Since 85% of low back pain is still undiagnosable and as such difficult to prescribe appropriate treatment for the best rule of thumb is to begin by attempting to relieve the pain using the simplest, most cost effective and non-invasive methods possible.
The simplest and by far the most cost effective forms of treatment are things like exercising or laying on your back with legs up and resting on a chair or sofa etc and for many causes of low back pain these may help. These treatments are self administered so if something like exercising creates more pain instead of relieving it then you can quickly move on to something else. Figuring out which treatment relieves and which doesn’t generally happens very quickly and no matter what advise is given from what source, the treatment that causes aggravation is one to avoid and the one that relieves is one to continue with.
Based on invasiveness, treatment for low back pain can generally be grouped into three categories; non-invasive, moderately invasive and invasive. The self administered treatments mentioned above fall into the non-invasive category along with some others that I will mention later.
Invasive treatments are those that require a surgical procedure and all health care givers recommend that these treatments be the “treatment of last resort” after all other treatment options have failed. Because of the undiagnosable nature of low back pain the invasive treatments are often unsuccessful at relieving pain and far too often result in “failed back syndrome” a term coined to describe failed back surgery that has left the patient worse off.
There has been much advancement in surgical treatments for low back pain which has resulted in an increase in their success rate, although there is still room for improvement.
Moderately invasive treatments include opiates and other oral and topical treatments which do not require a surgical procedure but do enter and interact with your bodies’ chemical functions in one way or another to relieve pain. These treatments, while effective at masking the pain, do not address the underlying cause and as such can put the sufferer at risk of unknowingly aggravating the situation. Moderately invasive treatments should only be used when all non-invasive options have proven non-beneficial.
Advancements have also been made for moderately invasive treatments with more and more new drugs being developed that more and more effectively block pain but often these are accompanied by increased side effects.
On the non-invasive front there has been much progress as well. Over the past ten years or so there have been many studies and much information come available allowing care givers the ability to recommend better and more cost effective non-invasive treatments for acute and chronic low back pain.
It is now generally acknowledged that extended bed rest is not beneficial for treating low back pain but a quick return to mobility, flexibility and normalcy is. It is also more commonly acknowledged that decompression or unloading of discs can relieve low back pain and assist in rejuvenation of the problem area.
Until recently the problem has always been that there was no treatment modality that could offer decompression or unloading combined with flexibility and mobility but that all changed with the advent of “ambulatory spinal unloading devices” which do allow for this pain relieving and rejuvenating combination.
So, as a first step for treating your acute or chronic low back pain and as a sober second thought before surgery or opiates, update yourself on the new treatments that are available, treatments that;
1. are non-invasive, i.e. do not enter your body like opiates, topical lotions or surgery
2. can be self administered so that if the treatment aggravates you can quit and if it relieves you can continue at your discretion.
3. provide spinal decompression or unloading while allowing you to remain mobile (ambulatory), flexible and to quickly return to your normal daily routine