"Ouch - my back hurts," you moan, reaching for your sore, pinched, or strained backside. This is an all-too common scenario for many of us. More than 65 million Americans suffer from back pain every year. It is the most frequent complaint from people seeking medical care.
Advances in medicine have created many treatment options for people seeking back pain relief. Alternative treatments have increased in number and availability as well. However, there is still no "miracle cure" able to rid the world of back pain once and for all. Since the intensity, causes and specific conditions vary with each patient, you need to discuss treatment options with a health care professional in order to tailor treatment to your specific condition.
Patients have an almost daunting number of choices of medications, some of which alleviate not only back pain but reduce inflammation, muscle tension, and spasms too. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) include aspirin, ibuprofen, and a host of prescription medicines. Taken regularly, these medications can significantly reduce inflammation and resulting back pain, and also provide back pain relief when taken during acute episodes. One common side effect of NSAIDs that should be taken into consideration is their propensity for causing gastrointestinal upset.
Acetaminophen comes in many over-the-counter medications. It acts as an analgesic, and is often used to treat acute pain. These medications can be taken alone or in conjunction with NSAIDs. Potential harmful side effects of acetaminophen include liver and kidney damage.
Doctors sometimes prescribe opioids or muscle relaxants for severe pain, but these medications can be habit-forming.
Acupuncture has been used in China for over 2,000 years and was first popularized in the United States in the 1970s. This ancient alternative to traditional 'Western' medicine has received validation by research studies which have documented acupuncture's beneficial effects on patients, but many within the medical community are wary of relying too heavily on this form of treatment, as modern medicine has not been able to fully explain how acupuncture works.
Another alternative treatment, chiropractic, is based on the understanding that a properly functioning nervous system is essential for good health. The spinal column is quite literally the 'backbone' of the nervous system, because the spinal cord is encased inside it, as well as nerve roots that branch out into the entire body. Chiropractors adjust the spine of patients, aligning the vertebrae and correcting stress-inducing imbalances.
Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy, which helps patients build strength and increase flexibility. Physical therapy combines exercise with massage, heat/cold therapy, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation.
It is essential that you know what is causing your back pain so you can get the right treatment for you. Your doctor plays a crucial role in diagnosing and prescribing treatment for your condition, but in order to achieve the most effective treatment, you must take an active role in your healthcare also.