About 16 million adults experience chronic back pain. Back pain is considered chronic or persistent if it lasts for 12 weeks or longer, even after treating the underlying cause of the acute pain. The culprits behind chronic back pain can vary – it could be because of aging and genetics, accidents or other traumatic events, arthritis of the spine, spinal stenosis, myofascial pain syndrome, or disc problems like a herniated or bulging disc.
Surgery is an effective option to treat the pain, but it is not your only choice. It should not be your first resort when achieving long-term back pain relief. As neurologist and back pain specialist Dr. Jason Berkley said: “surgery is usually only considered when all other options have been exhausted. For most people, there are many non-invasive or minimally invasive treatments that can relieve pain.”
Below, we share some alternative treatments you can try before opting for chronic back pain surgery.
NON-INVASIVE TREATMENTS FOR CHRONIC BACK PAIN
The best way to treat chronic back pain is to move more. When your back is aching, you may think that staying in bed all day or taking a break from physical activities will help you heal faster. But the truth is, avoiding movements and light activities will only make the pain worse.
Physical therapy is your first step to feeling better. It involves doing specific movements, stretches, and exercises to relieve tension. The therapy sessions may include:
- Stretching and flexibility exercises
- Retraining posture
- Testing the limits of pain tolerance
- Aerobic exercises
- Core strengthening
Remember that not all back pain is the same, so your set of exercises should be tailored to your condition or specific symptoms. Only work with a licensed physical therapist because they can determine the right exercise routine for you.
Yoga and Meditation
Yoga, meditation, and other relaxation techniques can help address chronic back pain. They may even be a better pain reliever than physical therapy.
Yoga is a mind and body practice that involves physical postures, movement, and deep breathing exercises. Performing yoga postures at home or under the guidance of a well-trained instructor can help alleviate pain and improve your ability to move. It may also save you from pain medication and surgeries. According to a study, patients dealing with chronic back pain were less likely to take pain medication after going through a 12-week yoga practice.
Meditation, on the other hand, is a part of the yoga lifestyle and is performed after the yoga session. Meditation is more about concentration and mental relaxation. It will help divert your mind from the pain and onto something more calming. Mind-based therapies like this can soothe the patterns in your brain, reduce pain in select parts of your back, and offer new ways to handle pain.
By meditating regularly, you can become familiar with what is happening to your body and learn how to manage the pain more effectively. The best part? It doesn’t come with any negative side effects.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese physical therapy that’s popular for managing chronic pain. During a session, a professional acupuncturist will insert thin needles into specific body points to correct the body’s “Qi” (chee), or life force. Having proper Qi is said to decrease pain and discomfort.
An acupuncturist may focus on these points for lower back pain:
- Lower back points
- Stomach points
- Hip points
- Hand points
- Back of the knees points
- Foot points
It’s not entirely understood yet how this traditional Chinese medicine practice works, but many trials have proven that it can treat back pain with minimal risks and side effects.
“Results from a number of studies suggest that acupuncture may help ease chronic low back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis/knee pain,” said the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). “It also may help reduce the frequency of tension headaches and prevent migraine headaches.”
Your daily routine can heighten the pain and delay your healing. Try to make some changes in your lifestyle, including what you eat and how much you move. Although moving more is a natural treatment for back pain, you must still know your limitations and pay attention to the activities that worsen your symptoms. Like what Andrew Nava, M.D., a back pain rehabilitation specialist, suggested: “Listen to your body and learn to pace yourself.”
Losing weight is also helpful in preventing pain from increasing. One study discovered that obesity could cause low back pain because of the increased pressure on the spine and discs. Maintain a healthy weight and make sure to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. There are chances that you may be eating high inflammatory foods that only make your back pain worse.
Other lifestyle modifications you should consider include:
- Quitting drinking and smoking. Nicotine is scientifically known to intensify the pain.
- Wearing proper footwear. High-heeled shoes or stilettos can misalign the legs, hips, and spine, resulting in muscle overuse and back pain.
- Paying attention to your posture. Incorrect posture and sitting positions can contribute to low back pain.
- Performing exercises. Exercise can release endorphins, the morphine-like chemicals that help reduce pain and discomfort while triggering positive feelings.
When it comes to treating chronic back pain, surgery should be your last resort. It is the most invasive and risky of all treatments, and there’s never a guarantee that it will correct your back pain.
It is essential to work closely with your doctor and try all the proven and tested non-surgical treatments available to you first before choosing to go under the knife. If the home remedies and natural treatments have not helped, and your pain is already associated with other symptoms, then that’s the only time to consider surgical options.
Check out our Non-Invasive Treatments section for more articles like this!