Unless back pain has a very specific cause, such as a herniated disc that’s putting pressure on supporting nerves or an obvious spinal cord injury, doctors are likely to opt for a conservative approach to treatment rather than surgery. The good news for individuals living with back pain is that most instances of back pain, especially non-specific lower back pain, respond well to conservative treatments.
Rest and Relaxation
A conservative, non-surgical approach to spine care starts with the least invasive treatment first, which is usually recommending a little rest and relaxation. For spine pain that’s related to overused muscles or temporary strains likely to heal, rest – or at least taking a break from strenuous activities and heavy lifting – is usually effective.
OTC and Prescription Medications
Whether back pain is chronic (pain linked to a specific cause or source lasting more than six months) or acute (vague pain often resulting from tissue damage lasting no more than 3-6 months), doctors often prefer to prescribe or recommend medications during the initial treatment phrase. Conservative drug treatments may include:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers (Tylenol, Advil, aspirin)
- Prescription muscle relaxants or antidepressants (Zanaflex, Cymbalta)
- Certain anti-seizure medications (Neurontin and Lyrica being the most common)
- Analgesics (Tramadol, Darvocet)
Exercise and Physical Therapy
Since too much bed rest can weaken muscles and tissues, physical therapy or light exercise is often recommended. Based on individual capabilities, the right type of exercises can help rebuild the strength of muscles and tendons supporting the spine. Additional conservative treatments may include:
- Heat applications
- Strength training
- Home therapy (exercises that can safely be done at home)
Some patients may experience meaningful relief from acupuncture, biofeedback and certain herbal medications – non-traditional treatments that can also be considered conservative since there is typically no harm to the patient if such treatments aren’t effective. Spine surgery becomes an option when back pain stops responding well to all possible conservative treatments.
If you are living with spine pain and are interested in meeting with a professional spinal specialist, call (310) 828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation with Dr. Hyun Bae, a conservative, board-certified surgeon in Santa Monica. Dr. Bae’s approach to care and expertise in the industry will ensure you are provided with all possible treatment options.