When your back is hurting, it’s hard to think of anything other than immediate pain relief. So maybe you ice it, take a tablet or two of ibuprofen, give it some rest and that may do the trick…
If you suffer from chronic back pain, you want immediate and lasting relief – and that requires a mixed approach. If you are interested in how to treat back pain at home, you need a plan that combines home remedies like those above and targeted therapy aimed at the underlying causes of chronic back pain.
Here are a few of the main methods we often recommend for managing chronic back pain in the short-term and helping heal it in the long-term.
Chronic Back Pain Relief
There are two main types of back pain treatments: short-term or long-term. What’s the difference? Short-term treatments are like a temporary patch, while the goal of long-term treatments is to provide lasting relief.
Short-term back pain treatment options for fast relief and symptom management
Short-term pain management helps with immediate back pain relief. These kind of treatments help you get pain under control so you can stay active while you pursue a long-term solution. Common short-term treatment strategies include both at-home remedies and therapeutic treatments.
Heat therapy and cold therapy
In certain situations, using heat therapy and cold therapy can help relieve pain and promote healing.
For new or acute pain – like pain caused by a fall or other pain that shouldn’t last beyond six weeks – cold therapy can be a great way to reduce swelling, decrease inflammation and numb pain.
For chronic pain – pain that’s expected to last or has lasted for more than six weeks – heat is usually the extreme temperature of choice for soothing pain and stimulating the healing process.
Many patients benefit from both hot and cold therapy. For instance, after exercise, immediate cold therapy can reduce muscle soreness. After 24 hours, switching to heat therapy can help your muscles heal faster.
Over-the-counter pain relievers can provide complete relief for most cases of back pain in the short term. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) or naproxen sodium (e.g. Aleve) are commonly recommended, but make sure you talk with your doctor first.
A therapeutic rubdown from a back specialist can go a long way toward relieving muscle tension and pain. The extra flexibility gained, although temporary, can keep you moving pain-free, making it easier to tackle your day.
Physical therapy or manual therapy
Physical therapy can help you ease and manage pain, and improve your mobility and function so you can do everyday activities. Physical therapists are experienced in helping treat both acute and chronic back pain.
Similar to massage therapy, manual therapy is a specialized form of physical therapy. It aims to manipulate your muscles and joints so they’re more structurally sound and can move more freely. Think of it as a more targeted and purposeful massage.
Spine manipulations performed by a chiropractor can also provide immediate relief. This can allow you to work on exercises or movements that help your joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments in the long-term.
Acupuncture is a traditional eastern medicine practice shown to reduce back pain for most people who try it. During this therapy, a trained acupuncturist inserts extremely thin needles at strategic points and varying depths throughout your body.
Cortisone injections are usually a temporary solution. While they can be effective at reducing inflammation and providing short-term relief, it’s recommended that patients try less invasive options first.
Common sprains and strains aren’t candidates for steroid injections. Rather, these are reserved for more extreme cases like debilitating nerve pain and ruptured discs.
Long-term back pain treatment options to fix what’s causing the problem
Back surgery is typically recommended as a last resort. When it’s done under the right circumstances and at the right time, back surgery can be a long-term solution for chronic back pain.
But while it’s effective for some people, there isn’t much data to support back surgery as the best option for completely healing chronic back pain.
Non-surgical back pain treatment options that focus on building back strength
- Correcting your posture How you sit, stand and position your head may seem trivial. In the long run though, good posture is about much more than how you present yourself – it’s critical for keeping your spine in line.By simply keeping your spine where it should be, you give your neck and back everyday relief from unnecessary strain.
- Being mindful of your movements How many times has someone told you to “lift with your legs, not with your back”? Hundreds?Though it’s almost become cliché, it’s good advice. Your lower back supports a lot of the function of your body. Even if you lift using correct posture most of the time, a few haphazard hoists can be all it takes to incite long-term pain.For example, parents who reach over the crib gate to lift their little one have almost no choice but to lift with their back. It may seem harmless enough. But by repeating this movement hundreds or thousands of times, you’re basically inviting lower back pain to be part of your life. So mind those movements today, and your future back will be more forgiving.
- Making lifestyle changes Exercise regularly to maintain stability, range of motion and a heathy weight. We’ll talk about targeted back exercise in just a bit, but it’s important to know that exercise of any type can help you build muscle strength.Many people with chronic back pain see improvement with physical activity. If you sit most of the time at your job, be sure to get up every hour and move around.If your old go-to exercises aren’t as enjoyable because they make your back hurt, explore alternates. For example, water aerobics is a popular, non-weight bearing exercise regimen for people with back pain. And it may help you get back to the activities and exercises you like best.Check out the activities offered at your local community center or gym. Your local public school may also offer open swim times.
Watch what you eat. A balanced diet is good for your overall health and well-being, sure. But it’s also good for you back.
Well, a healthy diet can keep those extra pounds away, and that means less strain. Also, trans-fats and processed foods are associated with pain-causing inflammation. So for back pain sufferers, a diet filled with natural, nutrient-rich foods can have you feeling better in more ways than one.
Reduce stress. Stress can cause your muscles to tense up – particularly those in your neck, shoulders and back. All that tension ultimately leads to back pain. Lean on your go-to stress relievers as a way to relieve that day-to-day tension.
Get enough sleep. We know, we know – easier said than done when your back pain won’t go to bed.
To make sure you’re getting enough sleep, actually count the hours of good sleep you’re getting. If you wake up in the middle of the night, rather than toss and turn, get up and walk around for a few minutes. Do some light stretches. Then try going back to bed.
The real difference maker for chronic pain: Active physical therapy
Many people with chronic back pain are under the impression that they have two options: live with pain and try to minimize it, or have surgery. But for most back pain sufferers, there’s another option; a better option for providing long-term relief: active physical therapy.
Active physical therapy – or targeted therapy – involves exercises aimed at building up the specific muscles that support your back.
Getting started with active physical therapy
At TRIA Neck and Back Strengthening Program, formerly known as the Physicians Neck and Back Center (PNBC), active physical therapy is at the center of our spinal strengthening programs for over 30 years.
At TRIA Neck and Back Strengthening Program, our doctors and rehabilitation specialists partner with you to design a program just for you. Long-term pain management and healing is more likely when the therapy is based on your situation and preferences. Our programs are not only based on your back pain levels, but also your mobility, current level of strength, your clinical testing results and evaluation outcomes.
The equipment you’ll use is highly specialized. You won’t see this stuff at your local gym. It’s engineered to target the exact areas back pain sufferers need to focus on. For many people, strength, endurance and mobility-promoting exercises help create a pain-free and healthy body. These exercises can also promote longevity.
Of course this also means your program might change as you progress. And it can be adapted to meet your immediate and future needs. It all depends on your progress and goals.
Want to learn more about TRIA Neck and Back Strengthening Program? Watch this short video.
Need help for chronic pain? We got your back.
Anytime you’re experiencing back pain that lasts longer than two weeks with no improvement, we strongly recommend you seek care.
If you think you need care right away, you can also go to your nearest orthopedic urgent care location.
If you have a new injury or you don’t think you’re ready for an intensive program like TRIA Neck and Back Strengthening Program, a great place to start is to find a physical therapy location and make an appointment. Our physical therapists will tailor strengthening and mobility exercises to your unique needs, and you can plan on about six visits.
But if you’re experiencing yet another chronic back pain flare up, home remedies and short-term treatments alone won’t provide lasting relief. While chronic pain is long-lasting, it doesn’t have to be permanent – and you probably don’t need surgery. And that’s where the TRIA Neck and Back Strengthening Program spinal strengthening program might be able to help.
So, if you’re ready to find a better way to manage and heal your back pain, schedule an in-person or video visit consultation with TRIA Neck and Back Strengthening Program today.
Is TRIA Neck and Back Strengthening Program right for you? Schedule a consultation appointment.