Non-Invasive Treatment for Back Pain
Last updated date: 13-Mar-2023
Originally Written in English
Non-Invasive Treatment For Back Pain
The spine is an essential component of your skeleton. Its importance in your daily life may be underestimated, yet it is significant. The spine protects your spinal cord and supports your head and upper body while walking, standing upright, balancing, bending, and twisting.
Your back works really hard. Furthermore, your lower back bears the whole weight of your body throughout the day, including sitting, standing, and moving. Unfortunately, our daily activities, as well as the amount of time we spend sitting at work, traveling, and relaxing, make it simple for us to create extra stress on our spine. All it takes is a little too much stress to create moderate, transient back discomfort or even continuous, excruciating pain that can progress to chronic back pain.
With all of this in mind, it may come as no surprise that specialists estimate that up to 80% of the population will suffer from a back problem at some point in their lives.
Anatomy of the Spine
There are four major regions of the spine:
The neck protects the nerves that run from the brain to the rest of the body and supports the weight of the head. This region of the spine has seven vertebral bodies (bones), which become smaller as they approach the base of the skull.
Most neck discomfort is caused by a strain or sprain of a muscle, ligament, or tendon, and will normally recover with time and non-surgical therapies such as ice and/or heat, medicines, physical therapy, and others.
There is typically a distinct anatomic issue with neck discomfort that lasts more than two weeks to three months, or with mostly arm pain, numbness, or tingling. A cervical herniated disc or foraminal stenosis, for example, might compress a nerve in the neck and produce discomfort that extends down the arm and perhaps into the hands and fingers.
- Thoracic spine (upper back)
The thoracic spine is made up of 12 vertebral bodies in the upper back. The rib cage's firm connection to the thoracic spine at each level gives stability and structural support to the upper back while allowing very little mobility. The thoracic spine is essentially a strong cage that protects the important organs of the heart and lungs.
Because the upper back is not designed for movement, there is little wear and tear or damage in this area of the spine. However, inflammation of the major back and shoulder muscles, as well as upper back joint problems, can cause severe back pain. Other disorders, such as a thoracic herniated disc, are conceivable but less prevalent.
- Lumbar spine (lower back)
The lower back moves far more than the thoracic spine and bears the weight of the body, making it more susceptible to injury.
The lumbar spine's motion is separated into five motion segments.
Because L3-L4 and L4-L5 have the greatest mobility in the lumbar spine, they are the most susceptible to break down from wear and strain, such as osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease.
The two lowest discs (L4-L5 and L5-S1) are the most stressed and prone to herniation. This can result in lower back discomfort and sometimes numbness radiating down the leg and into the foot (sciatica).
The great majority of lower back pain episodes are caused by muscle strain. While a muscle strain may not appear to be a major injury, it can develop problems in the lower back and cause extreme discomfort. The good news is that soft tissues have a good blood supply, which supplies nutrients to the wounded region, speeds up healing, and frequently gives excellent back pain relief.
- Sacral region (bottom of the spine)
The sacrum is a bone located under the lumbar spine that forms the back part of the pelvis. This triangle-shaped bone connects the spine to the lower part of the body by fitting between the two sides of the pelvis.
The sacroiliac joints connect the sacrum to a portion of the pelvis (the iliac bones). Sacral pain, also known as sacroiliac joint dysfunction, is more frequent in women than in males.
The coccyx, often known as the tailbone, is located at the very bottom of the spine in the sacral area. Coccydynia, or tailbone discomfort, is more frequent in women than in males.
Typical Anatomical Problems that Cause Back Pain
Many of the spine's complicated components can cause pain, which can be focused in the neck or back and/or radiate to the extremities or be directed to other sections of the body. As an example:
- Large nerve roots leading to the legs and arms may become irritated or pinched.
- Inflammation or degeneration can irritate the smaller nerves that innervate the spine.
- Overuse or injury can strain the major paired back muscles (erector spinae).
- Bones, ligaments, or joints may sustain damage.
- It is possible that the disc area between the vertebrae will become painful.
- Any of the spine's numerous joint complexes might deteriorate and cause discomfort.
Common Symptoms of Lower Back Problems
Identifying and reporting symptoms specifically can lead to a more accurate diagnosis and treatment strategy.
Low back pain is often accompanied by a combination of the following symptoms:
- A dull, throbbing ache
Axial discomfort (pain that lingers in the low back) is typically reported as dull and aching rather than searing, stinging, or acute. This type of discomfort can be accompanied by mild to severe muscular spasms, reduced movement, and hip and pelvic problems.
- Pain that travels to the buttocks, legs, and feet
A sharp, stinging, tingling, or numb feeling that travels down the thighs and into the legs and foot, often known as sciatica, can accompany low back pain. Sciatica is caused by sciatic nerve irritation and is generally only felt on one side of the body.
- Pain that is worse after prolonged sitting
Sitting exerts strain on the discs, causing low back discomfort to develop after prolonged sitting. Walking and stretching can rapidly relieve low back discomfort, but returning to a seated position may cause symptoms to return.
- Pain that feels better when changing positions
Some postures will be more pleasant than others depending on the underlying source of discomfort. Walking normally may be difficult and painful with spinal stenosis, but leaning forward onto anything, such as a shopping cart, may alleviate pain. The way symptoms alter with posture can aid in determining the cause of discomfort.
- Pain that is worse after waking up and better after moving around
Many people who suffer from back pain say that their symptoms worsen first thing in the morning. However, symptoms are eased after getting up and moving around. Morning pain is caused by stiffness from long periods of rest, decreased blood flow during sleep, and potentially the quality of mattress and pillows used.
Diagnosis of Back Pain
- X-rays show the bones and the space between them. Although X-rays are of limited use in situations of muscle-related back pain, your doctor may order them to identify probable broken vertebrae or disc space narrowing.
- MRIs and CT scans both offer pictures of soft tissues and nerves in the spine, including discs and joints. This is useful information for your doctor in diagnosing the source of your discomfort. These exams are painless and offer a medical image of your body.
- Pain relief injections can ease back pain while also providing important information about your condition.
- Myelograms can identify the extent of spinal fracture. They are used to decide whether surgery is required. If it is, myelograms give critical information to a surgeon to assure the outcome of surgery.
Non-Invasive Therapeutic Options for Back Pain
Medical treatments aim to alleviate pain, but they do not address the underlying cause of the pain. Typically, a doctor may prescribe medical treatments in addition to a physical therapy program or other regimen.
1. Muscle relaxants
This medicine acts as a central nervous system depressant and enhances the mobility of stiff muscles, alleviating discomfort caused by muscular tightness or spasms. Muscle relaxants have no place in the treatment of chronic pain.
2. Narcotic pain medications
Narcotic medications, commonly known as opioids or pain killers, change pain perception by decreasing signals sent to the brain. Narcotic medicines are most commonly used to relieve severe, short-term pain, such as acute pain following surgery. Narcotics are rarely used to treat chronic pain since they have numerous negative effects and are often addicted.
3. Use heat & cold
According to research, heat and cold are efficient strategies to relieve back discomfort.
Ice packs are most effective when used immediately following an injury, such as a strain. Inflammation can be reduced by applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel directly to the back.
Cold may also give numbing relief for severe back pain. To protect the skin against frostbite, use cold packs meant for pain management or, in a hurry, a bag of ice or frozen vegetables wrapped with a towel. Ice should not be applied for more than 20 minutes at a time.
A heating pad can also help to relax tight or aching muscles. People should read and follow the directions on any heating pad and carefully test the temperature to ensure it is not excessively hot
If a heating pad is not accessible, a hot water bottle or a cloth bag of uncooked rice can be heated in the microwave.
4. Stretch and Strengthen
Strong muscles, particularly those in your abdominal core, serve to support your back. Strength and flexibility may aid in both the relief and prevention of musculoskeletal pain.
If you're older or concerned about overdoing it, you may stretch and do your strengthening exercises later in the day once your body has warmed up.
Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi are just a few examples of exercises that can help you develop your core and the muscles surrounding your hips. Lying on your stomach and lifting your legs and arms in the flying posture is one workout that targets your entire upper and lower back.
5. Anti-inflammatory diet
According to research, greater levels of inflammation are linked to some forms of chronic pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen are effective pain killers.
There are several causes of inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet is one strategy to help reduce inflammation in the body.
Evidence shows that some diets, particularly sugary and processed foods, might aggravate inflammation. According to research, some foods, such as:
- Whole grains.
Similarly, studies suggest that processed meals and sugar can cause inflammation, which can aggravate pain. People suffering from back discomfort may benefit from focusing on healthy meals and avoiding processed foods, trans fats, and sugar.
6. Back Braces
A back brace is an excellent back pain treatment that provides additional support to the spine. A back brace can be bought over the market or with a doctor's prescription. Wear the back braces according to the physician's directions or read the accompanying instructions for the greatest outcomes and improvement in symptoms.
Back braces can help relieve back discomfort by adding stability and support to the back, which may be unstable due to weakening structures or injuries. A back brace also helps to reduce the pressure and strain on the spinal structures by shifting the weight away from sensitive spinal components.
A physician may also suggest a back brace following an accident or surgery, as a brace can minimize your range of motion, ensuring you don’t accidentally aggravate a healing portion of the spine. Finally, back braces reduce movement between the spinal segments, reducing tension and pain.
7. Epidural steroid injections
Epidural steroid injections (ESIs) are an effective therapy for lower back pain and leg discomfort caused by a herniated disc. ESIs are crucial components of non-surgical back pain therapy. ESIs are injections of steroids and local anesthetics into the epidural area, which surrounds the nerve roots and spinal cord.
Spinal steroid injections can help relieve pain by reducing swelling around nerve roots. ESIs provide patient comfort, letting patients to participate in physical therapy that might otherwise be too painful. Finally, ESIs can improve lower back function and mobility.
Injections of steroids can assist minimize or eliminate the need for oral drugs. While oral drugs are an excellent pain reliever, doctors advise against using them for an extended period of time since they may produce negative effects.
By offering non-surgical back pain treatment, ESIs can also assist postpone or avoid the need for significant back surgery. Patients may not require back surgery if ESIs and other non-surgical therapy properly control back pain. Although spine surgery is a successful therapy, it is normally only suggested when non-surgical procedures do not provide pain relief.
8. Manual manipulation
Spinal manipulation, often known as chiropractic manipulation, is the practice of adjusting, massaging, or stimulating the spine using one's hands.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), several researches have demonstrated that spinal manipulation may help with low back pain.
Spinal manipulation, however, is not suitable for everyone, particularly those with osteoporosis, arthritis, or spinal cord disorders.
These therapies should only be performed by a qualified and licensed professional. These approaches can be performed by the following individuals:
- Licensed chiropractors.
- Physical therapists.
- Osteopathic doctors.
- Some medical doctors.
Serious adverse effects are uncommon when spinal manipulation is performed by a competent professional. Minor side effects, such as localized discomfort, generally fade within 1-2 days.
Acupuncture, which is based on traditional Chinese medicine, stimulates sites on the body in order to correct the body's "qi," or life energy. Proper qi is said to reduce pain and discomfort in the body. Thin needles are inserted into the skin for roughly an hour during a session. Acupuncture has been demonstrated to significantly reduce pain in certain patients.
10. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is performed by applying adhesive electrode patches to the patient's back. When a person turns on the battery-powered device, electrical impulses are sent to the electrodes, which might disrupt pain signals.
A 15-minute TENS session was reported to give considerable alleviation from low back pain in one research. TENS produced "substantial pain reduction" for those with persistent low back pain, according to a meta-analysis.
When is Surgery Appropriate For Back Pain?
Although back pain affects many thousands of individuals, there is no fixed "standard" for determining if surgery is required for back pain. If home remedies, medications, and non-invasive therapies haven't worked and back pain is interfering with daily living, a person may want to talk to their doctor about surgical options.
Surgery does not always cure all forms of back pain. It can assist with back pain caused by certain physical problems in the spine. It may benefit those who have a bone spur, a bulging or ruptured disk, a spinal problem, or a pressed nerve.
If your back discomfort is caused by anything else, surgery may not be the best option.
Millions of individuals in the United States suffer from back discomfort. In fact, each year, around 2% of the workforce files for workers' compensation, citing back discomfort as the reason.
Fortunately, there are several non-surgical and surgical therapies available to address acute and chronic lower back pain. Before considering surgery, most spinal physicians offer non-surgical low back pain remedies.
Back pain can sometimes be relieved by ice, heat, physical therapy, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.