Living with lower back pain can be worse than you can imagine. A constant discomfort that refuses to go away is likely to make you irritable both at home and at work. But why would you let a pain dictate the way you lead your life? Fight against lower back pain with the medication and treatment options for lower back pain. Yes, there are loads of options to help you recover from this pain.
My own tryst with the pain have allowed me to learn extensively about them and helped me master some of them. In this write-up, I’ll share my knowledge with you.
The treatment and medication options for lower back pain can be classified into the following categories:
- Non-surgical options
- Medication types
- Other options
Let us concentrate on the first option that you can partake of-the non-surgical options. But before you indulge in any particular treatment option, let me tell you that it is very important that you visit a spine specialist who will devise a treatment program depending on your specific condition and medical history. The non-surgical option of treating lower back pain has but three major goals; to relieve your pain, to restrict further injury and to maintain functionality for office and home jobs.
The various optional ways in which lower back pain is treated through non-surgical means are:
Heat or Ice: Application of hot or cold pack can relieve you of your lower back pain. Some doctors even suggest alternating them for better results.
Manual Manipulation: You may visit a chiropractor or other such health professionals who can relieve your lower back pain by reducing pressure in the sensitive areas and muscle tensions and thereby increasing blood flow, and flexibility of the muscles.
Therapeutic Massage: A good massage therapy has often been found to improve blood circulation so that the muscle stiffness is reduced.
Exercise: Combining physical therapies, stretching, strengthening or low-impact aerobic exercise with a program of back exercises is a good option for lower back pain relief.
Epidural Injections: Epidural injection, if inserted into the spine will deliver steroids that will reduce the inflammation in the paining area which will reduce the pain by a greater degree.
TENS Units: These are electrical devices which inhibit the pain signals that are sent from the brain to the lower back.
Lifestyle Changes: Certain changes in lifestyle like quitting smoking, losing weight, and improving body postures are often instrumental in relieving you of lower back pain.
These are more or less the options that you have if you are trying to achieve relief from lower back pain by non-surgical methods. Now, some of you must be confused as to why I haven’t mentioned medication because it is the primary non-surgical option that one caters to. I have deliberately avoided mentioning medicine options because I am going to discuss it now in explicit details.
It is important to keep in mind that these pain medications will literally not heal your back injury. The only thing it does is allow a way or chance for other treatments like physical therapies to work. Medications of lower back pain depend on various factors like the severity, location and tenure of the pain. It also depends on how you can deal with the various side effects.
Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: Most individuals suffering from this pain choose the over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Aleve or Motrin. Jae Jung, MD, assistant professor in the department of orthopedics at the David Geffen School of Medicine of the University of California, Los Angeles says that, “These are considered milder analgesics, and would be the first tier of treatment”. A common over-the-counter drug which is not anti-inflammatory in nature is the Tylenol which is reputed for the benefit that it renders in pain. Certain prescription NSAID drugs are celecoxib (Celebrex), meloxicam (Mobic), diclofenac (Voltaren), and nabumetone (Relafen). These aid mild pain relief, but come with side effects if taken in higher dosages like ulcer, kidney or lung damage, etc. Anti-inflammatory medications are also available in the form of topical cream, which if applied on the affected area can bring about relief. The intensity of their side effects is less as taken orally; they do not affect the entire body. Capsaicin, menthol, camphor and eucalyptus oil are other topical medications that one can partake of.
Muscle Relaxant: If the above mentioned medications fail to make their impact felt, then muscle relaxants is your next option. Some of the relaxants are Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), Baclofen (Lioresal), Tizanidine (Zanaflex) and Carisoprodol (Soma). These medications are of particular help if your pain is related to any acute injury; for example, back strain caused while playing basketball. These drugs have a common side effect like drowsiness and therefore taking them at night is recommended.
Opioids: Individuals with chronic lower back pain that has been going on for quite a long time, even post surgery, are often prescribed Opioids. Studies reveal that as many as 70% of individuals suffering from lower back pain partake of Opioids. These drugs reduce the intensity of the pain by directly working on the nerve cells and the pain receptors of the brain. People partake of either the milder options which yield short-term results like Vicodin (acetaminophen and hydrocodone) and Tylenol with codeine or stronger options like morphine. Side effects may include allergic reaction, drowsiness or constipation. In some cases, individuals with multiple back surgeries depend on regular consumption of Opioids because that is the only way to manage the pain for them. But usage for too long can cause the pain to bounce back. The nervous system gets accustomed to it and patients may feel more pain than ever.
Corticosteroids: The performance of the corticosteroids is similar to that of the anti-inflammatory drugs. They can be taken orally or via injections. The powerful anti-inflammatory nature of corticosteroids often make doctors prescribe it before the Opioids to patients who suffer from significant back pain for a few weeks. In fact, this has the potential to calm down the pain before it becomes chronic in nature. Doctors often prescribe 24 mg Medrol the first day and ask the patients to reduce the dosage by 4 mg over the next few days. In the form of injections, the corticosteroids medication is delivered around the nerve root of the spine. Side effects include weight gain, bone loss, or the failure of the body to process blood sugar. Therefore as many as three injections are allowed per year.
Adjuvant Therapies: Certain “anti-depressants like Cymbalta [duloxetine], and anti-seizure medications, like Lyrica [pregabalin] or Neurontin [gabapentin]”are beneficial in reducing pain. In case of managing chronic back pain, another class of anti-depressants, the “tricyclics — including amitriptyline (Elavil) and nortriptyline (Pamelor)” can also be used. Although not all the anti-depressants or the anti-seizure medication have similar side effects, yet some of them are: nausea, insomnia, fatigue, seizures, constipation, mood swings, suicidal thoughts, etc.
In the end, doctors opine that medication, be it in any form, should not be your only mode of relief. You should also incorporate some physical activities which will allow the medications to work more effectively.
Apart from the various medications and other non-surgical options, there are also some other types of options available, that will get you relief from your lower back pain.
Some other options you have are:
Acupuncture: It is not only economic, but application of this therapy often leads to long term relief from pain.
Capsaicin Cream: When capsaicin cream is applied on the skin, it reduces the neurochemical, substance P that causes pain thus working as a pain-killer. An ideal dosage will be 0.025% of the cream applied four times a day.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency can be a likely cause for chronic muscle pain. Therefore, have ample amounts of small fish, fortified cereal or milk and go out in the sun to make sure that you have enough Vitamin D in your body.
Vitamin B12: Intake of vitamin B12 has been found to significantly reduce lower back pain. If your body system is suffering from the lack of Vitamin B12, then standard B12 muscle injections are often administered.
Music Therapy: The mental stress, anxiety and depression that you feel in lower back pain is often reduced by listening to soothing and comforting music. Thus, the intensity of the pain is also less felt.
Magnesium: Magnesium is abundantly present in the body and helps in normal muscle functions. It is very natural that its deficiency will cause an imbalance. It has been found that the intake of mineral supplements increases magnesium levels found in the cells by around 11% and is likely to reduce pain symptoms in people with chronic pain.
Willow Bark: The bark of the white willow tree contains salicin which can be converted into salicylic acid that relieves the body of pain and inflammation.
Yoga: Yoga involves various postures and body movements that strike a balance in the body and often after a few weeks of practicing yoga, you can feel relief from the intensity of the pain.
Bowen Therapy: It is a therapy that involves bodywork with the help of specialized “moves” using the thumbs and fingers. A session of this therapy lasts around 30 minutes.
Breathing Therapy: A proper breathing technique which establishes the mind-body connection often reduces the intensity of the pain.
Alexander Therapy: It involves maintaining the correct posture, because slouching can often lead to muscle tensions. There are private lessons or group classes to teach you this therapy.
Prolotherapy: In this an injection of liquid solution is triggered into the weakened soft tissues like ligaments and tendons, which activates local inflammation, which in turn activates the healing process of the body and reduces the pain.
Balneotherapy: It is a form of bathing in warm water containing minerals; for example, water containing sulphur is more beneficial in treating back pain rather than normal tap water.
These are all the medical and treatment options with which you can find relief from lower back pain. But first consult your doctor and find out which one is the most suitable for you.