Firstly, the doctor may perform a short exam to estimate your ability to stand, sit, walk and lift your legs. Also, the doctor will discuss with you the severity of your painful sensations and how your pain affects your daily life.
Such examination allows the doctor to identify if you have muscle spasms and where your pain arises from. In addition, it may be helpful in finding out more serious causes of back pain.
If there is a suspicion that your back pain is caused by a specific condition, your doctor may prescribe you some additional tests. Such tests may include X-rays, blood tests, MRI or CT scans, bone scans, and nerve studies.
Back pain treatment
Typically, the back pain relieves after a month of home treatment. However, in some cases, the painful sensations do not disappear for several months, and some people suffer from severe persistent pain.
To deal with the pain, you may use pain relievers and heat. However, it’s better to continue activities as long as you can tolerate them. Although you should stop the activities that cause or increase pain, don’t escape them because of fear of painful sensation.
If your pain doesn’t get relief after several weeks of home treatment, your doctor may prescribe you stronger medications and therapies.
Medications as back pain treatment
- Muscle relaxants. Your physician may also prescribe a muscle relaxant if mild to moderate back pain doesn’t get better with over-the-counter pain relievers. However, muscle relaxants may cause dizziness and drowsiness.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. Back pain can be relieved by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc.) or naproxen sodium (Aleve). Your doctor may prescribe you NSAIDs if OTC pain relievers don’t help.
- Antidepressants. Evidence suggests that some antidepressants relieve pain in the back independently of their effect on mental health. Such types of antidepressants include duloxetine and tricyclic antidepressants.
- Narcotics. Medications containing opioids, such as hydrocodone or oxycodone, should only be taken for a short period under the supervision of your doctor.
- Topical pain relievers are creams, ointments, patches or salves that deliver pain-relieving substances through the skin.
Regular exercises may help you increase your abdominal muscles’ flexibility, strengthen them, improve your posture, and consequently relieve back pain and prevent its returning. A physical therapist can educate you on these exercises and also provide information on how to modify your movement during back pain episodes in order to prevent pain symptoms while staying active.
Surgical intervention and other procedures as back pain treatment
- Radiofrequency neurotomy is a procedure where the doctor inserts a thin needle through your skin in such a way that the tip is in the area that causes pain. Radio waves through the needle damage nearby nerves inhibiting the transmission of pain signals to the brain.
- Surgery. You might benefit from surgery if your back pain is unrelieved, the pain that spreads to the leg, or you experience muscle weakness that results from nerve compression. Such treatment methods are typically applied for the pain resulting from structural problems, including narrowing the spine or a herniated disk that hasn’t improved from other treatments.
- Implanted nerve stimulators are devices implanted in the skin that transmit electrical impulses to particular nerves in order to block pain signals.
- Cortisone injections. In the cases when other measures don’t relieve the pain, and if your pain spreads down the leg, your doctor may prescribe cortisone injections and numbing medication into the epidural space (the area around the spinal cord) to reduce inflammation. Although cortisone injections decrease inflammation in the space around the nerve’s root, the pain relief lasts only for a few months.
Alternative medicine to relieve the back pain
Several alternative treatments may help you with back pain symptoms. However, you should discuss the risk and benefits of such methods with your doctor. Such therapies include acupuncture, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, yoga, chiropractic care, and massage.