Back Pain: Treatment and Alternative Therapies

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 13 April 2021

Table of Contents :

  1. Symptoms of Back Pain
  2. When to Call Your Doctor
  3. Inflammatory Back Pain
  4. Diagnosis and Tests
  5. Treatment at Home
  6. Exercise and Physical Therapy
  7. Medication
  8. Chiropractic and Osteopathic
  9. Acupuncture 
  10. Nerve Stimulation
  11. Counselling
  12. Surgery

Symptoms of Back Pain


Back pain affects the majority of individuals at some point in their lives. Back discomfort may be caused by a variety of factors, some of which are self-inflicted as a result of a history of unhealthy behaviors. Accidents, joint strains, and sports injuries are some of the other sources of back pain. Although the reasons can vary, the signs are frequently the same.


Back pain may cause the following symptoms:


  • A persistent ache or pain running the length of your back, from the base of your neck to your tailbone
  • Sharp, localized pain in the neck, upper back, or lower back especially after raising heavy objects or engaging in strenuous activity; (pain in the upper back can also be a sign of a heart attack or other life-threatening conditions.)
  • Chronic pain in the middle or lower back, particularly after long periods of sitting or standing
  • Back ache radiating from the lower back to the buttocks, down the back of the leg, and through the calves and toes
  • Inability to standing upright without discomfort or muscle spasms in the lower back

When To Call Your Doctor?

Call Your Doctor About Back Pain If:


  • If you experience numbness, tingling, or discomfort in your groin, arms, or legs, it may be a symptom of spinal cord injury. Get medical attention right away.
  • Sciatica is a condition in which the pressure in the back travels down the back of your leg.
  • When you cough or lean over at the waist, the pressure intensifies; this may be a symptom of a herniated disc.
  • Fever, burning during urination, or repeated and/or immediate urination are all symptoms of the discomfort. It's possible that you have an infection.
  • If you're having trouble controlling your bowels or bladder, see a doctor right away.


Some “warning flags" that may indicate a major back pain problem include:


  • A history of cancer
  • Weight loss that occurs unintentionally
  • Recent hormones or other immune-suppressing medications.
  • A history of trauma
  • Pain that is worsening and does not improve with rest
  • Pain that has lasted more than a month
  • Pain at night
  • Unresponsive to earlier back pain therapies
  • Usage of IV drugs in the past

Inflammatory Back Pain


The aims in therapy for back pain are to help you feel comfortable and get you going freely and comfortably again.


Your medical treatment will be determined by the location of the discomfort and whether it is acute, extreme and severe pain triggered by a single event, or permanent pain that lasts more than six months and can persist until an accident or infection has recovered.


Diagnosis and Tests


If you are unable to walk due to an accident, the specialist would most likely test your range of action, examine your nerves, and push on your back to pinpoint the trouble spot. Blood and urine samples can be ordered to rule out any issues such as an inflammation or a kidney stone.


Imaging scans are often used by doctors to monitor for ongoing damage, whether your back has been hit by anything, whether you have a fever, or whether you have nerve symptoms such as weak or numb arms or legs:


  • X-rays aid in the detection of fractured bones or any issues of the back.
  • An MRI or CT scan will reveal the extent of soft-tissue injury, such as a herniated disk.
  • An electromyogram (EMG) is a test that can be used to detect nerve and muscle injury.


However, there isn't necessarily a clear correlation between the outcome of these assessments and the severity of the pain.


If you have back pain for the first time when your back hurts because you overdid it, imaging scans are usually not performed.


Your doctor will use work with your diagnosis to determine the next course of action.


Treatment at Home


Taking things easy for a bit is the most basic approach to ease a strain or mild injury. Apply ice to the affected area and take an over-the-counter pain medication including paracetamol, creatine, ibuprofen, or naproxen. A heating pad or pack may help soothe muscles and connective tissue after the inflammation has subsided.


Sleep on a medium-firm mattress if you have constant back pain.


Pay attention to how you're standing. Your back would be strained if you slouch.


Exercise and Physical Therapy


Bed rest, which was once recommended by physicians for back pain, can do more damage than good. It might delay the healing and lead to new issues.


Within a few days after experiencing intense pain, you may be able to resume regular, simple exercise, such as walking. After that, gradually return to the previous intensity of workout, whilst listening to your body and what it can manage.


Stabilizing your spine is made easier by strengthening both your abdominal and back muscles. These core muscles are strengthened by conditioning and functional workouts. Study and practice gentle stretching movements and proper lifting techniques to better avoid more back damage. 


Exercising in the pool is particularly beneficial for those who have back pain. The water will help you feel more stable by supporting some of your weight, and it also provides gentle resistance, which helps you gain strength, whilst minimising the impact on your joints. When it comes to persistent low back pain, aquatic therapy will help you increase stability and relieve pain.


Yoga will help you improve your endurance, determination, and balance. It relieves discomfort, and can assist you in dealing with the pain.


Physical therapy employs a personalized fitness routine as well as a number of approaches, which may include:


  • Massage
  • Heat
  • Ultrasound
  • Whirlpool baths




If you're having trouble getting through the day, your doctor can recommend stronger pain relievers or muscle relaxants. However, you must exercise caution. Some of these prescription drugs can cause drowsiness. You may also get addicted to narcotics including Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen), Percocet (oxycodone/acetaminophen), or other pain relievers.


Duloxetine (Cymbalta), an antidepressant, can help with arthritis and persistent lower back pain. For pain caused by aggravated nerves, doctors can recommend antidepressants and anticonvulsants. In most cases, oral steroids aren't prescribed for severe low back pain.


To help manage the pain, a spine or pain specialist can inject steroids or other medications directly into your back.


Chiropractic and Osteopathic


Spinal manipulation may help with severe low back pain, although it does not help with persistent back pain.


Chiropractic changes received soon after a back injury can help to avoid chronic problems in the future.


Treatment rehabilitation is often combined with spinal manipulation or traction, supplemented by physical activity and exercise by osteopaths.



Chronic low back pain sufferers can benefit from this ancient Chinese healing practice. It's possible that gently inserting thin, dry needles through the skin at specific points can release endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, or that it can alter the brain chemistry to increase your pain resistance. It can be used in conjunction with other therapies.


Nerve Stimulation


These therapies are for those who have been suffering from back problems and nerve damage for a long time.


Radiofrequency ablation causes individual nerves to be electrically stimulated, making them less susceptible to pain. It will even shock the nerve to kill it to stop the discomfort from coming back.


TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) can help block pain receptors and stimulate the production of endorphins in your body. To offer you a tingling sensation, a tiny battery-powered device sends a signal by electrodes taped to your scalp.




Back discomfort can also be relieved with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which may often improve how you learn of the type of pain and weakness, as well as alleviate depression. People have been willing to take less medications while improving their overall well-being.


Biofeedback will help you teach your muscles to react properly to discomfort and activity if your lower back pain is caused by muscle strain or spasm. It has the potential to reduce the severity of pain and the need for medication.




This is a final resort for most debilitating back pain sufferers. A herniated disk or a pinched nerve in the spinal cord can necessitate surgery.

Rhizotomy, which involves surgically removing a nerve, prevents it from transmitting pain messages to the brain. The procedure may alleviate symptoms induced by severely injured nerves and rubbing surfaces in a spinal joint, although it does not resolve such issues such as herniated disks.


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