According to recent research, low back pain affects eight out of ten people during their lifetimes. Lower back pain also accounts for 2.6 million emergency room visits annually and is a leading cause of disability. Muscle strain from an accident or heavy lifting is the leading cause of back pain. Other conditions like scoliosis, arthritis, or osteoporosis can also cause persistent back pain, sidelining you from work, among other daily activities.
Fortunately, there are various nonsurgical treatment options to treat or alleviate back pain, and you could try these alternatives before considering surgery. Read on for nine ways to treat or relieve back pain without surgery.
1. Consume an anti-inflammatory diet
While refined sugars, trans fats, and processed foods can satisfy your cravings, they increase body inflammation, triggering particular back pain. For this reason, you should consider eating an anti-inflammatory diet to alleviate back pain. A recent study shows an anti-inflammatory diet is as effective in relieving certain types of back pain as Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin. Here are some foods that can help prevent inflammation:
- Green leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale, spinach, and collard
- Seeds like pumpkin, chia, and sunflower
- Brightly-colored vegetables and fruits such as blueberries, carrots, oranges, beets, tomatoes, strawberries, and sweet potatoes
- Nuts, such as walnuts and almonds
- Fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, and salmon
- Healthy fats from olive oil, canola oil, and avocado
2. Spinal manipulation
Spinal manipulation, also called chiropractic manipulation, entails using hands to massage, stimulate, and adjust the spine. According to a National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) study, chiropractic manipulation can help deal with chronic low back pain.
Chiropractic manipulation is unsuitable for persons with spinal cord issues, osteoporosis, and arthritis. For this reason, you should only seek this treatment from trained and licensed professionals. The following are people who can perform the chiropractic manipulation technique:
- Licensed local chiropractor
- Osteopathic doctor
- Physical therapist
- Some medical physicians
Seeking spinal manipulation treatment from a trained professional prevents the risk of severe side effects. Any side effects from the treatment, including discomfort in the affected area, often resolve within two days. It’s best to see a spine specialist to assess your health condition before undergoing spinal manipulation and similar therapies. This step is crucial in ensuring your overall health and safety.
3. Consider losing weight
Joints, bones, and back muscles support your body as you stand, sit, and move. You increase pressure on your spine when carrying extra weight and strain the back muscles. According to a recent study, obesity results in high levels of lower back pain and disability among men.
Consider losing weight to deal with back pain and prevent worsening the condition, which could necessitate surgery. Be sure to work with a healthcare provider to find ways to achieve a healthy body weight.
You can start to lose weight by monitoring your intake, especially of foods high in sugar and carbohydrates. Choose healthier options like fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and grains.
Avoid preserved and processed foods because they’re high in sugar and preservatives. Furthermore, you can consider special diets like pescetarian or intermittent fasting to achieve your weight goals faster.
Another crucial aspect of weight loss management is exercise. If you’re too busy, you can exercise early in the morning or the evening for at least 15 minutes daily. You don’t have to stick with the 30-minute daily exercise rule. As you get used to a 15-minute daily workout, you can increase the time or intensity level to observe trackable results on your weight.
Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese treatment, is known to treat various ailments, including chronic back pain and illnesses. It involves inserting tiny thin needles into your body to stimulate energy channels and specific parts.
A systematic review suggests that acupuncture treatment can help alleviate pain and restore function among people suffering from chronic low pain. A 2017 meta-analysis also established that acupuncture could lower muscle tension and back pain intensity when combined with other back pain treatments or as a standalone treatment.
Therefore, if you’re interested in trying acupuncture, there are some things to remember. These include:
- Find a qualified acupuncturist. There are many different types of acupuncture, so it’s important to find an acupuncturist trained in the kind of acupuncture you’re interested in.
- Be prepared to answer questions about your medical history. Your acupuncturist will need to know about any health conditions that you have, as well as any medications that you’re taking.
- Tell your acupuncturist about any pain medications that you’re taking. Acupuncture can interact with pain medications, so it’s important to let your acupuncturist know what you are taking.
- Expect to feel some discomfort during the treatment. The needles used in acupuncture are very thin, but you may still feel discomfort when inserted.
- The number of treatments needed will vary depending on the condition being treated. You may need to have several treatments before you start to feel relief.
Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for pain management. If you’re considering acupuncture, talk to your doctor first. They can help you decide if acupuncture is right for you and recommend a qualified acupuncturist.
5. Smoking cessation
Smoking cessation can help treat or relieve back pain. Smoking causes poor blood flow, preventing body tissues from getting sufficient nutrients and oxygen. This causes back and spine muscles to weaken, resulting in chronic back pain. Consider speaking to your doctor about practical tools to help you quit smoking, including nicotine gum, prescription drugs, or patches. You could also enroll in a nicotine cessation program to help you quit tobacco.
Another way to help you stop smoking cigarettes is vaping, which involves using a vaping device and electronic juice (e-juice) to produce flavored vapor. Vapes have nicotine content, but not as much as tobacco cigarettes, which can satisfy smoking cravings. You can shift from tobacco smoking to vape and gradually decrease the frequency of use until you’re able to manage without it.
Take note that an actual nicotine addiction rehab program offers the best results for this. Visit a center or get referrals from your doctor.
6. Consider injection-based treatment
Injection-based treatments can help relieve back pain, especially when other treatment options are ineffective. They also help identify the pain source, enabling your healthcare provider to recommend treatment tailored to your condition. Below are some injection-based treatments:
- Epidural steroid injection. This treatment involves administering steroids into the dural sac’s outer part. This helps alleviate back pain by minimizing irritation and inflammation around the nerve root.
- Joint and soft tissue injection. This injection-based treatment involves injecting a pain reliever or steroid directly into the specific affected soft tissue or joint, alleviating pain for weeks or months.
- Selective nerve root injection. It entails using X-ray guidance to inject medication into a specific nerve instead of the entire spinal cord.
- Radiofrequency ablation. Radiofrequency ablation, also called rhizotomy, involves using radio waves to produce heat that kills the pain-causing tissues.
- Sacroiliac joint injection. This injection is administered into the joint connecting the pelvis to the tailbone, a primary source of leg and lower back pain.
Therefore, if you want to know which injection-based treatment is best for your pain issues, consulting one of your area’s best pain management doctors is important. They have advanced training in using medications and injections to help people manage their pain.
7. Physical therapy
Exercise is the primary treatment you should consider to relieve back pain. Physical therapy alleviates tension and strengthens muscles to help reduce back pain. However, the same exercise set may not effectively alleviate back pain for everyone, so you should speak to your healthcare provider for recommendations on the best physical activities according to your symptoms and condition. Here is a physical therapy exercise for chronic back pain:
- Core strengthening
- Flexibility and stretching exercises
- Retraining your body posture
- Aerobic exercises
8. Pick the right footwear
While stilettos, pumps, heels, and shoes with a platform will help you appear fashionable and sophisticated, they cause hip, spine, and lower back misalignment. This results in overusing your muscles and back pain, so you should consider investing in proper footwear.
Be sure to pick lower heels, invest in padded inserts or gel to minimize the impact on your spine and hips, and ditch pointy toed-shoes to avoid squishing your feet in awkward positions. If you are unwilling to ditch stilettos or heels, consider wearing them for shorter periods.
9. Meditation and mindfulness
Back pain involves both emotional and physical strain. Mindfulness and meditation therapies such as tai chi and yoga reduce pain perception. It also lowers sleep problems, anxiety, and depression that result from back pain.
You do not have to undergo surgery to treat back pain. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet, undergo spinal manipulation or acupuncture, quit smoking, pick proper footwear and participate in meditation and mindfulness to relieve or treat back pain. Only when these treatments do not successfully back pain should you decide on surgery.