Chronic back pain effects about 31 million Americans and is the second most common cause of disability in the United States and the leading cause of disability worldwide. It is estimated that about half of American workers will experience some form of back pain this year and about 80% of the population will experience some form of Back pain in their lifetimes. Americans spend an estimated $50 billion per year on treatments and doctors for chronic back pain, sometimes with little to no relief. With so many options to treat back pain how can you know where to start or even what works? We have compiled a list of treatment options starting with the simplest and least invasive with the last option being surgery. Not every option will work for every person or even every type of back pain but they have been proven to help some people with consistent use. Most people combine two or more of the options below and find relief.
The first step in reducing or eliminate back pain is through lifestyle changes. Simple fixes like correcting your posture or changing your diet can cause dramatic improvement in your overall pain levels. Smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages can also contribute to pain so reducing or eliminating these can help with pain levels as well.
While this will not work for most chronic back pain sufferers it has shown to help those that experience pain related to extreme stress. Stress has been shown to cause tension in the muscles surrounding the spine, thus causing back pain. When the triggers are eliminated or at least decreased the tension and back pain are also decreased.
The common go to for immediate relief from pain and inflammation is to alternate with ice and heat applications. The cold helps with swelling and provides a numbing effect for painful areas while heat tends to relax the muscles. This option is great for quick, immediately relief but is usually only short term.
Certain vitamins, (such as B3, B12 and E) have been shown to help in the treatment of back pain. A daily regimen of certain vitamins, along with a healthy diet, can prevent pain from starting or getting worse. It’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor before starting or stopping any vitamins.
This ingredient found in various types of hot peppers, has been used to treat pain with varying degrees of success. Usually found in creams or rubs it works by stimulating pain receptors, which causes pain to intensify briefly, before then desensitizing the pain receptors to provides a numbing effect.
Various natural, herbal remedies have been used for generations in the treatment of chronic pain conditions. Ginseng, Valerian root and St. Johns Wart are just a few of the plants used by people for pain. They can be ingested in capsule form, mixed into beverages or food or rubbed onto the body in creams.
When mobility is limited and muscles, tendons and ligaments are left to tighten pain can increase. By adding daily stretches to keep these muscles limber people have found relief from chronic pain, although results usually take months before appearing. This option is great for those looking for long term solutions.
Adding daily aerobic exercise to your routine can help with all types of chronic pain conditions. Exercise releases endorphins which help you feel less pain, keeps your body strengthened and toned which prevents pain, and helps get blood flowing to your big muscle groups which helps the muscles repair and heal themselves after injury.
Practicing Pilates a few times a week helps to strengthen your core and condition you muscle which in turn will help reduce or eliminate back pain. The movements and poses help to strengthen the various muscle groups of the body and when focused on the muscles of the abdomen and upper body tension and stress are alleviated on the spine.
While similar to Pilates, yoga focuses more on flexibility and the joints of the body. Yoga also offers a symmetry to the body when performing the poses which helps alleviate stresses evenly. When your body is balanced, you are less likely to experience isolated back pains in certain areas.
An ancient form of martial arts it focuses on controlled, flowing movements of the body to promote blood flow, balance and strength while eliminating any jarring motions to the joints and spine. It has been used by generations to manage and eliminate pains throughout the body and works well for chronic back pain.
Widely used in most cultures, meditation can help cure a host of ailments. Our bodies repair themselves during rest and meditation gets our bodies to a state of deep relaxation which eases tense muscles. It also helps improve blood circulation which in turn helps repair damaged tissue that causes chronic pain.
Scientists disagree about the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of back pain but patients have reported significant improvements with regular procedures. The use of pressure points to treat various ailments has long been an accepted practice in many cultures and acupuncture uses very thin needles to locate these pressure points to provide relief.
Chiropractic Care is the use of spinal manipulation to treat and alleviate back and neck pain. By manipulating the bones and joints of the spine, tension and pressure are relieved which in turn helps relieve the pain. While some patients experience immediate relief, it is usually not long lasting and continued care is needed.
Medical Massage Therapy
Getting a massage helps to increase circulation and blood flow, bring needed nutrition to muscles and tissues. This aids in the repair of damaged muscles and tissue which decreases back pain caused by strain and over use. The deep relaxation after a massage also aids in back pain relief.
When pain is felt its due to damaged nerves sending electrical signals to your brain from the damaged area of the body. Electrical stimulation works by sending electric currents into the body to block the pain signals from reaching your brain and reducing the amount of pain you feel.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help to eliminate swelling around the bones and disks of the spine, decreasing pain. Usually available as over the counter medicines, and sometimes in combination with acetaminophen, these drugs provide relief for several causes of chronic back pain.
Narcotic Pain Medicine
The many varieties of narcotic pain medicine work by blocking the pain receptors in your brain. While these medicines help to mask the pain, they do not treat the underlying cause of the pain and can be highly addictive. They are great to help manage the pain while undergoing treatment to correct and repair the damaged area and should only be used short term.
Usually administered through an epidural into the spine, steroids help to alleviate the pain during other forms of treatment for chronic back pain. While it does not treat the cause of pain it allows the patient to participate in rehabilitation for the affected area. This is especially helpful in the treatment of sciatica.
Although still very controversial, medical marijuana studies have found many uses for the herb, including pain relief. Marijuana is an analgesic that also changes the way the nerves in our bodies process pain. It is a great alternative to narcotic pain medicines but does not treat the underlying cause of the pain.
Therapy for Psychological Conditions
Recent studies have shown that the intensity of pain felt is not just about the nerves in our body but also how we perceive the pain mentally. We have found this to be true of soldiers and athletes that can ignore pain while in the moment and only later realize they have been injured. By seeking therapy a person may learn to control the pain they feel.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
This form of therapy will not fix the cause of pain but will help you better able to control the pain by teaching you how to change your negative thoughts and behaviors. This therapy helps a patient to better cope with pain, even if the actual pain levels don’t change.
The use of infrared lasers to reduce inflammation, reduce pain and promote tissue repair is still a new science. The K Laser can penetrate deep into the body to the spine and hips to help the damaged cells in the injured area to regenerate, eventually eliminating the pain.
Stem Cell Injections
Stem cells are the building blocks of our bodies. When stem cells are injected into a damaged area of the spine they help the body to regenerate and repair itself. Over time chronic back pain can be eliminated when the damaged areas are repaired. While effective it is a costly and invasive procedure.
The most invasive form of treatment for chronic back pain but it can be very effective. Patients should weigh out the risks versus rewards with their doctors before deciding to go this route. Recovery can be long and side effects can occur from the procedure so Its best to try other forms of treatment in most cases of chronic back pain.
For those that suffer from chronic back pain relief can seem impossible. The treatment options can be overwhelming. Chronic pain affects not only the person suffering with it but those around them as well, family, friends and coworkers. Many people suffer needlessly with chronic pain for years because they have no idea of what treatment options are available to them or assume their only option is surgery. While surgery has helped many people, the other treatments and pain management plans can be just as effective and in some cases more effective. Always discuss with your doctor or health care provider before stopping or starting a treatment for your chronic back pain condition.