Everyone has had back pain at one time or another. Back pain can be annoying, distracting, constant or only once in awhile, mild or severe. Much is dependent on the cause.
Conservative, non-surgical treatment options
Back braces are believed to provide comfort and possibly reduce pain. The jury is still out on how long someone should wear one, though. Some argue that wearing an elastic corset-style brace daily in combination with physical therapy can help reduce back pain. Others argue that it actually makes you weaker. After back surgery, a back brace be prescribed by your doctor.
Physical therapy that has been prescribed by a physician involves the services of a trained and licensed physical therapist who will help you improve or eliminate your backache through exercise, massage, ultrasound, ice and heat, and stretches. Therapists also train patients about posture, body mechanics, conditioning exercises, stretching and strengthening.
Often physical therapy is used to see if a suspected sprain or strain will improve before investing in x-rays, MRIs and other diagnostic testing to determine if surgery will be required to improve a backache. Some surgeons prescribe physical therapy both before and after your surgery to strengthen your back so you recover from surgery more quickly.
Chiropractors are limited license practitioners who are not permitted to prescribe controlled medications.
They treat back pain by focusing on musculoskeletal functions associated with the nervous system and joints. They also perform spinal “adjustments”.
Chiropractic therapy procedures include heat (diathermy), electric stimulation, and ultrasound therapies to treat back pain.
Chiropractic care is not recognized as a profession in all countries. It has become a mainstream treatment approach in the USA.
Acupuncture, performed by trained and licensed acupuncturists in the USA, stimulates points on the body to correct the body’s ‘qi’ (pronounced “chi”) or life force. Many people believe that clearing obstructions of ‘qi’ will decrease the discomfort and pain in the body. Sessions take about an hour where thin needles are placed on the skin. Some claim that it works, others tried and report no effect.
Prescription and over-the-counter muscle relaxants act as a depressant of the central nervous system not just on the muscle that may need to relax, but on the whole body. Some last in the blood stream as long as 72 hours!
They tend to mask the pain so you’ll increase the mobility of your muscles and relieve pain from muscle tightness or spasms. However, in case of chronic pain, they are not much of help. Muscle relaxants have been abused by prescription drug abusers for decades.
Surgical Treatment for Back Problems
- Discectomy A disk is a cushion that separates your vertebrae. Sometimes, this disk can slip out of place or press on a spinal nerve and cause back pain. In this surgery, the surgeon removes a part of the disk or all of it, depending on the condition of the patient. Sometimes, a discectomy can be a part of other surgeries as well.
- Disk replacement In disk replacement, the surgeon removes the damaged spinal disk and inserts an artificial one between your vertebrae. You can continue to move your spine normally after this surgery. Recovery time for this surgery is shorter than other surgeries like spinal fusion. However, there are always chances that the new disk may fall out or slip and may require repair.
- Foraminotomy In this surgery, to widen the space where nerves exit your spine, the surgeon cuts away bone at the side of your vertebrae. This extra room helps to relieve pressure on the nerves and hence, ease your pain as well. However, this surgery can make your spine less stable. The surgeon may perform a spinal fusion surgery at the same time as well to increase stability. However, this will increase your total recovery time.
- Interlaminar implant Between two vertebrae in your lower back, the surgeon plants a u-shaped device in this surgery. The device helps to keep the space between vertebrae open and hence, ease the pressure on your spinal nerves. Unlike spinal fusion surgery, the implant in this surgery provides stability and allows your back to move normally. However, the area in which the device is placed, you may be able to bend back that easily.
- Laminectomy In this surgery, the surgeon removes parts of the bones, ligaments, or bone spurs from your back. It helps to ease the pain and weakness by relieving the pressure on spinal nerves. However, if this surgery makes your spine less stable, then a spinal fusion surgery may be needed as well. Surgeons sometimes perform both the surgeries together.
- Spinal fusion Spinal fusion is the most popular surgery to treat back pain. In this surgery, the doctor joints the vertebrae together. Vertebrae are the bones of the spinal cord. This surgery helps to limit the motion between vertebrae and also, how far the nerves can stretch. However, this doesn’t mean it will limit your day-to-day activities. In rare cases, the bones may not fuse completely. Smoking is a likely cause for this to happen. If your bones don’t fuse completely, you may need another operation to fix the same.