Ways To Treat Chronic Back Pain Without Surgery
Back pain is considered chronic if it lasts three months or longer. It cancome and go, often bringing temporary relief, followed by frustration.Dealing with chronic back pain can be especially trying if you dont knowthe cause.
Back pain rehabilitationspecialistAndrew Nava, M.D., offers insights into common chronic back pain causes and nonsurgicaltreatment optionsand advises not to give up hope.
Answers To Common Back Pain Questions
More than eight in 10 people will experience upper, mid, or low back pain at some point in their lives. Low back pain is the most common back pain. In most cases, the pain goes away over time. If your back pain is severe or does not improve, you may need medical care. Here are answers to some common questions about back pain and tips on when to seek help.
Doctors Who Treat Low Back Pain
The Weill Cornell Medicine Center for Comprehensive Spine Care takes a multidisciplinary approach to treating low back pain and conditions of the spine. The program is dedicated to identifying, diagnosing, and treating the source of pain. This includes a thorough evaluation, selecting the best treatment options, and utilizing the most advanced technology.
The CCSC brings together a team of experts that offer the very best of non-operative and minimally invasive surgical treatment for patients. Those in need of treatment receive input from a broad team of specialists, including neurologists, physical and occupational therapists, acupuncturists, cognitive therapists, and other pain management experts.
If surgery is recommended, the experts at Weill Cornell Medicine will always look to the least invasive options first. Our neurosurgical faculty includes some of the very best world-renowned specialists.
At the midtown east Weill Cornell Medicine Center for Comprehensive Spine Care:
Eric Elowitz, M.D., is a board-certified neurosurgeon specializing in minimally invasive spinal surgery. Routinely named to national lists of top doctors, Dr. Elowitz is dedicated to providing state-of-the-art care with individual attention to each patients unique needs. Dr. Elowitz has developed a special expertise in new XLIF procedures.
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What Are The Most Common Lower Back Surgery Procedures
Spine surgery is not necessary for most people who have lower back pain. If you do need it, your doctor will recommend an appropriate procedure to address your specific symptoms and medical situation. Common spine surgeries include:
Spinal Fusion. Two or more vertebrae are permanently fused together to limit excess spinal motion. Your surgeon will use a combination of bone, bonelike material, screws, plates and rods to hold the vertebrae together so they can heal into a single unit. Spinal fusion may be done to correct spinal deformities or to increase the spines stability in severe cases of spinal osteoarthritis or herniated discs.
Laminectomy and laminotomy. Laminectomy is a surgery in which your surgeon removes the back portion of one or more vertebrae to create more space for the spinal cord or other nerves. In people with severe arthritis, bone spurs within the spinal canal can grow large enough to press on the spinal cord, causing pain and limiting mobility. In a similar surgery known as laminotomy, your surgeon will remove a small piece of bone called the lamina from the back of the vertebra.
Medical And Family History
Your doctor will ask questions about your medical and family history to help determine if an injury or underlying medical condition is the source for the back pain. Some questions your doctor may ask:
- Can you describe your pain?
- Where is the exact location of your back pain?
- When did the pain start and how long have you had the pain?
- What were you doing when you first noticed the pain?
- How severe or bad is the pain?
- What makes the pain worse or better?
Your doctor may ask you to rate your pain on a scale from 1 to 10 to gauge the severity of the pain and talk to you about your ability to perform activities of daily living.
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Rub On Medicated Creams
Skin creams, salves, ointments, or patches may help when your back feels stiff, sore, and tense. Many of these products contain ingredients such as menthol, camphor, or lidocaine that can cool, heat, or numb the affected area.
Put on creams right where you hurt. Ask someone to apply it if you have trouble reaching the spot.
âIt’s not going to be a mainstay at providing significant relief, but it can calm things down,â Ray says.
Can I Prevent Back Pain
You may be able to prevent back pain that happens because of overuse or moving the wrong way. The following tips may help:
- Get regular exercise that keeps your back muscles strong. Exercises that increase balance and strength can lower your risk of falling and injuring your back or breaking bones. Your doctor may recommend that you try tai chi or yoga.
- Eat a healthy diet with enough calcium and vitamin D, which help keep your spine strong.
- Maintain a healthy weight to avoid stress and strain on your back.
- Sit up straight. Try to support your back when sitting or standing.
- If you have to lift something heavy, use your leg and stomach muscles, not your back.
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Lower Back Pain: What Could It Be
Do you have lower back pain? You are not alone. Anyone can experience lower back pain at any time, even if you dont have a prior injury or any of the risk factors. It is not always serious and can often get better on its own. But in some cases pain is your bodys way of telling you that something isnt right.
Learn more about lower back pain and what causes it from rehabilitation physician Akhil Chhatre, M.D., who specializes in back pain in the Johns Hopkins Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain usually gets better with rest and pain relievers. Back pain that doesnt go away may be a sign of a more serious condition.
See your provider if you have:
- Pain that doesnt get better after about a week of at-home care.
- Tingling, numbness, weakness or pain in your buttocks or legs.
- Severe pain or muscle spasms that interfere with your normal activities.
- Fever, weight loss, bowel or bladder problems or other unexplained symptoms.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Millions of people live with low back pain. Stiffness, pain and limited movement can have a major impact on quality of life. But you may be able to avoid lower back pain by maintaining a healthy weight and staying active. Talk to your provider if back pain doesnt go away or if youre unable to do the activities you enjoy. Several treatments can relieve pain, help you move better and get more out of life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/18/2021.
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When To Get Medical Help And Advice
Nine out of 10 people find their lower back pain improves within four to six weeks. You may find that you feel better sooner than this, in a few weeks. But contact your GP if the pain is severe, getting worse over time or isnt improving after four to six weeks. Also, contact your GP urgently if you feel unwell or have a high temperature. And if you have had cancer or osteoporosis, your GP may want to check that there isnt a more serious cause.
Seek medical attention right away if you:
- have numbness or tingling around your bottom or genitals
- cant control when you pee or cant go at all
- lose control of your bowels
- are unsteady when you walk, your legs feel weak or your foot is dropping or dragging
These may be signs that the nerves at the bottom of your spine are being squashed. This is called cauda equina syndrome and needs urgent treatment.
Which Lifestyle Factors Contribute To Lower Back Pain
There are three major lifestyle factors that may affect your chances of developing lower back pain:
- Multiple studies have established a link between smoking and lower back pain. Smoking raises inflammation inside the body and hinders the body from healing itself.
- Obesity is also associated with several types of chronic pain, including lower back pain. In people with high body mass index , the stress on the spine increases, contributing to even more wear and tear.
- Your level of physical activity can also play a role in your lower back health. While a sedentary lifestyle could increase your risk of developing lower back pain, so can excessive or strenuous physical activity. Check with your doctor if you are unsure about your ideal level of physical activity.
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What Exactly Is The Lower Back Anyway
Your lower back is known as the lumbar region of the spine. It has a lot of heavy lifting to do: The lumbar spine carries the weight of your entire upper body, plus biomechanical stresses that occur with movement.
The lumbar spine has five vertebraebackbones. Each vertebra has a large disc cushiony gel wrapped in a tough membrane on its front side that acts as a shock absorber. Each vertebra also has two cartilage-lined facet joints on its back side. Working together, discs and facet joints allow the spine to safely bend and twist.
Your lower back also includes ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Ligaments are strong bands that hold the vertebrae and discs together. Tendons attach muscles to the vertebrae. These structures help limit excessive movement that could harm the spinal cord.
Why Is Lower Back Pain Such A Common Problem
The bottom part of your back typically has just five vertebrae fewer than your neck and mid-back. And these vertebrae do a lot of heavy lifting! Your lower back is where your spine connects to your pelvis, bearing the weight of your upper body. This area experiences a lot of movement and stress, which may lead to wear, tear and injuries.
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Inflammatory Lower Back Pain
Although comparatively few patients have low back pain due to a systemic inflammatory condition, the problem can be life long and can impair function significantly. The good news is that treatments can help essentially all patients, and can lead to major improvements.
Seronegative spondyloarthropathies are a group of inflammatory diseases that begin at a young age, with gradual onset. Like other inflammatory joint diseases, they are associated with morning stiffness that gets better with exercise. Sometimes fusion of vertebrae in the cervical or lumbar regions of the spine occurs. Drugs called TNF-alpha blocking agents, which are used for rheumatoid arthritis, are also used to treat the stiffness, pain, and swelling of spondyloarthropathy, when the cases are severe and not responsive to traditional medications
People who have spondyloarthropathy have stiffness that is generally worst in the morning, and have decreased motion of the spine. They also can have decreased ability to take a deep breath due to loss of motion of the chest wall. Its important for the physician to look for problems with chest wall expansion in patients with spondyloarthropathy.
syndrome is one of the forms of spondyloarthropathy. It is a form of arthritis that occurs in reaction to an infection somewhere in the body, and it carries its own set of signs and symptoms. The doctor will look for:
Can I Prevent Lower Back Pain
You cant prevent lower back pain that results from disease or structural problems in the spine. But you can avoid injuries that cause back pain.
To reduce your risk of a back injury, you should:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight puts pressure on vertebrae and disks.
- Strengthen your abdominal muscles: Pilates and other exercise programs strengthen core muscles that support the spine.
- Lift the right way: To avoid injuries, lift with your legs . Hold heavy items close to your body. Try not to twist your torso while youre lifting.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Low Back Pain
Low back pain is classified as acute and chronic. Acute low back pain lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Most acute low back pain will resolve on its own. Chronic low back pain lasts for more than 3 months and often gets worse. The cause of chronic low back pain can be hard to find. These are the most common symptoms of low back pain. Symptoms may include discomfort or pain in the lower back that is:
- Protruding or herniated disk
Why Go To An Orthopedic Doctor
There are a variety of medical doctors who treat specific sets of conditions. Because it is impossible for one physician to treat all types of conditions and injuries that affect the human body, doctors specialize in subfields of medicine. Through this specialization, a physician becomes an expert in a distinct subfield of medicine and can diagnose, treat, and prevent issues within that subfield. One such field is orthopedics.
An orthopedic physician is an expert on the musculoskeletal system . Because back pain is most often caused by injury or damage to one of these components in the back, orthopedic physicians are often referred to for diagnosis and treatment.
Using advanced education and training, orthopedic physicians can pinpoint the exact cause of the back pain. Back pain can be caused by a variety of reasons, including a fracture, herniated disc, muscle strain, or damage to connective tissue. Orthopedic doctors can correctly diagnose the exact cause of the back pain and recommend effective treatment for it.
Orthopedic physicians have access to state-of-the-art and advanced medical technology and treatments that are proven to be effective for musculoskeletal issues. Because of this, when a patient has back pain, orthopedic physicians can offer treatments that will give fast and effective results. Using various methods for pain reduction, which include injections, medication, and physical therapy, orthopedic physicians can offer long-term relief from back pain.
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Living With Back Pain
Living with back pain can be challenging however, most people find relief within 6 weeks. Remember to follow the recommendations of your health care providers. The following may make it easier for you to manage your pain and recover:
- Add exercises gradually and talk to your doctor about the types of exercises that are best for you. There may be certain activities or exercises you should avoid.
- When sitting for a prolonged period get up, move around, and switch positions frequently.
- Wear comfortable shoes with a low heel.
- When driving long distances, try adding some support behind your back, and stop frequently to stand up and walk around.
- Sleep on your side, and place a small pillow between your knees. If you tend to sleep on your back, place a pillow under your knees. If possible, try to avoid sleeping on your stomach.
- Limit the amount you carry. Instead of carrying more items at once, make a few extra trips to avoid carrying too much weight.
Lower Back Pain And Chiropractic Treatment
Numerous studies have confirmed that chiropractic treatment for lower back pain is proven to be very beneficial. In addition, it is also proven to be equally effective for neck pain and other lumbar-related problems. In short, spinal manipulation therapy helps in the treatment of chronic low back pain.
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Types Of Chiropractic Treatment For Lower Back Pain
The cause for lower back pain is commonly other problems in the upper areas of the spine. Therefore, when these areas compensated go unattended, the lower back pain continues to grow. The root cause and severity will generally differ for different patients. Hence, chiropractic treatment for lower back pain varies from one patient to another. Listed are the types of chiropractic treatment for back pain offered by the best chiropractor Dr, Dustin Mclver.
When Is Lower Back Pain An Emergency
Most episodes of lower back pain eventually resolve on their own, but there are times when you should seek urgent medical attention. Some of these situations include:
- Patient is a child
- Pain is severe, constant, suddenly or progressively worsens, and/or doesnt go away
- Pain interrupts sleep
While some situations may warrant immediate intervention, most cases are not urgent and can be scheduled at a time convenient for the patient.
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What Home Remedies For Lower Back Pain Actually Work
Unless youve had a major injury, such as a fall or car accident, you probably dont need to rush to the doctor for back pain. You may want to try these simple self-care strategies first.
Avoid bed rest. When lower back pain strikes, people often think complete rest will relieve back pain. However, a review of many clinical studies found that patients who retreated to bed actually experienced more pain and recovered more slowly than patients who stayed fairly active
Use ice and/or heat. Many people find that using ice or cold packs for periods of up to 20 minutes at a time helps reduce pain and swelling. Always wrap ice or a cold pack in a thin towel before putting it on your body so you dont injure your skin. You may also find that heat, such as a heating pad or warm bath, eases pain. Ice is recommended in the first 48 hours after injury then you can try a combo of ice and heat.
Try over-the-counter remedies. Short-term use of OTC pain relievers, such as the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ibuprofen and naproxen, may ease your lower back pain. Also consider OTC creams, gels, patches, or sprays applied to the skin. They stimulate the nerves in the skin to provide feelings of warmth or cold in order to dull the sensation of pain.