There are so many options out there it can get over whelming. Below you’ll a list of options and what they offer.
Doctors who Provide Chronic Back Pain Treatment
There are many types of health practitioners that care for patients with spinal conditions. Each has a slightly different focus or specialization. The doctor/s you see will depend on the symptoms and causes of your pain.
Your first step will usually be to see your primary care physician (PCP) or a doctor at your local Emergency Room or Emergency Department (ER or ED). Once they have assessed your condition, they will make recommendations about the best treatment for back pain and might also refer you to one or more back specialists.
Please unless its a chronic issue that you’re already aware of get an assessment before trying any exercises. Safety first! The last thing you want is to potentially cause even more damage .
These might include:
Chiropractor-they manipulate the spine and soft tissue
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)-they focus on the health of the body through the musculoskeletal system
A spinal specialist, including a surgeon
A physical or occupational therapist to help recovery after an injury
A pain management specialist
Other professionals who can help with back pain relief include:
Neurologists-deal with nerve issues
Rheumatologists-deal with arthritis and other arthritic conditions
The goal is always to help you become as pain-free as possible. This might mean medication or surgery in extreme cases. More often this means lifestyle changes and proper education on how to take better care of your spine, commonly referred to as spine school. It might also include mind-body medicine, for the perception of and natural relief for pain.
A range of CAM practitioners can also contribute to your road to a pain-free back and healthy spine and body. CAM, or Complementary and Alternative Medicine, can be beneficial in a range of ways. As the name suggests, they can be used to complement, that is, be used in addition, to other treatments, with few to no risks of side effects. CAM is becoming increasingly accepted as a means of seeking help for many medical conditions, and most insurance companies now have CAM provisions in their policies. We will discuss CAM for a sore back later in this guide.
Then of course, there is you. You know your own back and body better than anyone, so you are in the best position to do what needs to be done to maintain a healthy back and prevent injuries from happening in the first place. Discuss your pain don’t/never be embarrassed to talk about your pain, its more common than you think. If you do have a sore back, being proactive and following the treatment guidelines given by each practitioner, such as exercises, can help you recover much faster and hopefully with little to no lasting damage to your back.
CAM and Natural treatments to help provide chronic back pain relief
There are several natural remedies for back pain. The good news is that many of them are free or inexpensive. Their effectiveness will depend on the location and cause of the pain, but these should in general work for the upper, middle and lower back.
- Self-care resting when your back is sore (but do not rest all the time or you will get stiff and could do more damage).
- Not sitting for too many hours, which puts a lot of pressure on the spine
- Gentle, easy stretching.
- Gently exercising your core muscles-work out your abs.
- Yoga for stretching, increasing flexibility, and improving core strength-try plank pose.
- Cold therapy – ice packs or an Icy-hot patch can help.
- Heat therapy – a warm bath or shower, heating pad or hot water bottle.
- Hydrotherapy-a warm bath, shower, hot tub or swim in a warm pool.
- Getting enough sleep-aim for 8 hours each night of high-quality sleep.
- Sleeping on a bed that gives your back enough support-the mattress should not be too soft, so look for orthopedic mattresses.
- Using the right pillows-this will help avoid neck pain.
- Medical pillows-some will support the neck. A wedge pillow under your backside when you are sitting will support the spine and hips. You can also get a specially-shaped wedge pillow to put between your thighs to help with sciatic pain when you sleep at night
- Making sure you are walking properly in good shoes, avoiding high heels, and taking care of your feet. Corns, calluses and so on can all lead to sore feet and strange walking habits
- Having a supportive desk chair-if you’re like most people, spending hours at a desk every day can take its toll on your back if you are not careful
- Exercising regularly, choosing low impact work outs such as walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, tai chi, light weights and resistance bands
- Lifting heavy objects, including children and pets, the correct way. (More about this shortly)
CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
There are so many CAM treatments that have been proven effective for back pain relief. Here are just a few suggestions:
Meditation allows you to focus your mind, for pain relief and stress relief
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or ‘talk therapy’
CBT can help with stress and pain relief. It can ease muscle tension as well.
You will learn to tense and then relax your muscles, for less tension. Tension and stiffness are major contributors to back pain.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
TCM for back pain includes acupuncture-and acupressure. Both stimulate ‘meridians,’ or energy centers in the body, to promote health and healing. Acupuncture uses small thin needles. Acupressure uses fingers.
Therapeutic massage therapy, either from your loved one, or a professional massage therapist, can ease pain, stress and release muscle tension.
Aromatherapy uses plant extracts known as essential oils for health and healing. Essential oils can be inhaled, absorbed by adding them to bath water, or used as part of a therapeutic massage. Choosing oils that promote calmness and relaxation, such as lavender, rose or pine, can relieve back pain to name a few.
A sports clinic or physiotherapist can give you gentle manipulation and an exercise program that can help ease your back pain and prevent future injuries.
Traction/decompression of the spine
There are several ways to stretch the spine to take the pressure off compressed discs and nerves, from simple exercises to complex machinery.
Usually recommended by your doctor to a setting where you learn more about your posture and body dynamics.
Pain management specialist
A pain management specialist can offer a large range of solutions, from natural remedies to medications, to help your back feel better.
If you try these self-care treatments and/or CAM methods and you are still experiencing back pain, medication(s) may be the next alternative to finding the back-pain relief you need.
Medications for back pain relief
There are several effective medications to relieve pain, from over the counter to prescription drugs. Medications vary in strength, results and potential side effects. Your choice will depend in part on how painful your back is. Most doctors will ask you to rate your pain on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being extreme pain. Depending on your pain rating and the suspected causes of your back pain, doctors will make a range of suggestions as to which treatment/s will be most effective.
They might recommend:
1. pain relievers
2. muscle relaxants
3. medicines which affect the pain centers of the brain.
The pain relievers can also come in a wide range of forms, from pills and injections to pain relief patches.
When and if you decide to take any pain relief medication, be sure you discuss all potential side effect with the doctor. Take it exactly as prescribed, on the correct schedule, to avoid accidental overdose.
The most common medicines for back pain are:
Tylenol is effective; however, it can be dangerous due to the risk of overdose, which can cause severe liver damage. Take exactly as stated and check any other medicines you take, such as cold and flu remedies, because they may have Tylenol in them and cause accidental overdose.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
These over the counter medications, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, help stop inflammation, which is one cause of pain. If you’ve ever hit your thumb with a hammer, you will understand what inflammation can do to your back and to your whole body.
Over the counter creams
Topical treatments such as creams can be rubbed into the afflicted area to offer pain relief. Some contain aspirin, so read the labels carefully if you are allergic. Others contain capsaicin, which comes from peppers, and can cause burns on sensitive skin. Arnica is a natural pain relieving medicine with no strong smell that is useful for pain and bruising.
Over the counter pain relief patches
There is an increasingly wide range of pain relief patches available in the drug store. Popular brands include Icy Hot and Salonpas. They have different active ingredients, including aspirin and capsaicin, so beware of allergies, irritation and itchiness at the site of the patch.
This class of medications can relieve the muscle spasms and soreness that often accompanies back pain. Commonly prescribed drugs include Soma (carisoprodol) and Valium (diazepam). Both can be habit-forming, however, so should be taken on a short-term basis only.
Opioid-based pain relievers
Opiates are potent pain relievers that can be used to treat quickly acute back pain that has not been eased by other treatments or medicines. Drugs in this class include:
They can be highly addictive and so should be taken for only a short period of time in as low a dose as possible.
Antidepressants such as Elavil (amitriptyline) and Cymbalta (duloxetine) can lift depression and in some cases also ease chronic pain. They elevate mood and affect the pain receptor in the center of the brain.
Other medicines sometimes used for low back pain are:
There are several different anesthetic injections that can used to relieve lower back pain. Trigger point injections try to pinpoint the exact spot where the pain is located. Facet joint injections apply anesthetic to the places where one vertebra of the spine connects to another.
Steroids can relieve inflammation. Epidural injections are injected into the spinal canal to dull the pain in and around the spinal column. As with all medications, steroids can cause side effects, some of which can be serious, including high blood pressure and glaucoma.
These are sometimes used to treat low back pain. Tegretol (carbamazepine), Neurontin (gabapentin), Dilantin (phenytoin) and Lyrica (pregabalin) are the most commonly used. About 3 out of 10 people gain some relief from gabapentin.
Botox is commonly used for cosmetic reasons, to smooth and relax muscles and lines in the face. It is now being used for a range of other health purposes, including chronic low back pain. It can relax the muscles and reduce spasms.
Be sure to discuss all possible side effects with your doctor before proceeding with any treatment. Let them know what prescription medicines, vitamins and herbal supplements you are taking to minimize the risk of any side effects.
If you have tried a range of medications but are still experiencing chronic pain, it may be time to consider surgery. seek a professional assessment