Alternatives to Pain Medicine for Managing Back Pain
If you’re experiencing severe back pain, your first inclination may be to take over-the-counter pain medications, or make an appointment to see a doctor for a stronger prescription medication.
While prescription medications can certainly relieve back pain, there’s a very real risk of becoming dependent on pain medication when you have chronic back pain. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 11 million people misused prescription opioid pain relievers in 2016 (the most current data available.) Since then, the “opioid epidemic,” as it’s called, has gotten much worse.
Of course, not everyone who uses prescription pain medication abuses it or becomes addicted. But there are other drawbacks to using medication to alleviate pain, including side effects such as drowsiness, sedation, nausea, and constipation.
If you are experiencing back pain regularly and taking any sort of medication for the pain, it’s important that you talk with a back specialist who can help you find the underlying source of the pain.
When you trust a spine specialist to oversee your back pain, he or she will evaluate your symptoms, identify the cause of your back pain, and approach your care using the most conservative treatment options first. Whenever possible your doctor will try to help you relieve back pain without medication or surgery.
Back Pain Treatment Options without Medication
Here are some of the most effective back pain treatment options that don’t involve taking pain medication.
Exercise. It may seem counterintuitive, but moving your back more can help your back to hurt less. When you’re suffering from back pain, your first inclination may be to rest or stay in bed. Actually, the longer you remain inactive, the worse your pain may get. An exercise regimen prescribed and supervised by your spine specialist, and carried out using proper form and technique, may help alleviate stiffness, boost circulation, and strengthen the muscles that support the back. Exercises effective for back pain include stretching and strengthening exercises combined with light aerobic activity.
Need tips for how to including more exercise in your daily routine? Read our blog on how to keep exercise in your daily routine.
Lose Weight. A welcome side effect of exercise is often weight loss. When you are overweight, the excess weight puts extra pressure on your spinal discs. That pressure worsens any back pain you may be experiencing. Losing weight relieves that pressure and helps alleviate chronic back pain.
Heat or Cold Therapy. Ice packs (or frozen towels, gel packs, etc.) and heating pads (or heating wraps, hot water bottles, etc.) can both be effective back pain aides. If your back pain is due to an injury, your spine specialist will probably recommend using cold therapy with in the first few days of the injury to minimize swelling and decrease tissue damage. Once the initial swelling of an injury subsides, heat therapy encourages healing and helps block transmission of pain signals. For chronic back pain, your back doctor may recommend a combination of both heat and cold therapy.
Acupuncture. Back pain is one of the most common reasons why patients visit an acupuncturist. To alleviate pain, an acupuncturist strategically inserts thin needles into various points within the back. Sometimes referred to as “needling,” acupuncture works by activating the nervous system to release your natural body chemicals, which include endorphins, enkephalins, and other neurochemicals, into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain influencing your body's own internal healing system. It’s important to note that acupuncture is not typically a cure for the underlying cause of pain, but can help with back and neck pain management.
Massage Therapy. A skilled massage therapist can significantly alleviate back pain by loosening tight muscles and increasing blood flow to injured areas.
Every patient is different. The most effective pain-management regimen will depend on the cause and severity of your back pain, your age, and your overall health.
If you are located in The Woodlands, Spring, Houston, Conroe or surrounding areas, you can make an appointment with Dr. Fayaz who will evaluate your specific concerns so that a treatment plan can be recommended. Call 281-880-0700 for an appointment.