Maybe you’ve taken up running with the intention of getting back into shape, but the jolting impact from jogging on sidewalks and treadmills has taken a toll on your spine. Or perhaps you’ve lifted a box of your child’s old toys and have felt a twinge in your lower back ever since. You may not think you’re ready for back surgery, especially if you’re still young, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pursue less invasive treatments to give you the relief you need. Consider the following alternatives:
Incorporate Lifestyle Changes
It’s true - seemingly mundane activities can lead to back pain or cause an existing condition to worsen. Luckily, small changes in your lifestyle can significantly reduce the pain.
If you spend much of the day in a chair, learn to sit without slouching so that your upper body weight is distributed evenly along you spine. Make an effort to get up from your seat often and walk around because it prevents the hamstrings from becoming tight and placing strain on the lower back.
If you regularly lift heavy objects, take a refresher course in the proper way to lift. Never use your back and instead use the power of your legs to get the job done.
Those who spend long hours on their feet should give priority to comfort and support rather than appearance when buying shoes. Avoid wearing high heels since they can cause back pain or aggravate existing back pain.
Invest in a supportive mattress that evenly distributes your weight and encourages proper spinal alignment. A mattress that is too firm will lead to sore pressure points, while one that is too soft will cause muscle strain and back stiffness.
Incorporating low impact exercise into your health routine helps to strengthen the abdominal and lower back muscles that in turn provide spinal support. Exercise has the added bonus of ridding the body of excess weight that would otherwise have put unnecessary stress and pressure on joints, ligaments, and bones.
Back pain can be alleviated through physical therapy. Professional therapists may suggest alternating heat and ice to the area for immediate pain management or applying electrical therapy or ultrasound. Stretching and gentle muscle releasing techniques also help. As the pain subsides, the specialist may focus on strengthening the surrounding muscles and encouraging the correct postures whenever sitting and standing for continued relief.
Managing Medical Conditions
Degenerative diseases are a major culprit of back pain. Arthritis can lead to stiffness and swelling and osteoporosis causes weakens bones that can lead to spine or vertebral fractures. Properly addressing and treating these issues first can later lead to back pain relief.
Back pain can also be caused by a non-spinal related condition. For example, patients who suffer from kidney stones may experience back pain because he kidneys are located in the back of the abdomen. This goes to show how important it is to be evaluated by a doctor and properly diagnosed before beginning treatment.
Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs are medications that can be prescribed by your doctor that can temporarily but immediately relieve back pain, reduce inflammation, or both. Muscle relaxers and topical pain killers have effects that last for several hours. Cortisone shots, which is a numbing medication injected in the space around your spinal cord, can last for several months.
Since every patient’s situation is different, it’s best to speak with your doctor in order to determine which treatment is right for you. Your doctor will take into account your pain relief, the level of functional improvement, and any complication of which you are at risk. If your pain continues to be debilitating, you may benefit from surgery.
By Dr. Sompoch Paiboonsirijit , Orthopedic Surgeon, Spine Institute, Bumrungrad Hospital
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