Back pain is pretty common. There’s a good chance you or someone you know has experienced low back pain at least once in their lifetime. The most common cause of missed workdays and job-related disability, low back pain accounts for a large proportion of yearly doctor’s visits. Treatment for this ailment depends largely on the type of injury you have and the type of care you seek. If you are dealing with lumbar pain, here are a few things you might encounter when being treated.
Physical Therapy Exercises
There are many causes of low back pain and while some cases need advanced treatment early on, most injuries can be addressed with a regimen of exercises that strengthen and stretch the low spine and the surrounding muscles. You may be able to complete these exercises from the comfort of your home. However, your doctor may recommend you see a chiropractor or attend physical therapy if more professional attention is warranted. The exercises you do in physical therapy are performed under the guidance of trained therapists and doctors and vary based on what type of injury you have. The movements you do in therapy can also help prevent further injury by teaching you how to lift objects safely or by improving your posture at work. Your progress is tracked each week to assess your recovery and how much more therapy is needed.
If physical healing modalities are not enough to control your pain and tightness, your healthcare provider may prescribe a variety of medications to help ease your troubles. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory meds (NSAIDs) are commonly used to control inflammation associated with injury while muscle relaxants can help tense and spastic muscles loosen up. Topical preparations like mentholated gels or arnica creams may also be recommended to massage into the affected area. These topical medications often have a heating or cooling effect to provide a refreshing method of pain relief. Occasionally, doctors and orthopedists will prescribe higher strength medications like opioids, nerve blocking agents, or similar substances. However, these can be highly addictive and are reserved for severe injury or post-surgical pain.
Surgery and Other Procedures
There are many different medical procedures, both invasive and non-invasive, that can help relieve back pain. Electrical stimulation, massage, and infrared therapy are all some examples of minimally invasive procedures that can aid in treating back pain and injury. While some methods are focused on stimulating or targeting muscle, fascia and other soft tissues, things like chiropractic adjustments aim to correct skeletal misalignment in the vertebrae and other bones in the spine. Examples of invasive methods of relieving back pain are injections and surgery. Oral medications like steroids and NSAIDs aren’t always powerful enough to relieve inflammation and are sometimes injected directly into the problem area with numbing medications. But if you have a severe or persistent back injury, surgery may be the medical team’s only chance at getting you pain-free.
One of the most important things your doctor might teach you is how to prevent re-injury or exacerbation of an old injury. Even if you are no longer feeling the effects of a back injury, it’s important to be aware of situations that increase the risk of hurting your back again. During therapy or once your lumbar pain has subsided, your doctor may speak with you about the different ways to prevent the return of discomfort. Most likely you will discuss how to maintain low spine health like avoiding a sedentary lifestyle, being mindful of movement and posture, wearing lumbar supports, and incorporating a time to stretch into your daily routine.
Low back pain affects men and women of all ages, occupations, and lifestyles. While most pain can be resolved with simple self-care at home, some injuries and ailments need medical attention. Now you can know what to expect if you find yourself at the doctor’s office with a low back injury.