Spine Association for Education

Non-surgical Treatment Options for Common Conditions

Many back and neck conditions can be effectively treated with relatively simple, non-surgical remedies. However, always consult with your doctor if your pain and inflammation last more than 72 hours and, of course, prior to beginning any type of ongoing treatment for a back or neck problem.

Acupuncture – Based upon traditional Chinese medical practices over 2,000 years old, acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin, dry needles into the skin at specific points all over the body to theoretically stimulate a better flow and/or balance of energy and release naturally occurring painkilling molecules. Recent studies have shown that acupuncture can help relieve chronic lower back pain in some patients. Acupuncture can be used alone or in conjunction with other treatments.

Bed Rest – A day or two of inactivity, rest, or even bed rest can often help promote the healing of inflamed nerve roots and damaged tissue. However, studies have shown that more than a couple of days of inactivity can do more harm than good in terms of reducing overall flexibility, strength, and stamina. In short, a prompt return to normal activity, as soon as possible, is often the best medicine.

ESIs – Epidural steroid injections (ESIs) don’t actually do anything to treat a back or neck condition. Instead, a doctor may recommend them simply to provide effective pain relief. The goal of an epidural is to deliver medication directly into a painful area to help reduce inflammation in the spinal nerve roots as well as the symptomatic pain the swelling produces. This type of short-term symptom relief can often promote greater movement, more regular exercise, and quicker healing.

Exercise – Regular exercise is a key component of almost every treatment plan for chronic back pain problems—especially those involving the lower back. In particular, a progressive program of back-healthy aerobic, stretching, and strengthening exercises can be quite beneficial. In fact, many doctors and physical therapists offer lists of recommended exercises and routines. From walking and strength training to swimming and yoga, regular exercise can often benefit chronic back and neck problems in significant ways.

Ice Packs & Hot Compresses – Both ice and heat can help to reduce pain and inflammation, while also promoting greater flexibility. Initially, applying an ice pack to the painful area for up to 20 minutes, several times a day, can help minimize both pain and inflammation. After two or three days, using hot compresses or a heating pad for brief periods can help to relax muscles and increase blood flow.

Medications – Chronic back pain can often be treated via a range of effective over-the-counter and prescription medications. Some are designed to help reduce the inflammation that causes the pain. Some are designed to block or prevent pain signals being sent to the brain. Others are muscle relaxants. As with all types of medicines, there are potential risks and possible side effects that should always be discussed with your doctor prior to the start of any treatment.

Physical Therapy – Depending upon the condition, physical therapy may be recommended. Sometimes, several different types of therapies are used in combination. These can include specialized exercise and conditioning programs, massage, ultrasound, hydrotherapy, and even electrical stimulation.

TENS – Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy that utilizes a battery-powered device to generate mild electric pulses that block the transmission of pain signals from the back to the brain. To accomplish this, small electrodes are placed on the skin near the site of the pain to block the incoming pain signals from peripheral nerves. TENS is also thought to stimulate the brain’s production of pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins.

Ultrasound – This noninvasive, outpatient therapy uses sound waves that pass through the skin, target the body’s internal tissues, and provide warm, soothing relief for injured back muscles and other soft tissues.
DISCLAIMER: Because this information is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor, S.A.F.E. disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based upon the information provided by this website.

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