Back pain is an incredibly common health condition, and experts estimate that up to 80% of the population will experience this type of pain at some point in their lives. If you are one of the millions of Americans who live with this condition, finding a suitable remedy will obviously be of paramount importance to you.
Unfortunately, back pain has a reputation for being rather difficult to treat. Our backs are constantly in use and, if injured, are impossible to isolate to allow for recovery. In an effort to help you find a solution, below we have looked deeper into the different treatment options that you may wish to consider
The importance of posture
Back pain can be caused by significant health conditions that require medical intervention to address - which we will discuss in more detail below. However, for many people, simple lifestyle changes can genuinely help to alleviate chronic back pain.
Perhaps the most significant lifestyle change of all is practicing good posture - and, in particular, good posture while sitting. The necessities of modern life mean that many of us spend much of our time rather hunched. This is attributable to the rise in desk-based jobs, and to phone usage.
The goal of good posture is to place as little strain on your muscles and ligaments as possible. This means ensuring that your body is well-supported, particularly when sitting at a desk, and sitting straight with your head raised. However, there is no denying that this is easier said than done, and if you become consumed in another task, remembering to maintain good posture can be rather tricky. It may be useful, then, to add a sticky note to your computer that reminds you to keep straight, or even try wearable devices that can send a “buzz” if your posture isn’t quite what it should be.
On a similar note, it’s also thought to be helpful to stand up regularly and, if possible, stretch. Try setting a reminder when at work, or when you’re browsing through your phone, that reminds you to stand up every 15 minutes or so.
At-home treatment options
Good posture may help to improve your back pain in time, but it’s also helpful to consider at-home treatment options that might be able to provide relief when your pain is flaring.
In this regard, perhaps the most effective option is ice or heat therapy. Ice packs are usually the preferred choice if you’re looking to relieve pain as soon as possible, while applying heat (usually by using a heating pad or hot water bottle) is preferred if you suspect the muscles of your back are too tight. Just be cautious to ensure that your skin is protected; always apply heat through clothes rather than directly to the skin.
Another option is to use a massager to remove knots in the back and reduce pain. There are seemingly countless different products that offer these benefits, so read a few reviews before choosing the device you think would work best for you.
In addition, altering your diet so you eat more foods that are thought to be beneficial for back pain is also well worth doing. In particular, foods that are considered to be anti-inflammatory - such as nuts, leafy greens, and lean proteins such as chicken and turkey - could all help to reduce pain levels. Foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids - which are found in fish and plant oils - can also play an important role, and adding spices like turmeric and cinnamon to foods can also be beneficial.
Medical treatment options
If you attempt the measures above but find that your back pain continues regardless, or you experience frequent episodes of back pain, then there are still treatment options available to you: painkillers, physiotherapy, and surgery.
Painkillers can help to alleviate back pain, but it is generally thought that this should only be for very short periods of time. In cases where the pain has become chronic, medication is far less likely to be prescribed - back pain medications have been linked to addiction. What’s more, medication is not actually resolving the pain: it masks it. Your doctor will be able to advise you further as to whether prescription medications are a suitable choice for you.
A less-controversial option to consider is physiotherapy. Working with a physiotherapist could help to ease pain in the moment, and will also provide the opportunity to learn exercises that you can continue at home. You can usually arrange an appointment with a physiotherapist without a referral from your primary care doctor, though always check with your insurance company before doing this.
Finally, you may want to consider surgery - especially if your back pain has not responded to other forms of treatment or lifestyle changes. Spinal fusion, for example, can provide effective relief from the pain caused by herniated discs; success rates are high, and spinal fusion recovery time is reasonable given the benefits the surgery can offer. Alternatively, a foraminotomy can help to alleviate pain from compressed nerves, and there are several other surgeries that can also be beneficial. One of the greatest benefits of surgical treatment is that there is no “masking” of the pain, as there is with medication; instead, the root cause is remedied, allowing for a full recovery. If you would like to pursue surgical remedies, discuss this with your doctor so you can learn more about the different options available.
Addressing the question of “rest”
For many years, bed rest was often part and parcel of the treatment plan for back pain, but this has altered in recent years, and now only a few days of rest will usually be recommended: there is evidence to suggest that staying active actually helps to improve recovery times. It’s therefore preferable to only rest for a few days and, if the condition does not resolve, seek further advice from a medical professional.
The important takeaway from this piece is that back pain is not something that you have to live with. Whether you find relief through exercise, or require surgery to address the issue once and for all, back pain can be remedied - so talk to your doctor to start your journey towards a pain-free future.
CANDY TAI is a wife to David and mom of 5 with a degree in Communications. She's a native Texan (Hook 'Em Horns!) who's been making her home in the Kansas City metro area for nearly 15 years. She loves being able to shuffle her kids from their various sports activities, piano lessons, and school activities. She enjoys fashion, beauty, reality TV, and moviegoing.