Chronic pain is due to a complicated set of circumstances that researchers still don't fully understand. Muscles, nerves, blood vessels and mental states all factor in to create the pain. There is no one treatment for chronic back pain management. The most effect treatment is using a team of techniques that give you the best relief. Here are some candidates for your team as you and your doctor create your unique treatment plan.
Often the first option tried, medications are effective at controlling some aspects of your pain. Over time your body may no longer respond as well to the medications, and nearly all have side effects that must be managed. The most commonly used medications include:
- Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) - These reduce inflammation in muscles that may be irritating the nerves and causing pain.
- Muscle relaxants - These reduce muscle tension that can also irritate nerves.
- Opiods - These reduce some forms of nerve irritation, but often require high doses.
These medications are effective when monitored closely and adjusted to limit side effects.
By placing small needles in specific locations in the body, this approach can relieve muscle tension, spasms and nerve irritation. It can also be used to relieve some of the side effects of medication such as loss of appetite, nausea and dry mouth.
Tense, sore muscles are relieved by massage. Some people respond well to gentle approaches while others require deep tissue techniques to gain any relief. Massage will relax tense muscle fibers and increase the circulation and reduce the pain.
Initially, physical therapy works like massage to stretch muscles to relieve their tension. Continued use of it trains the muscles, and you, on how to move to limit the triggering of pain. For example, you can learn posture and muscle movement techniques to prevent your chronic back pain from flaring up when you sit for long periods. Hydrotherapy, or physical therapy while in water, combines two approaches to relax muscles and nerve irritation.
Hot and Cold Therapy
You can learn to use heating pads and ice packs to reduce your pain. A hot bath or shower after work can relax back muscles. Using an ice pack behind your back while sitting at work will reduce inflammation and muscle tension.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
This technique sends a small electrical charge into muscles and nerves, disrupting the cycle of constant tension caused by the chronic pain. This can be done in a therapist's office or at home with portable TENS units to give yourself a treatment as needed.
For some people, the act of meditating lets them consciously relax tense muscles and nerves. It can also allow your medications to be more effective at lower doses. There are many types of meditative practices so you'll want to try several to find the style most effective for you.
Low-impact exercise such as walking, biking and even dancing produce endorphins in your body that act as natural pain killers. It also increases circulation and oxygen flow to your entire body which eliminates tension.
This can also create the endorphins to relieve pain. It often has a positive effect on your digestion and sleep. Group sessions are effective for some people and you can learn how to use audio and video at home to trigger laughter and the pain-killing endorphins.
Some people respond to music like others do to meditation. It can distract the mind from pain and help you focus on being relaxed. This is also a tool you can use in groups, at home or work.
People who master self-hypnosis use it to alter their focus away from pain and toward being more relaxed. As with meditation, there are various techniques that you may need to try to determine if this will work for you.
You have the best chance of success with your back pain management by using a number of these approaches. After experimenting with different approaches, create a treatment plan that includes all of the approaches that work such as:
- low-doses of NSAIDs as needed
- use of TENS unit while working around the house
- laughter therapy group once a week and at home
- music therapy at home every evening
- use of cold packs at work
- exercise three times each week
Once you've identified the approaches that are effective for you, combine them to keep you free of pain, while having fun doing them. Talk to places like Florida Personal Injury Physicians for more information.