Chronic back pain is categorized as pain in the upper, middle or lower back that lasts for more than 12 weeks. Most people experience back pain at some point in their lives, and it is the leading cause of missing work as well as job-related disability claims. Persistent back pain affects men and women equally, and can be caused by anything ranging from a sedentary lifestyle to picking up something too heavy or the wrong way. Constant back pain may also develop over time, and symptoms for upper and lower back pain may range from a dull ache to stabbing pain.
Traditional Treatments for Chronic Back Pain
Treatment for chronic back pain, both upper and lower, varies. Surgery is a last resort, and it is generally only recommended when there is grave and ongoing nerve damage, or there are structural changes in the tissue or bone. The following are the traditional pain relief treatment options according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS):
Chiropractors can perform spinal manipulation and alignment techniques to help with both acute and chronic back pain.
Medications can be obtained over-the-counter or by prescription for both acute and chronic back pain. These may have unpleasant side effects or be unsafe during pregnancy, and some may also cause gastrointestinal ulcers or liver damage.
– Prescription analgesics or opioids (codeine, hydrocodone, morphine and oxycodone)
– Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS (ibuprofen, ketoprofen, and naproxen sodium)
– Anticonvulsants (primarily used to treat seizures—may be useful in treating people with radiculopathy and radicular pain)
– Antidepressants (norepinephrine, serotonin and tricyclics)
Nerve or nerve root blocks, such as botulinum toxin, local anesthetic or steroid shots, may be administered directly into the spinal cord. Epidural steroid injections may also be used for low back pain or sciatica.
Topical analgesics help to dull the pain and provide either warming or cooling relief.
Traction can aid in aligning the skeletal structure through the use of counter weights or pulleys. Relief is usually only temporary and pain quickly returns once the session is over.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) triggers the nervous system to help block pain signals by artificially elevating endorphin levels.
Surgery should be a last resort and usually requires months of recovery. Often, the patient never is able to experience full movement again.
Natural Treatments for Chronic Back Pain
More and more people are realizing the dangers of prescription drugs and other traditional pain treatment options like surgery. Fortunately, there are numerous viable treatment alternatives for chronic back pain that may help:
Acupuncture uses needles to realign the bodies’ “Qi” (or life force) and helps release one’s naturally occurring painkillers, such as acetylcholine, endorphins and serotonin.
Bed rest can help alleviate pressure on the spine, though it should be limited since too much bed rest can aggravate the issue. Movements that aggravate pain should be restricted; however, stretching and regular daily activities should continue.
Biofeedback uses electrodes and an electromyography machine that helps people regulate their pain by using relaxation techniques.
Heat/cold therapy may help ease pain caused by inflammation in the back.
Massage can be helpful for relaxing the muscles; however, spinal manipulation and massage are counterindicated in instances of underlying conditions such as arthritis, compression, cancer and osteoporosis.
Medical cannabis has been found to help in cases of chronic pain, back or otherwise. For instance, one Canadian research team found that just three doses of inhaled medical marijuana daily helps patient’s pain levels and helps them sleep better.
Strengthening exercises can be helpful in cases of chronic back pain. The core muscles, in particular, help keep the spine in check, and keeping them active and toned will help with irregularities. This will also help with coordination and balance.
Topical cannabis treatments have been shown to help with chronic back pain as well. Cannabinoids in salves and topical hemp oils react with the bodies’ CB2 receptors, relieving pain as well as reducing inflammation and swelling.
Yoga may be beneficial for back pain, as it helps with muscle elasticity and core strength.
Choosing a Natural Approach to Chronic Back Pain
As you can see, there are many ways to find relief for chronic pain of the upper and lower back. Research is finding that various alternative natural methods of treating back pain may be as good, if not better, than traditional treatments. This is excellent news for those wishing to avoid the unpleasant side effects that may come with many traditional treatments. For this reason, it is wise to try out different treatments for yourself.
Start with the least invasive, for a few weeks at a time. If this does not work, try something else for a couple weeks, until you find the right treatment option for your particular pain.
Always talk to your doctor before trying either traditional or natural pain treatment options.