Social Security Disability: Common Non-Surgical Treatments for Back Pain

Thursday, 22 September 2016 10: 00
Written by Joni B. Bailey


If you are disabled and have chronic back pain, these seven types of non-surgical treatment may help.

1.  Temperature therapy

Temperature therapy can soothe sore, stiff backs.

Heat is used to dilate blood vessels.  This accomplishes two things:  it increases the amount of oxygen that blood is able to transport to the back, and it calms muscle spasms. Applied heat also masks sensations of pain.

Cold packs or compresses can reduce inflammation.  It is thought that the cold temperature causes blood vessels to contract, lessening the flow of blood to the area. Although cold treatments may sting skin on the surface, they numb deep pain.

It is important to note that applying heat or cold may relieve back pain temporarily, but it will not heal the cause.

2.  Physical exercise

If the pain in your back is acute, meaning that it is a one-off event immediately following an injury, exercise will probably not help.  However, in the case that the pain is chronic (recurring), the right kind of exercise can ease the pain and reduce the risk that it will return.  The four types of exercise that can help certain causes of back pain are flexion, extension, stretches, and aerobic exercise.  If you suffer from chronic back pain and are not already on an exercise program recommended by a doctor or physical therapist, ask if there are exercises you can do that might help ease your pain.

3.  Medication

A wide range of medications are used to treat chronic back pain. Some are available over the counter. Others require a doctor’s prescription.  Because all medications have side effects, it is important that you talk with your doctor about the right medicine to use if you are planning on medicating chronic back pain.  The recommendation will depend on the frequency, dosage, and the length of time the medication will be taken, as well as any other medications you are currently taking.

4.  Traction

Traction is the use of pulleys and weights to stretch the back. The rationale behind traction is that pulling the vertebrae apart allows bulging disks to slip back into place. Some people experience pain relief while in traction, but it is usually temporary. Once a person is released from traction, the pain is likely to come back because the back is no longer being stretched. There is no scientific evidence that traction provides any long-term benefits for people with back pain.

5.  Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes that can help chronic back pain include starting an exercise plan, incorporating relaxation, and getting regular, full nights of sleep.  Additionally, cutting out bad habits such as smoking, drinking to excess, and eating poorly can go a long way to reduce back pain.  Modification to the way that pulling or pushing is done can also be helpful.  A physical therapist can identify ways that you might be straining your back during daily activities.

6.  Injections

After other nonsurgical treatments have been tried with little or no effect, your doctor may recommend injections for pain relief.  A commonly-used injection for back pain is a nerve root block.  During the nerve root block procedure, a steroid medication or anesthetic is injected at the site of the inflamed nerve.  

7.  Complementary and alternative treatments

For those who do not experience relief from conventional nonsurgical treatments, there are complementary and alternative treatments.  Massages and chiropractic care are an example.  Although these alternative treatments are not likely to cure the diseases or repair the injuries that cause pain, many people with lower back pain find them useful after conventional options have been exhausted.


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