In general, most cases of spine problem do not make use of surgical treatment. Non-operative or conservative care is enough to treat many spinal conditions. Each person respond differently to treatment methods. A thorough physical examination of the person helps to decide the actual treatment procedure. The non-operative methods aims to stop the progress of the symptoms. Pain management is a useful criteria for conservative methods. The common treatment approaches are described below:
Medications are commonly prescribed by the doctor to treat pain. They are very useful in pain management. They also reduce swelling or inflammation in the affected parts of body. However, proper guidance of doctor is necessary for its intake to avoid any infections or other complications. The commonly preferred medications are:
This type of medications have no affect on the source of pain. They focus only to reduce the sensation of pain. Thus the actual cause of problem is left untreated.
For treating mild and moderate pain conditions, the use of anti-inflammatory medicines is quite effective. They tend to decrease the irritation or inflammation in the tissues. However, they include some side-effects such as gastritis, ulcers, upset stomach, liver and kidney problems.
- Muscle relaxants:
Spine problem often greatly affects the muscle tissues. The muscle relaxants help in loosening the stress and irritation in the muscle tissues. They provide a relaxed feeling to the tensed muscles. Pain due to cramps and spasm is easily treated through this method. Drowsiness is much felt with these medications.
They are very strong medications which act directly on the spinal cord and brain. Heavy dosage of these medicines only worsens the condition and cause other side-effects also. Special prescription from the side of doctor to use these medicines is necessary.
For chronic nerve or other such pains, a mild dose of antidepressant is often good and provides temporary relief.
- Combination drugs:
These use a combination of medicines to provide a relief from different symptoms.
- Pain Modalities
Pain modalities make use of external methods to treat the affected area. The frequently used pain modalities are:
- Heat/cold packs:
A cold pack especially ice packs, are used to reduce swelling and pain. They are applied directly to the injured area. Afterwards, application of heat pack on the same area is beneficial. They tend to increase the blood circulation over the injured area. Thus, healing is enhanced. These packs are also essential to decrease pain from muscle tension or spasm.
In massage method, the areas of tension in muscle tissue are selected. These areas are properly rubbed and pressure is applied. There exists a variety of massage techniques. Massage technique is helpful to reduce muscle stress and spasm.
- TENS(Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation):
TENS consists of electrical pads which are placed directly on the affected part of the skin. These electrical pads are connected to a special machine to send low level electrical current to the tissue. Thus the pain is very much controlled.
- Trigger point injections:
Trigger point is the specific point of tension induced in parts of body. The part of body may be buttocks, back or legs. In this method, a solution is injected directly onto the trigger point. This method is common in the treatment of fibromyalgia.
This method involves placing a needle into the affected areas of body to relieve pain. The acupuncture technique is famous in Asian countries to treat back and leg pain.
In traction method, tension is created at the points of pain especially back or neck. The tension produced helps to lower the pain. The effectiveness of this method is still unknown. However, studies show only temporary pain relief from pain in this procedure.
This method uses a special machine capable of producing waves or vibrating impulses. These waves are send through tissues into deep areas of pain in the skin. These ultrasound waves tend to increase the blood supply by releasing tension. Thus they act as natural pain relief substances.
A wide variety of devices are used to provide pain relief in neck and back. Braces, collars, belts, and binders are commonly used devices. They provide support to the affected structure. In some people, short -term use of these devices is sufficient while some requires long-term use. However, the supporting muscles may gradually become weak after prolonged use of these devices. This may be due to unloading effect and hence is not acceptable.
- Functional restoration
In addition to medicines and other such treatments, specially designed program are often beneficial to help in the healing process. The muscular support of spine provides stability and good functioning to the back. The poor condition of these muscles affect whole of the body. These programs help to regain lost muscle strength and tone. The functional restoration program includes:
- Physical Therapy:
The physical therapy method consists of two approaches- structured guided strengthening program and modality treatment. Both these programs aim to restore good functioning of muscles. They make use of different types of exercise programs, particularly isometric strengthening. Isometric strengthening mainly includes stimulation of muscle contraction while the length of the muscle is maintained. Aggressive or vigorous exercises are not included in physical therapy.
Long-term exercise program after successful physical therapy is often beneficial. This program is also advantageous to people with mild pain. Researches show that repeated back injuries can be avoided through regular aerobic activities. People may choose any simple exercise such as walking, swimming or running on regular basis that are easy to maintain and provides entertainment.