Here at Westchester Health Associates, we see a lot of patients with chronic lower back pain. In years past, they would be advised to have surgery, but now there is a wide variety of highly effective, noninvasive pain management options for treating back pain. Syed S. Rahman, MD, a Pain Management, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation specialist with Westchester Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, has written a very timely blog on the subject, focusing on these new methods that can relief back pain without surgery.
New findings have led to advanced treatments to alleviate back pain
For years, people with chronic back pain were told that they simply had to learn to live with the discomfort. Recently, however, researchers have learned a great deal about chronic pain, which in turn has led to new, more advanced pain management treatments for significant, and often total, pain relief.
Noninvasive Non-Drug Pain Management
New non-drug-related pain treatments, as part of a comprehensive pain management program, include:
- Exercise: Exercise is necessary for proper cardiovascular health, disc nutrition and musculoskeletal health, with the aim of increasing strength and flexibility and restoring normal motion. Techniques include the McKenzie method, water therapy, stretching exercises, aerobic routines and many others.
- Manual techniques: Manipulation of affected areas by applying force to the joints, muscles, and ligaments has been shown to be very effective.
- Behavioral modification: The use of psychotherapy, relaxation techniques and alternative therapies, supported by growing evidence of the mind-body connection in chronic pain relief.
- Superficial heating or cooling of skin: These pain management methods include cold and hot packs, ultrasound and diathermy, and should be used in conjunction with exercise.
- Electrotherapy: The most common form of electrotherapy is transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) which helps reduce back pain by means of a low-voltage electric stimulation that interacts with the sensory nervous system.
Noninvasive Pharmacologic Pain Management
Sometimes pain relievers and related drugs are needed to treat and alleviate back pain, especially in cases of failed back surgery. The most common noninvasive pharmacologic treatments for chronic back pain are:
- Analgesics: OTC pain medications, including acetaminophen (Tylenol, Anacin).
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs): These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen and COX-2 inhibitors.
- Muscle relaxants: Used to treat muscle spasms due to pain.
- Narcotic medications: These treatments are most appropriate for acute or post-operative pain. Since use of narcotics entails risk of habituation or addiction if not properly supervised, they are rarely used for chronic conditions and need to be closely supervised.
- Antidepressants and anticonvulsants: Used to treat neuropathic (“nerve”) pain.
- Neuromodulating medications: Used to treat neuropathic and muscular pain.
It’s an exciting time in pain management and there are more advances coming
Our knowledge in the field of pain management has increased tremendously in the last few years. We still have a lot to learn, but research is driving the development of even newer treatment options.
To read Dr. Rahman’s blog in full, click here.