If you suffer from severe back pain and fear that surgery may be necessary, or if surgery has been recommended and you question the wisdom of it, you may want to try some non-surgical physical treatments first.
Unless your back pain is due to an infection, malformation of the back, or tumor, some type of physical treatment can probably help it. Letís look at a few of the more popular and effective types of treatment.
Chiropractic treatment has been shown to be most effective when applied within 2 months of the onset of back pain. Chiropractors realign the spine, increase the range of motion in back muscles, increase the flexibility of spinal soft tissue, break down scar tissue, and reduce pressure from constricted and misaligned spinal joints, all of which help to relieve pain. Usually treatment takes around 15 minutes 3 times a week at first. Over a few weeks sessions decrease until you are on a maintenance program of once a month or even “come come only if it hurts.”
Studies by the National Institutes of Health show that acupuncture is very effective in treating back pain. According to the theory of acupuncture, energy (known as chi) flows through the body along pathways called meridians. If the flow of chi is interrupted, pain or illness can result.
An acupuncturist uses very thin needles inserted into the skin along the meridians to correct the flow of chi. You may be surprised to learn that acupuncture is rarely described as painful. In fact, many people find it relaxing and even fall asleep during treatment.
A good physical therapist will combine passive and active treatments, since exercise is essential to the long term imporvement in back pain.
Active therapy involves the patient’s participation. The therapist will determine which exercises are best for a particular condition, and supervise you in those exercises to ensure that you are doing them correctly. They will include:
- Strength building exercises
- Aerobic exercise
Passive therapy is done on you, usually while you are relaxing, and includes:
- Heat or cold therapy
- Electrical stimulation
- Iontophoresis (inserting a drug through intact skin using an electric current).
Other Alternatives to Surgery
In addition to these 3 modalities, many other non-surgical treatments exist for back pain, among them massage, and the use of herbs and natural supplements.