If you have ever experienced lower back pain you have probably tried everything you can think of to get rid of it. Back pain can happen as a result of an injury or the pain can occur due to degenerative disorders of the spine. It can happen suddenly or gradually develop over time. The pain can be deep in the nervous system surrounding the spine or it can affect the muscles and make movement all by impossible. The good news is that for the most part all the sources and causes of pain can be helped with various medical means, whether medicinal, surgical, or therapeutic.
Muscle spasms usually occur as a result of sudden movement or bad body mechanics. The simplest treatments for this type of pain are physical therapy, including massage and spinal manipulation via chiropractic care. If medicine is needed, OTC pain control with ibuprofen and acetaminophen, creams , and cold compresses are sufficient. In most cases the issue will resolve in a few days.
Lower back pain that develops in the spinal cord and nerves usually requires more intensive treatments. Some conditions may have at one time been a result of an acute injury, but overtime became chronic. Acute pain is sudden and powerful, but usually lasts for less than a few days or weeks, whereas chronic pain often lasts for more than 3 months and may be a lifelong battle.
For acute pain a doctor may prescribe muscle relaxers such as Cyclobenzaprine, Tizanidine and Baclofen. Patients may also benefit from topical creams containing ingredients like capsaicin, camphor and menthol.
What are the treatments for chronic pain?
A patient who has chronic pain that lasts for longer than 3 months is usually desperate for some relief. In some cases stronger medications than what they can find in the drugstore is necessary. Doctors prefer to start at a lower dose and see if that helps. If the patient finds no significant relief, the doctor will go to the next level and continue up until relief if found at last.
If the pain is caused by pressure on nerves within the spinal column such as a herniated disc, osteoarthritis, or spinal deformities, pain management is usually the method of treatment most used. Usually patients resort to OTC meds before finally turning to a doctor. It is important that a patient inform their doctor of which OTC meds they have used, how often then take it, and for how long. Most OTCs are meant for short term use. Longer use than 3 months may result in gastrointestinal issues like ulcers or even kidney damage.
When the pain is quite severe, doctors will prescribe stronger medications in the Opioid family. This medication is the type that will usually get to the kind of pain those anti-inflammatories and NSAIDS like Celebrex, Diclofenic and Nabumetone can’t help. Among patients who suffer severe, chronic lower back pain, about 70% are prescribed Opioids that act on the pain receptors in the brain and nerve receptors.
Patients should take care when taking Opioids. They should avoid doing mechanical endeavors or driving until they know how they respond. Watch for side effects like drowsiness, constipation, and note any dependency that could develop. Also, some patients may suffer allergic reactions, including hives and itchiness.
If all else fails and surgery is still not called for, a doctor may finally prescribe the strongest medication available for lower back pain. Corticosteroids are the last bastion for pain relief before surgery. It can be given orally or via injection. Surgery is always the last resort due to the risk of complications.