Low back pain can run the gamut from merely annoying to chronic, debilitating pain. While the National Institutes of Health estimates that eight out of ten people will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, the reality is that many of these cases will be acute episodes lasting no longer than a few days or weeks. However, some people can develop chronic low back pain that lasts for months or even years. This type of pain can severely limit daily mobility and have a negative impact on quality of life.
With so many different experiences of pain, therefore, many different treatment options must be available.
For acute periods of low back pain, the following treatments are used most often:
- One to two days of bed rest, though longer periods of rest can actually make the pain worse
- Low impact exercises, such as walking, that can help strengthen the core muscles and keep the back flexible
- A regimen of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports that up to 69% of patients with low back pain take NSAIDs to reduce inflammation and pain. There are side effects to prolonged use of these drugs, however, and so many health professionals caution patients to only take them for a limited period of time, specifically for temporary and acute cases of low back pain.
Individuals who experience prolonged, chronic cases of low back pain may need to look beyond these treatments to find one that works for them.
For people who suffer from chronic low back pain, that is pain that lasts for three months or longer, more intensive regimens of therapy are likely needed to help relieve their pain. Comprehensive solutions that target the whole body include:
- Physical therapy
- Chiropractic, or spinal, manipulation
- Biofeedback training
These therapies can be used by themselves or in conjunction with more interventional treatment programs. In particular, one of the most widely used treatments for chronic low back pain is the epidural steroid injection. This treatment works by injecting steroids directly into the affected vertebrae of the spine to help relieve pain. The procedure is minimally invasive, done on an outpatient basis, and normally only takes 15 minutes.
Other chronic pain patients who have not had success with any other treatments may use opioid medications. Opioids can provide relief for sudden onset, non-specific, and severe pain, however, there are many side effects and concerns for misuse and abuse. Therefore, these are best used for short-term management of pain while exploring other options that can be used to provide long-term relief.
In the end, the best treatment method is the one that you have come to under the guidance of a trusted pain doctor. Each type of pain is different and may respond differently to various treatment options. Therefore, it is best to find the one that works for you.
Do you suffer from low back pain? How do you treat it?
Image by Michael Dorausch via Flickr