By some estimates, lower back pain is the leading cause of disability around the world. It is one of the most frequently cited reasons for missing work and making doctor’s appointments. People sometimes avoid seeking treatment fearing their only option for relief will be surgical. While it is certainly true that some treatments require surgical intervention, there are many non-invasive options for consideration.
The best treatment for an individual patient will depend primarily on the cause of the pain. Back pain can originate from a problem with the spine, nerve damage, and muscular issues. It can also be caused by issues unrelated to the back itself which may require entirely different treatment options.
Both acute and chronic back pain can be debilitating for a patient. Because of this, many doctors will prescribe pain medication initially while they work to discover the source of the pain. This can make it easier for the individual to resume a more normal life while working towards a solution. Many of the top 100 prescribed drugs are powerful pain relievers used for this purpose.
Some forms of back pain are due to osteoarthritis. This is one of the most common causes of lower back pain in patients over the age of 50. It is a degenerative joint disease and is the most common form of arthritis. As the cartilage in the joints degrades and breaks down in the lower part of the spine, it can begin to cause mobility issues as well as severe pain. There are several medications that can be used to help relieve the symptoms of the disease and slow damage of the joints.
Osteoporosis is another potential cause of pain. Typically, this occurs when the bones become so brittle that a compression fracture occurs. At this point, patients typically need to manage pain with pain medications. However, if caught earlier enough there are some medications that can help mitigate the loss of bone density.
For some types of back pain, surgical options may be necessary. Fortunately, technological advancements in virtual and augmented reality have been making the process easier for surgeons and patients. The two main reasons to select a surgical option are if there is an anatomical condition which has resulted in nerve pinching or spinal instability.
Some of the most common surgical procedures for addressing lower back pain include spinal fusion, laminectomy, foraminotomy, diskectomy, and disk replacement. Each of these carries its own set of risks and rewards which should be carefully considered before choosing it as the plan of treatment. Some of the standard risks associated with any type of surgery include a potentially fatal reaction to the medications or anesthesia used, bleeding, infection, blood clots, stroke, heart attack, additional or worsening nerve damage, and a herniated disk.
Spinal manipulation, massage, and physical therapy are some of the most popular non-invasive treatment options for chronic back pain. Each addresses a different underlying cause for the pain.
Spinal manipulation is performed by a chiropractor and is used to move the bones and joints in the spine to bring them back into correct alignment over the course of numerous adjustments. This can decrease pressure and pain and studies have shown it to be one of the most effective treatments. This typically works best for those who are experiencing pain caused by misalignment of the spine.
When the cause of the back pain is muscular, a massage therapist can provide relief. This is an ideal choice for those who are experiencing substantial muscle tension or strain. In many instances a chiropractor and massage therapist will work together in the care of a patient. The chiropractor will work on the spinal alignment which is causing additional muscular strain and then the massage therapist will treat the current strain to provide more immediate relief.
Physical therapy will usually focus on increasing the range of flexibility of the patient as well as their core muscles. This helps to stabilize the individual’s spine, improve posture, and prevent injury from daily tasks.
According to the American Chiropractic Association, as many as 31 million Americans are experiencing ongoing back pain at any given time. The pervasiveness of the condition should offer some reassurance to those who have been suffering in silence for far too long that there are numerous options for treatment and relief.