Back Pain Treatment: Non-Surgical Options for Pain Relief

Prior to starting any type of treatment, it is always advisable to first see an appropriately trained spine specialist to develop an appropriate treatment program for your specific condition and medical history.

The main goals for managing back pain in the lumbar spine (lower back) usually include:

  • Providing enough pain relief to be able to actively participate with physical therapy and rehabilitation
  • Preventing further injury or stress to the spine through improved ergonomics and posture
  • Maintaining an ability to function enough at home and at work

Non-Surgical Back Pain Treatments

There are a wide variety of non-surgical options for back pain treatment of the lumbar spine. The more common treatment approaches include:

  • Pain medication. Typical pain medications used to treat the lower back pain include acetaminophen, NSAIDs, oral steroids, narcotic drugs, muscle relaxants, and anti-depressants. Each type of medication has strengths, limitations, and risks, and the patient’s particular problem in the lower back and overall health will determine which pain reliever, if any, is indicated.
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  • Heat or ice. Application of a cold pack or heating pad can help relieve low back pain. Some people find that alternating between the two works best.
  • Manual manipulation. This treatment maybe applied by a chiropractor, osteopathic doctor, or other qualified health professional. It is thought to help relieve lower back pain by reducing pressure on sensitive structures, increasing flexibility, improving blood flow and reducing muscle tension.
  • Therapeutic massage. Massage therapy is thought to improve blood flow, reducing muscle stiffness, and decrease stiffness.
  • Exercise. A program of back exercises and physical therapy will usually include a combination of strengthening, stretching, and low-impact aerobic exercise.
  • Epidural injections. An epidural injection into the spine delivers steroids that can provide lower back pain relief by decreasing inflammation in the painful area.
  • TENS units. These electrical devices are used to interfere with the transmission of pain signals sent to the lower back.
  • Lifestyle factors. Many lifestyle changes are also important in reducing lower back pain, such as quitting smoking, weight loss, activity modification, and improved ergonomics and posture.

For a minority of people with back pain, the pain is so severe it makes it difficult to function in every day life. For those people, back surgery is an option that may be considered.

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