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Know Your Full Range of Treatment Options

Back Be Nimble Newsletter - July, 2003

There are so many options for treating back pain available today, it's can be quite a challenge to sort it all through. Here are some helpful pointers to keep in mind as you're seeking help for your back condition:

If at first you don't succeed, keep trying. Each of the many treatments for back pain has several variations. For example, there are many approaches to physical therapy - some of which may provide more benefits for you, cause less pain, or which you simply feel better. Traditional physical therapy might not be the best option for you. Sometimes a simple exercise program such as yoga or a low-impact aerobics is more enjoyable and helpful. You may need to try several types of treatments, or combination of treatments, to find what works best for you. This could involve the joint effort of various health care providers.

Don't forget low-tech therapies. Sometimes a few simple therapies as part of your daily routine can make a big difference. For example, ice application, heat and/or moist heat are easy to do and when used as part of your everyday routine may provide substantial pain relief. There are many types of heat therapy available, including heat wraps, gel packs, heating pads, hot water bottles, etc. Moist heat like produced by some of the grain based microwaveable packs is much more penetrating than dry heat and is therefore the most desirable. If the injury is new, ice should always be tried prior to heat, especially if you are experiencing swelling.

Exercise is essential to stimulate healing. One of nature's best healers is active exercise. Movement keeps the discs, muscles, ligaments and joints in the spine healthy. Importantly, it allows diffusion of nutrients into the disc space and soft tissues, which is needed to reduce swelling at the injury site and for healing to occur.

Exercise means a combination of stretching, strengthening and aerobic conditioning. Stretching is important because it allows for an increase in motion, which in turn leads to ongoing pain relief. If an episode of low back pain has lasted two weeks or more, a strengthening program (such as McKenzie exercises, Lumbar stabilization training and/or facilitation exercises) to build support for your spine is important for long-term recovery. These exercises are usually best learned with a trained professional. Finally, low impact aerobic exercise brings nutrients to injured structures in the back and helps them heal. Walking or biking and mat routines with a class or exercise videotape can be effective forms of low impact exercise. If you are in severe pain, water therapy is an option that can provide aerobic conditioning with less stress on the spine.

T.E.N.S. units (transcutaneous electro nerve stimulators) T.E.N.S. units can be an excellent source of pain relief. Although they do not cure or have a permanent effect, they do deplete some of the chemicals that transmit pain signals to our brain and therefore can be a welcome addition to an overall treatment program.

Don't automatically rule out surgery as an option. While it sounds daunting, for some conditions the most direct path to pain relief is actually surgery. However, it's difficult to know if this is the case for you. If you are in severe pain, or if your pain has not responded to non-surgical treatments and you do not feel like you are making progress with your current treatment program, be sure to discuss surgery as an option with your doctor.

We hope that these pointers for seeking treatment will help you better manage your back health.

At Back Be Nimble, We bend over backwards to help your back be nimble again...

Best Wishes,

Dr. Brad Lustick
CEO and Ergonomic Supervisor

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