work. Resuming work will assist you in getting back to your regular activity pattern, and can also make you forget the pain. 
  • Use of painkillers - Although certain individuals find NSAIDs more effective - like ibuprofen, paracetamol is mostly the initial medicine advised for back pain. You can also choose a stronger painkiller like codeine which can also be taken alongside paracetamol.There can be side effects of painkillers and depending on your past medical history and health, some can be addictive and others not appropriate. For instance, using NSAIDs for long can affect the functionality of your kidneys. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist about the right type of medicine suitable for you.In cases where the pain does not subside with OTC medicines, the physician may suggest a stronger medicine. If you have muscle spasms in the back, muscle relaxant which is a short course like diazepam, may be recommended.
  • Hot and cold treatments - Taking a hot bath or placing a hot water bottle on the affected part can relieve pain in some individuals.Placing a bag of frozen vegetables or an ice pack on the affected area can also ease pain. Avoid directly placing the ice on your skin since this may cause a cold burn. Before placing it on your skin, use a cloth to wrap the ice pack.You can also use a hot water bottle and an ice pack to alternate between cold and hot. You can also purchase hot and cold compression packs at the pharmacy.
  • Remain positive and relax - The important thing in relieving back pain is relaxing since muscle tension resulting from worrying can worsen things.One important factor that helps people with back pain recuperate faster is being optimistic throughout the treatment and remembering that they will recover from this back pain, although this may be hard.
  • Change the position you sleep in - This can remove some strain from your back and relieve the pain. If you normally sleep on your side, bring your legs up a little in the direction of the chest and place a pillow in between your legs. If you normally sleep on your back, putting pillows beneath your knees will assist in keeping your lower back’s normal curve.
  • Lifestyle and exercising - To prevent future attacks, try to deal with the source of your back pain. It has been found that stress, bad posture and obesity are the primary causes of back pain.To ensure your back stays healthy and strong, exercise regularly and remain active every day. Popular activities include yoga, swimming and walking. Go for the activity that you enjoy and that which can be effective without making you feel the pain.

Chronic Back pain

If your back pain has lasted for six weeks and longer, your doctor may recommend the following:

  • Exercise classes - These are group classes taught by a skilled instructor. You will be taught about exercises that will make your muscles strong and enhance your posture. Stretching exercises and aerobics are also taught.
  • Manual therapy - These comprise of mobilization, manipulation and massage which are performed by osteopaths, chiropractors or physiotherapists.
  • Acupuncture - This is a procedure whereby needless are inserted at various points of your body. It is effective in minimizing lower back pain.

If your back pain is significantly affecting your capacity to undertake your normal daily activities, makes you feel distressed and in need of assistance coping, these treatments will be effective.

Using the Alexander Technique therapy is believed to be helpful for people suffering from chronic back pain, though the treatment has not been recommended yet.

The following treatments may also be recommended:

  •  Antidepressants - TCAs (tricyclic antidepressants) like amitriptyline may be recommended if painkillers are not effective. Although TCAs are meant to treat depression, they can be used to treat certain cases of chronic pain successfully.
  • Narcotics - Some medicines like hydrocodone or codeine may be prescribed for a short duration while being closely supervised by your physician.
  • Injections - If other treatments have failed to ease your pain and if the pain goes down the leg, your doctor may inject you with cortisone, an anti-inflammatory drug or numbing medicine in the epidural spaces (the area surrounding your spinal cord). This injection will assist in minimizing inflammation in the nerve roots although the pain relief will normally go on for a few months or less.
  • Counseling - Psychological therapy may be offered on how to cope with your back pain if the above treatments fail to cure you.Although your back pain is real, the way you feel and think about it can worsen it. Therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) may assist you in managing your pain well by altering the way you think of your back pain.
  • Pain clinics - If your back pain is chronic, a specialist pain clinic may be recommended for you. These clinics assist patients of back pain in managing their pain and offer advice on issues like raising your level of activity, and how to live a good life despite having the back pain. Your program may comprise of exercises, group therapy, and education about pain psychology and relaxation.
  • Surgery - When all other options for treatment have not been effective, or you have severe back pain that does not allow you to sleep or go on with your normal routine, surgery may then be recommended. The form of surgery that will suit you will be determined by the form of back pain you are experiencing and the source of it.The two types of surgery normally performed include:
    • Spinal fusion - In this procedure, two or more vertebrae are attached together by a part of bone to minimize pain and stabilize the spine.
    • Discectomy - This is a procedure whereby a portion of one of the discs in between the  vertebrae (spine’s bones) is taken out to stop it from putting pressure on the neighboring nerves, called a prolapsed or slipped disc.Although these procedures are not effective all the time and you may still experience some back pain in the future, they help minimize pain resulting from compressed nerves in the spine.Just like all forms of surgery, these procedures may also cause potential severe complications. In certain individuals, nerves surrounding the spine can get damaged, leading to complications like weakness or numbness in a section of one or both the legs. Paralysis may also occur, although it is rare.Go through the advantages and risks of the surgery with your surgeon before undergoing the operation.