Back pain affects a large portion of the population. Approximately eight out of 10 people will experience this common medical condition at some point in their lives. Though it’s common, it’s notoriously uncomfortable and sometimes hard to treat. Common methods of intervention include prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, spinal injections and, in severe cases, surgery.
These methods help patients find relief, but they’re not the only treatments for back pain. Many doctors will recommend other courses of treatment before considering medication or injections, and some patients seek relief with alternative medicine when other treatments haven’t worked.
When it comes to treating back pain, people have lots of options. Here are five lesser-known ways to relieve acute or chronic back pain.
1. Physical Therapy and Exercise
Exercise is one of the first courses of treatment doctors usually recommend for patients dealing with back pain. Unlike some other medical conditions, back pain can worsen with bed rest. On the other hand, exercise may help symptoms improve. In general, continuing with light physical activity can decrease pain.
Exercises that strengthen the back, core and leg muscles can relieve back pain by increasing support of the spine. People should always check with an expert before starting a new exercise regimen, however, since some exercises used to strengthen these muscles might not be appropriate for people with existing back pain.
An effective way people can use exercise for healing is by attending physical therapy. Trained physical therapists help people strengthen relevant muscles safely and recommend useful exercises to do at home. For one type of back pain — lumbar spinal stenosis — physical therapy might even be as effective as surgery for treating symptoms.
2. Massage Therapy
Massage may not sound like a medical treatment to all patients. However, weekly massage therapy can help people with chronic back pain improve mobility and decrease reliance on anti-inflammatory medications.
In one study, two types of massage therapy — structural massage and relaxation massage — were found to improve symptoms more quickly than usual medical care. Patients who want to get back on their feet as soon as possible could benefit from massage in addition to other forms of treatment.
The increased benefits of massage therapy seem to last at least six months compared to standard medical treatment.
3. Laser Therapy
One alternative treatment option for patients with chronic neck and shoulder pain is low-level laser therapy. In this procedure, patients receive a low-intensity wavelength of light to the affected areas that’s meant to reduce pain and improve range of motion.
One small study found that laser therapy helped decrease more than half of participants’ pain levels by 30 percent. The treatment also significantly increased participants’ range of motion in both sides of the neck and shoulders.
Though more research into laser therapy is needed, this method may help some patients find relief.
For patients with chronic or acute back pain, yoga could help decrease symptoms as well as the mental stress that accompanies them. In addition to strengthening the muscles like other forms of exercise, yoga helps people gain greater awareness of their bodies. This awareness allows people to notice their postures, tensions and muscular imbalances more easily.
Some yoga poses that help with back pain specifically include cat-cow, bridge pose and the ever-popular downward-facing dog.
5. Posture Improvement
Today, bad posture has a big impact on back pain, especially because the average person spends so much time slouched in a chair or hunched over a keyboard. Though improving one’s posture might not solve the root cause behind back pain, it can reduce muscle tension and discomfort.
A number of poor postures can influence back pain during both standing and sitting. Standing with weight on one leg can lead to muscular imbalances and lower back pain, for example.
By practicing awareness of posture and following exercises to correct imbalances, people can support their backs better and reduce their pain levels.
Leaving Back Pain Behind
Many people suffer from acute and chronic back pain. Though these conditions are common, they don’t have to be a fact of life. In combination with professional medical supervision, the above alternative treatments may help people reduce their symptoms and even put back pain behind them altogether.