Non-medication Therapies for Back Pain Relief
Over the past several years, we have seen a marketing push to treat all types of pain, including back pain, with an applied heat wrap (e.g., the OTC heat wrap ThermaCare). There is some evidence that heat-wrap therapy can provide a small degree of short-term pain relief in patients with back pain.
A similar treatment for back pain is the application of a focused heat source directly at the myofascial trigger points; this is referred to as focal heat trigger-point (FHTP) therapy. This treatment acts like a TPI, but is not invasive and the patient can do it at home.
One such FHTP device, Zeno, is an OTC treatment for acne that we’ve used to provide TPIs with some success.
Craniosacral Therapy Works For Some
Some patients with myofascial pain report significant pain relief and improved function with craniosacral therapy. These types of treatments should be performed by trained therapists with experience in treating patients with chronic pain.
Therapeutic Massage and Acupressure May Also Work
Some evidence suggests that therapeutic massage and acupressure therapy may prove beneficial in some patients with back pain. Again, these therapies should be paired with an active PT/exercise program. Also, it is important not to just get a great body massage at your local spa, but instead to find a therapeutic massage therapist who knows how to treat back pain.
Gentle Yoga Increases Strength And Flexibility
There are many different types of yoga, some gentle and others more demanding. The back pain sufferer should find a gentle type of yoga, such as hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is a slow-paced stretching class with some simple breathing exercises and meditations usually done in a seated position. A recent study of yoga and chronic back pain found that after twelve weeks of yoga, 73 percent of the yoga group said they had overall improvement in back pain, as compared with 27 percent of the control group that continued to see their doctor and take their recommended treatments.
Chiropractors Are Cautiously Recommended
Although chiropractic treatments are one of the more common treatments people seek when they have back pain, we have to warn you that we only cautiously recommend such treatment. Studies have shown that chiropractic manipulations can help improve the symptoms of back pain, but there is a potential risk of serious injury if you don’t have a “normal” back (see sidebar “Before You See a Chiropractor”). As with any health care practitioner treating your condition, it is important that the chiropractor be well experienced in treating chronic back pain.
Chiropractic medicine is based on the belief that the spine may have restricted movement that leads to pain and poor function. When a chiropractor “manipulates” your back (also called spinal adjustment), he or she will apply a sudden force to your back bones, pushing or pulling the vertebrae to different unnatural positions. This application of force is what causes the popping and cracking sounds you hear emanating from their offices! At times, a chiropractor may also use massage and gentle stretching techniques as well.