Back pain is something most of the population will experience at one time or another. Most of the time, a little rest or taking a break from certain activities is all that’s necessary to resolve the issue. Other times, a more specific treatment plan that includes medication and various forms of physical therapy is recommended. However, there are times when results aren’t what was expected and back pain continues to affect quality of life. Here are five possible reasons this may happen.
1. The Source of the Back Pain Isn’t Being Treated
One of the most common reasons back pain treatment doesn’t work is because the actual source of the problem isn’t being treated, which sometimes happens when attempting to self-diagnose. It’s also possible that you’re only treating symptoms but not the actual source of your back pain, which could happen if nerves are affected and discomfort is felt elsewhere. If you think your back pain hasn’t been properly diagnosed, consider:
- Seeing a Santa Monica spine surgeon
- Getting a second opinion if you’ve already seen a doctor or specialist
- Keeping a journal for a brief period to record pain patterns and help your doctor get a better idea of where to focus diagnostic efforts
2. You’re Overdoing It with Rest
You may sometimes feel better sitting on the couch or spending some extra time relaxing in bed when you have back pain. While resting a lot is fine when you first experience back pain, it’s not something that should become a long-term habit. Too much rest can weaken spine-supporting muscles and place more pressure on the part of your back that’s already affected by inflammation or nerve irritation. Instead, opt for therapeutic exercises designed to strengthen the soft tissues that take some of the stress off of your spine. If certain exercises are too painful, you may benefit from:
- Water-based exercises
- Gentle forms of exercise such as yoga and Pilates
- Working with a physical therapist so a customized exercise plan can be combined with therapeutic techniques such as massage therapy and hot and cold applications
3. Your Diet Habits Aren’t Doing You Any Favors
Let’s say you’re sticking to your recommended physical therapy exercises and other parts of your treatment plan and are still not seeing meaningful relief. The reason may be what you’re eating or what you’re not eating. If you also have excess weight on your body, your spine has to absorb the added pressure as you go about your daily routine. If this applies to you, talk to your doctor about healthy weight loss options.
Even if your weight isn’t too far from what’s considered normal for you, poor diet choices could be increasing inflammation and affecting circulation in the affected area of your back. A spine-friendly diet includes:
- Nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables
- Plenty of water throughout the day to maintain sufficient hydration around the spine
- Lean proteins and low-fat dairy products
4. You’re Not Fully Committed to Treatment/Pain Management Efforts
It may not seem like a big deal, but straying from a recommended treatment plan too often can slow or reverse progress. Nobody expects you to be perfect all of the time as you take steps to minimize or manage your back pain, but if you happen to have days when you don’t do your daily exercise or you treat yourself to some of your favorite comfort or convenience foods, make a conscious effort to get back on track. If you need some help staying motivated, consider:
- Partnering with a friend to exercise
- Joining an in-person or online support group for people with back pain
- Working with a personal trainer, physical therapist, or dietician to get recommendations in line with your lifestyle and goals
5. It’s Time to Explore Other Treatment Options
Lastly, there may come a time when it’s clear your current treatment efforts aren’t working. If this is the case, talk to your doctor about making adjustments. You may see better results with:
- Pain management techniques you haven’t tried yet (e.g. electrotherapy, epidural injections)
- Changes to your medications
- A minimally invasive procedure that relieves nerve pressure or increases spinal stability
Take comfort in knowing that many people with back pain respond better to a combination of treatments. Because of the complex nature of spine-related issues, it’s sometimes a trial and error process when trying to find the right balance with treatment options. If surgery isn’t something you want to consider just yet, you may want to explore less traditional remedies such as acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, and therapies that focus on changing how you think about your pain.
There are many options for treating back pain, including fusion procedures and various alternatives to spinal fusion surgery. Santa Monica patients can call The Spine Institute today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment and find out their options.