Understanding Your Options For Back Pain Management

Research indicates that over 100 million adults in the United States suffer from chronic pain, with over a quarter of those complaining of low back pain. If you've struggled with chronic low back pain, you may wonder if there are any options to help you find comfort. In fact, there are many treatments that can help you ease chronic pain in your back.

Drug-Free Choices for Pain Management

Whether you work in an environment that makes it difficult for you to take medications for your pain or you just prefer more natural pain relief methods, there are a variety of options to deal with back pain.

Strengthening Exercises

Therapists often recommend a variety of strengthening exercises to help tone lower back muscles. As those muscles develop more strength, it will help to increase your flexibility and range of motion. Depending on the cause of your injury, you may find that water therapy, daily stretches, aerobics and weight training can help build more muscle strength and ease pain.

Chiropractic Care

Manual adjustments with a chiropractor can often help to address alignment issues and joint problems. If your pain is due to an injury, you may need to visit several times while it is healing. If, on the other hand, the pain is due to deterioration or spinal problems, routine visits can be helpful.

Heat and Ice

Cold packs, heat pads and sports rubs can help to ease muscle tensions. If you are struggling with deep muscle pain due to an injury, apply ice until the inflammation calms down. Then, apply heat to help ease pain.

Electrical Stimulation

Electrotherapy, such as that received from TENS units stimulate nerves to create a sensory response. The goal of the transcutaneous stimulation is to engage the nerve endings in the area where the pain is, creating a focus on something other than the underlying pain.

Medication Options for Back Pain

In some cases, you may find that physical treatment options are insufficient by themselves. Your orthopedic specialist may recommend medications to help you regulate your discomfort. In some cases, over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen are sufficient.

For severe pain, over-the-counter treatments may not be sufficient. Narcotic medications are often prescribed for post-operative recovery, such as with spinal surgery. If you are facing chronic pain, your doctor may be hesitant to prescribe a narcotic, though, due to long-term dependency concerns. If you are experiencing muscle spasms, you may be prescribed a relaxant to help soothe the affected tissue.

Invasive Pain Management Options

When you have exhausted all of the other potential treatments without success or if your condition worsens, you may need more invasive treatment. Your orthopedic specialist will be able to tell you when you have reached a point where you need more extensive care. Here are a few options you may need to explore.

Nerve Blocks

A nerve block is the process of injecting an anesthetic or steroid into the injured area. The injection is designed to provide some pain relief, and also to clarify the actual source of the pain. These injections are frequently used for pain caused from pinched nerves in the spine or due to lower back injuries.

Blood Flow Stimulation

If your pain is caused by an injury, your orthopedist may suggest an injection that can stimulate blood flow and circulation. This type of injection encourages the blood flow necessary for the tissue in the area to rebuild itself. It can be particularly helpful for some muscle tears and other injuries.


Surgery is typically a last resort for most back problems. Depending on the type of injury, you may be looking at fusing some of the spine, or possibly placing metal plates and pins in to replace damaged bone. Consider the pros and cons carefully with your doctor, because every surgical situation has its own unique risks and potential benefits.

As you can see, there are many different options available for you to deal with chronic back pain. Talk with an orthopedic specialist about identifying the source of your back pain so that you can find out the best option for you. And remember, the best option now may change down the road, particularly if your condition changes.

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