Simply having back pain doesn’t necessarily mean surgery is your only option. However, if you’ve been relying mostly on medication to get through your daily routine without distracting pain, you’re not doing yourself any favors either. Meds only mask symptoms. For some people with back pain, alternative therapies can be effective options that reduce or even eliminate the need for potentially addictive pain meds or surgery. Here are four great alternative therapies that may make your spine-related discomfort more manageable.
Before exploring any of the alternative therapies discussed here or any others you might come across, talk with your doctor to make sure you won’t be doing more harm than good. If you’re experiencing severe or long-lasting back pain that hasn’t been diagnosed by a physician, see your Beverly Hills spine surgeon before trying these alternative forms of therapy.
1. Massage Therapy
Most back pain is related to strained or tense muscles or other soft tissues. Massage therapy, whether it’s in the form of a gentle Swedish massage or a more invigorating deep tissue massage, can zero in on areas of tension. Since a massage also boosts circulation, it may ease discomfort related to spinal arthritis and similar inflammatory conditions. With massage therapy, you may also notice improvements in:
• General stress and anxiety
• Flexibility and mobility
• Pain management due to the release of your body’s natural “feel-good” hormones (endorphins)
• General and localized stiffness
Both of these disciplines are based on the concept that discomfort can be minimized or eliminated by correcting disruptions to the body’s natural energy (chi or qi). Creating a better biochemical balance also has the potential to reduce reliance on pain medications, some of which could be habit-forming if used on a long-term basis.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine sterile needles into specific pressure points. These needles stimulate the nervous system (which stems from the spinal cord) and trigger the release of endorphins. There are various studies suggesting acupuncture has the potential to ease lower back pain and reduce discomfort related to osteoarthritis and similar underlying conditions that can affect spinal joints, bones, and discs.
Acupressure is essentially a needle-free version of acupuncture. It works by applying controlled pressure to sensitive areas around the spine. Fingers, thumbs, and sometimes elbows are used to target various life energy paths (meridians). The potential for back pain relief with acupressure is similar to what may be experienced with acupuncture.
3. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
TENS units use mild electrical stimulation to disrupt the transmission of pain signals from the spine to the brain. It’s done with the placement of electrodes near the affected area. A power unit is then used to control how the mild current is delivered. In addition to blocking pain signals, electrical stimulation can increase circulation. Better blood flow may facilitate your body’s natural healing processes.
There are more advanced and complex yoga moves you’ll want to avoid if you have back pain. However, there are plenty of gentler moves, or poses, that could strengthen the core muscle groups that support your spine without the need to twist yourself into a human pretzel. Sometimes referred to as “moving meditation,” yoga may also make back pain more manageable by:
• Improving your posture
• Promoting mind–body relaxation
• Increasing flexibility, range of motion, and mobility
• Reducing muscle tension and stiffness
Note: Tai chi and Pilates are similar disciplines that could be equally beneficial for some people with back pain.
Lastly, remember alternative therapies aren’t meant to replace traditional approaches to managing and treating back pain. Instead, they’re meant to complement your existing treatment plan.
If you’re experiencing severe back pain or you have any other questions or concerns about your spinal health, the industry-leading professionals at The Spine Institute are here to help. Our spine experts are pioneers in every aspect of spine care, including prevention, non-surgical treatment, and state-of-the-art surgical techniques such as spinal fusion alternatives. Beverly Hills residents are encouraged to call one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.