Lower back pain is the leading cause of disability in the world. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 70% of people in industrialized countries will experience it at some point in their lives. Whether caused by spinal problems, nerve irritation or muscle strains, back pain can be debilitating and often very hard to treat. Here’s the best options for tackling and conquering an aching back when it hinders you from living your best life:
One of the first lines of defense against troublesome back pain is medication. Several different kinds of medication exist, from over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen to muscle relaxants, topical creams, narcotics and more. OTC drugs help inhibit the pain response (acetaminophen) and fight inflammation (NSAIDS), but for more severe pain, doctors can prescribe medication to relieve muscle spasms (muscle relaxant) or provide more powerful pain relief (opioids/narcotics). Other types of drugs are usually reserved for chronic pain relief, including antidepressants and steroidal injections.
Of course, sometimes rest is necessary. Clinical research, however, warns against too much rest, instead suggesting that a speedier return to activities helps prevent muscle loss, constipation and depression in those with moderate back pain, all of which can impede recovery. Ideally, patients should rest no more than one or two days in bed (and only for a few hours at a time) as a way to reduce strain to the spine and its surrounding ligaments and muscles.
Exercise and Physical Therapy
While it might should counterintuitive, moving the body can actually help to relieve some types of back pain by strengthening core muscles and increasing flexibility, thereby training your body to improve posture and avoid aggravating positions/situations. Movement also stimulates blood flow, making it easier for tissues to heal, and helps reduce weight, alleviating additional stress to the spine.
A newer treatment approach for back pain involves regenerative medicine. With science now more fully understanding stem cell therapy, doctors have begun using stem cells to possibly repair and regenerate damaged, decaying and diseased tissue. This is especially promising for back pain resulting from damaged discs. By applying stem cells to deteriorating spinal discs, doctors believe there is potential for new spinal disc tissue to grow.
As a last resort, there is always surgery. Although the most invasive option, surgery is nevertheless a good option for some people with unrelenting pain stemming from structural issues (like arthritis, scoliosis and sciatica) that other therapies haven’t been able to successfully treat. With surgical intervention, the spine is either fused to provide stability, one or more discs artificially replaced to restore function and/or a source of pressure removed from a nerve root to alleviate leg pain or weakness.
Indeed, today’s options for treating back pain continue to expand, making it easier than ever before to alleviate one of the most crippling — pun intended! — issues for people around the world!