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Non-Surgical Options for Back Pain Relief*

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.

Back pain is the most common reason for absence from work or scheduling an appointment to see the doctor. Pain comes and goes, but in some cases, it is long-term and chronic. Most adults experience back pain at some point in their lives, but they usually seek doctor’s help when they can’t manage it by themselves anymore. Of course, you should see your doctor sooner primarily because he/she can give you much useful advice to treat* the pain. Probably the biggest reason for avoiding going to the doctor’s is fear of the surgery. Bear in mind that surgical procedure is the last resort i.e. the solution in case other treatments don’t work. Numerous non-surgical back pain relief* options exist; scroll down to learn more about them.

Causes of back pain

In humans, the back is comprised of muscles, ligaments, tendons, discs, and bones. Problems with any component of this complex structure can cause back pain. In some cases, the underlying cause of the pain is known, while in others it’s not. That being said, the most common causes of back pain are the following:

  • Bad mattress
  • Cancer of the spine
  • Infection of the spine
  • Kidney infection
  • Lifting heavy objects improperly
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Poor posture
  • Sleep problems
  • Strains in ligaments or muscles
  • Structural problems such as ruptured discs, bulging disc, sciatica, arthritis, osteoporosis, and abnormal curvature of the spine

You are at a higher risk of developing back pain if you’re overweight /obese, 30-40 years old, a smoker, or if you don’t exercise regularly. However, back pain is a manageable problem. Let’s take a look at non-surgical back pain treatment options.

What are the non-surgical options to get relief* from back pain?

Non-surgical back pain relief* options are focused on alleviating the pain you experience while also promoting a healthy lifestyle in general. The reason is simple, a healthy lifestyle can help you prevent common causes of back pain. Bellow, you can see the basic rundown of options to try and relieve pain without surgery.

1. Exercise

Physical activity is an essential pillar of a healthy lifestyle and a practical way to keep the weight in a healthy range or reduce* the risk of numerous diseases and health conditions. Evidence shows that exercise is an important strategy in the back pain management, regardless of whether the pain is acute (comes and goes) or chronic (long-term, persistent).

Although different types of training exist nowadays, the most effective approach to back pain relief* is strength or resistance training. Strive to exercise regularly. If you’re not sure what to do during your workouts, you can consult a physical therapist or a personal trainer who will create a customized exercise plan just for you.

2. Physical therapy

It’s easy to think if you exercise regularly then physical therapy isn’t needed anymore. However, there is more to physical therapy than performing different exercises. A physical therapist works closely with a patient to help him/her alleviate* back pain and teaches useful exercises to improve* flexibility and range of motion. A part of this non-surgical back pain treatment is learning how to lift heavier objects properly, without putting too much stress on your back. Physical therapists also teach their patients about the importance of proper posture and show you how to make some lifestyle tweaks to feel better*.

3. Physical therapy

Yoga is the ancient practice that combines proper breathing techniques and different postures to relieve stress and prevent or manage different health problems. This is an excellent treatment option for both men and women. Basically, yoga is an ideal type of low-impact physical activity that improves* flexibility and range of motion without putting too much stress on your back. One study of 150 veterans showed that those who completed 12-week yoga program reported improvements in back pain intensity. Also, they decreased* opioid use at the same time. A growing body of evidence confirms yoga is an effective back pain relief* strategy, particularly in patients with chronic low back pain.

4. Hot and cold

This is one of the most common non-surgical back pain relief* approaches and it also works with pain in other areas of your body. It’s simple, heat relieves* stiffness while cold numbs the pain. Hot compresses are ideal for stiffness in your back after you wake up or sit for prolonged periods. On the other hand, ice packs can help alleviate* the pain you experience. Try to experiment with hot and cold packs and see what works for you. In most patients, it is the combination of the two that works best.

5. Medications

The first thing that most people do when experiencing back pain is taking medications. They can be very helpful in relieving pain, but it’s still useful to consult a doctor about the most suitable medications in your case. Your doctor may recommend one of the following options:

  • Antidepressants – Although you may find it weird to see antidepressants among non-surgical back pain relief* options, low doses of medications such as tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline can relieve some types of chronic back pain
  • Injections – Only prescribed when other medications prove to be ineffective or if the pain also radiates down your leg. Cortisone is usually used to inject into space around the spinal cord. They work to reduce* inflammation around the nerve roots
  • Muscle relaxants – Usually recommended for mild to moderate pain that doesn’t go away with over-the-counter medications. Bear in mind they can make you dizzy and sleepy, so it’s not a good idea to get behind a wheel when taking muscle relaxants
  • Narcotics – These are drugs like codeine or hydrocodone and are prescribed in cases when other medications don’t help. They are intended for short-term use only and doctors closely supervise the treatment
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers – Chances are high you have some of them in your medicine cabinet. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium can relieve acute back pain. That being said, you should take them according to the doctor’s instructions to avoid overuse and potential side effects
  • Topical pain relievers – Nowadays, you have the option to purchase gels and creams that relieve pain. All you have to do is to gently massage them onto the painful area. They usually help individuals with mild to moderate pain intensity

Education

Even though you may find it unnecessary, education is an effective approach toward successful management of back pain. In order to manage your condition effectively, you have to learn more about it. Only when you understand the health problem (in this case back pain) will you be able to make necessary lifestyle adjustments that will help you improve* the overall quality of life. You can find useful online resources like relevant journals with accurate information. The more you learn, the easier it will be to understand the importance of healthy lifestyle in back pain relief*.

Conclusion

Back pain is a common concern nowadays and although it can affect a person’s quality of life it is possible to manage it. Numerous non-surgical back pain relief* treatments are available and they revolve around exercise, physical therapy, and healthy lifestyle in general. Only when these non-surgical treatments don’t work the doctor will recommend a surgery.