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Best Treatments For Effective Low Back Pain Relief

Date: August 12, 2021

It is estimated that 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. This includes all age groups, including children, adults, and seniors.

Much of this pain will be felt in the lower lumbar region. Pain should not be a way of life and it’s not something you should go alone.

There are many different things that can cause lower back pain. A common injury is when someone lifts something and rotates their torso at the same time. Here are 8 of the most effective treatments for low back pain relief.

1.      Anti-Inflammatories

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen are an ideal way to treat short-term inflammation.

For example, after twisting your low back or a mild strain after lifting something heavy. If pain is chronic or over-the-counter options aren’t effective, your doctor may prescribe a stronger anti-inflammatory, pain reliever, or muscle relaxant.

Both over-the-counter and prescribed pills come with long-term side effects, including a variety of digestive issues. If opioids are prescribed, the risk for addiction is high.

For this reason, your oral prescription may be a short-term treatment option.

Over-the-counter and prescription topical creams typically come with fewer side effects, are non-addictive, and may be prescribed long-term.

2.      Heat Or Ice

Heat and ice are both natural anti-inflammatories. Generally, ice is used for new inflammation or when chronic inflammation is flaring up more than usual. Heat may be prescribed for chronic low back pain.  

Cold therapy—you can find flexible gel cold packs in most pharmacies and many grocery stores. It’s a good idea to keep one in the freezer just in case.

Or use a bag of frozen peas as the peas will easily form to the shape of your back. Apply over your t-shirt or a thin towel so that your skin doesn’t get too cold. Start with 20 minutes every 2 or 3 hours.

Heat therapy—plug in a heating pad, take an Epsom salt bath, or sit in a sauna or steam room. The heat will relax your stiff muscles and improve blood flow to reduce your pain.

The heat should never be uncomfortable and should not hurt or burn your skin. Some topical creams also provide a heating effect.  

3.      Physical Therapy

If your back pain is chronic, is caused by a repetitive motion that you will continue to do (such as sitting at work), or is the result of an accident, injury, or surgery—physical therapy may help.

Physical therapy can help to alleviate both the localized area of pain and keep the ripple effect strain to a minimum. The longer you are in pain, the more strain it places on your surrounding ligaments, tendons, connective tissues, and joints.

Without an active approach, this can increase your pain.

Physical therapy may work muscles or areas of the body other than your back, such as exercises to strengthen your core or stretch your hamstrings.

For physical therapy to be effective it must be completed at home as prescribed.   

4.      Massage Therapy

A variety of healing therapies are often required for effective low back pain relief. Massage therapy can work deep into the muscles and tissues to release tension and improve circulation.

While self-massage may help, working with a massage therapist who specializes in deep tissue and injury rehabilitation will provide the most relief.

Your physician or massage therapist will suggest the appropriate frequency of massage, but no less than once per month.

5.      Chiropractic Adjustments

A misalignment of the spine may be a primary or contributing cause of your pain. However, you may need to continue with other healing therapies for the best results.

For example, myofascial release massage or physical therapy stretches may be required so that your tight muscles and tissues do not continue to pull your spine out of alignment.

Chiropractic adjustments improve circulation and stimulate the central nervous system to help your body naturally alleviate pain. Adjustments can also provide a variety of health benefits beyond pain management.

Expect to go to the chiropractor 2 or 3 times a week, gradually decreasing frequency as your body heals.

6.      Lifestyle Modifications

If your lifestyle caused your low back pain, you will need to modify your daily habits. This may include any combination of:

  • Taking breaks when gardening, mowing the lawn, or doing anything that can cause back strain.
  • Carrying groceries or heavy items inside the home in multiple trips or ask for help with heavy items.
  • Wearing more supportive shoes and/or not wearing high heels or flat shoes such as flip-flops.
  • Improving your office ergonomics while at work or doing any other repetitive motion.
  • Upgrading to a more supportive bed or investing in specialty pillows that alleviate pain points.
  • Being mindful of daily habits such as your posture, carrying a heavy purse, or the weight of your laptop bag.
  • Any other changes advised by your physician or therapist.

7.      Injection Therapy

There are a variety of injection therapies that may provide effective low back pain relief. The most common types of pain-relief injections include epidural steroid injections, selective nerve blocks, lumbar sympathetic blocks, facet joint injections, trigger point injections, and Botox®. 

As to which is right for you, the answer isn’t something that can be determined until your in-person appointment with your pain management specialist. For a few general examples:

  • Epidural steroids are common for low back pain, disc herniation, spinal stenosis, sciatica, and any pain caused by inflamed spinal nerves. 
  • Nerve blocks are versatile and are common for osteoarthritis, post-surgical pain, cancer-related pain, and more.
  • Joint injections can be used on small and large joints in the ankle, elbow, hip, knee, wrist, hands, feet, and more. For example, to relieve Golfer’s and Tennis Elbow from routine and repetitive motion activity.  
  • Trigger point injections can relax tension that is causing secondary pain, such as knots in your neck that are causing your chronic headaches. (Are smartphones causing your neck pain. See our article.)

8.      Spinal Cord Stimulation

If all other types of pain management therapies have failed, spinal cord stimulation may be right for you. A spinal cord stimulator (SCS) is a small device that is surgically placed under your skin near the buttocks or abdomen.

It consists of a generator that creates gentle electrical pulses, a lead wire with electrodes to deliver the pulses to the spinal cord, and a hand-held remote control.

The remote allows you to turn the device on and off and adjust the settings.

An SCS relieves your pain by carrying a gentle current from the pulse generator, through the wires, to the electrodes, and into your spinal cord.

The pulse does not alleviate the pain but masks the way your brain perceives pain. Instead of pain, a mild tingling feeling called paresthesia is created. However, some stimulators have a tingle-free (aka. paresthesia-free) setting.

Ready To Personalize Your Therapy For Effective Low Back Pain Relief?

If you are living with low back pain or recovering from surgery, accident, or injury we invite you to reach out to Atlas Pain Specialists.

Dr. Sean Ormond specializes in pain management and can work with your physician and therapists to personalize your treatment plan and improve your quality of life.

He will patiently review your medical history and listen to how your pain is impacting your daily life. Then he will present you with your pain management options. Dr. Ormond is available for same-day appointments!  

About Dr. Sean Ormond
Dr. Sean Ormond in black medical uniform and black fog background
Dr. Sean Ormond is dual board-certified in Anesthesiology and Interventional Pain Management. He completed his anesthesia residency at Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio where he served as Chief Resident, followed by an interventional pain management fellowship at Rush University in Chicago, IL. Following fellowship, Dr. Ormond moved to Phoenix and has been practicing in the Valley for a few years before deciding to start his own practice.