Your lower back is more susceptible to injury than the other regions of the spine. So, it’s unsurprising that a pinched nerve in the lower back is among the most common spinal injuries. Though a pinched lumbar nerve can often clear up on its own, some patients may need medical attention to resolve their symptoms.
This article will answer the most common questions about having a pinched nerve in the lower back, including the available treatment options.
A pinched nerve is a condition that can cause pain and restrict one’s mobility. It develops when adjacent tissue, such as bone, muscle, or cartilage, impinges on a nerve. This can lead to various neurological symptoms, namely weakness, tingling, and numbness in the extremities.
Though pinched nerves can occur almost anywhere, the spine and, in particular, the lumbar region of the spine, account for a significant percentage of cases. This is due to the spine’s complex structure and the fact that the lower back experiences more strain with motion than the cervical or thoracic spine. This condition is referred to as a pinched lumbar nerve or a pinched nerve in the lower back.
The nerves of the lumbar spine extend throughout the pelvis, legs, and feet. The sciatic nerve, for example, is the longest nerve in the body and runs from the lower back through the hips and down the backs of the legs. A pinched sciatic nerve can cause persistent back pain, tingling, and other symptoms that are referred to as sciatica.
The symptoms of a pinched nerve in the lower back include lower back pain that radiates to the buttocks, legs, and feet, along with weakness, numbness, and tingling in the extremities.
In some cases, a pinched nerve in the lower back may also cause muscle spasms, the sensation of the feet “falling asleep”, or a “pins and needles” sensation. These symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the nerve impingement, along with the patient’s overall health.
Sometimes, a pinched nerve in the lower back can escalate, leading to a condition known as cauda equina syndrome. This dangerous condition can lead to permanent neurological damage if it’s not promptly treated. So, if you have a pinched nerve in the lower back, keep an eye out for the following warning signs of cauda equina syndrome:
If you experience the warning signs listed above, seek out emergency medical care.
A pinched nerve in your back may feel like sharp, shooting pain, a burning sensation, weakness in the legs, and/or tingling. In mild cases, patients may experience only minor discomfort or back pain that comes and goes.
The symptoms of a pinched nerve vary depending on the exact nerve and the extent of the pressure. In addition to the symptoms listed above, this condition can cause a loss of reflexes and motor skills, as well as atrophy of the affected muscles.
The symptoms of pinched nerves will go away on their own if the pressure on the nerves is only temporary. If this is the case, patients will regain the full function of the spine without the need for medical intervention.
It typically takes four to six weeks for a pinched nerve to go away on its own. To manage your symptoms while this spinal injury naturally heals, consider at-home treatment options like rest and over-the-counter pain medications. While you’re resting with a pinched nerve, make sure to avoid activities that may strain the affected area of the spine, such as:
You can perform some forms of exercise but not others with a pinched nerve. Gentle, low-impact exercises that don’t strain the spine are considered beneficial for a pinched nerve in the back. This is because they promote circulation, muscle strength, and flexibility.
The best forms of exercise for a pinched nerve in the back include:
Forms of exercise to avoid with a pinched nerve in the lower back include:
If your pinched nerve doesn’t go away on its own, there are many treatment options available to you. These include:
A physical therapist can provide special exercises to help resolve pinched nerve symptoms. These exercises focus on strengthening the abdominal muscles to better support the spine and stretching the back to alleviate muscle tension.
Spinal manipulation may help ease the symptoms of a pinched nerve by relieving pressure on the affected nerve and promoting circulation to the area.
Over-the-counter and/or prescription medications may be used to reduce tension in the back muscles and alleviate inflammation in the painful area of the back.
Massage therapy is often good for pinched nerves in the lower back. This is because it can help alleviate muscle tension that may be causing or worsening nerve impingement. As a safe and natural treatment option, massage therapy is widely used by patients to help with pain and stiffness from a pinched nerve.
There are many different types of massage, but the most popular for pinched nerves in the back include deep tissue massages and Swedish massages. Make sure to visit a licensed and reputable massage therapist to prevent further irritating the impinged nerve.
A chiropractor can treat a pinched nerve with manual adjustments, along with remedies like heat/cold therapy and lifestyle changes.
During a chiropractic adjustment, the chiropractor will use their hands or a small instrument to manipulate the spine. This helps restore the proper alignment of the spine, reduce pressure on the spinal nerves, and promote circulation to the injured area.
For virtually any condition, the best therapy is preventive. Pinched nerves and many other spinal problems can be avoided by:
To get rid of a pinched nerve in your back that doesn’t respond to non-surgical treatments, you may want to consider surgery.
When preventative measures and non-invasive treatments fail, surgery for a pinched nerve is a viable option. Spine specialists don’t consider surgery for a pinched nerve in the back unless the patient has undergone six to 12 months of conservative therapies with no notable improvement. Additionally, candidates for pinched nerve surgery typically have severe, chronic pain that diminishes their ability to complete day-to-day tasks.
Spinal decompression surgery is recommended for some patients who don’t respond to minimally-invasive treatments for a pinched nerve. Spinal decompression therapy can have a dramatic effect on relieving the symptoms of a pinched nerve in the lower back.
The most common form of spinal decompression surgery for a pinched nerve in the back is laminectomy. During this operation, the surgeon removes a small piece of the bone that covers the spinal canal, known as the lamina. Removing some of this bone allows the surgeon to create more space for the affected nerve and resolve the impingement.
Typically, spinal fusion back surgery is performed in conjunction with decompression surgery to stabilize the spine. Without some form of stabilization, decompression surgery can leave the spine vulnerable to future injury.
Spinal fusion is performed after decompression surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon positions bone graft material in between the affected vertebrae. Gradually, this bone graft will cause the vertebrae to combine into one bone.
This process eradicates all motion between the fused vertebrae, which prevents injuries related to instability of the area. Unfortunately, it also permanently reduces the patient’s mobility and can cause degeneration in the adjacent spinal segments.
Today, the TOPS (Total Posterior Spine) System provides an alternative to spinal fusion for a pinched nerve in the back. In contrast to spinal fusion, TOPS restores the full range of the spine’s natural motion. It’s also been shown to provide superior outcomes when compared to fusion in clinical studies performed around the world.
The TOPS System presents a great new option for some individuals affected by pinched nerves in the lower back. Contact a medical center that offers the TOPS System in your area to learn more!
Back pain is a universal health concern, and it doesn’t discriminate. The factors that trigger back pain are often the same in women and men. However, certain causes of back pain, such as menstruation, pregnancy, and osteoporosis, are either unique to or more prevalent among women.
The most common issues of lower back pain in females are menstruation, pregnancy, stress, osteoporosis, and spinal conditions like disc disease, herniated discs, spondylolisthesis, and spinal stenosis. Let’s research them deeper:
Menstruation is a key cause of back pain that exclusively affects women. During menstruation, the uterus produces substances known as prostaglandins. Prostaglandins manage muscle contraction, and during menstruation, they send messages to the uterus instructing it to contract.
These muscle contractions are the direct cause of cramps and back pain during menstruation. Additionally, the cramps associated with menstruation place added stress on the back muscles, potentially leading to back muscle pain.
Pregnancy often causes back pain, particularly in its later stages. The added weight of carrying the fetus puts significant stress on the spine, as well as the supporting muscles and ligaments.
Additionally, the ligaments stretch and soften during pregnancy. This is one of the body’s methods of childbirth preparation. Unfortunately, as the ligaments soften, the lower back and pelvis become less supported. This may trigger back pain.
Also, while being overweight for any reason can cause back pain, the rapid weight gain that occurs during pregnancy compounds the problem.
Mental stress is known to cause or contribute to back pain, in part because it contributes to the involuntary tightening of muscles in the back. Stress can also cause or exacerbate back pain during pregnancy which, as a major life change, is a time of great psychological stress.
Later in life, our bodies’ bone-building process gradually weakens. As a result, calcium is depleted from our bones, and our overall bone mass drops. The bones become more brittle, making them more prone to breakage. This phenomenon, which is referred to as osteoporosis, is more common among women than men.
If osteoporosis causes spinal fractures (known as compression fractures), it can lead to severe back pain. With a compression fracture from osteoporosis, patients typically struggle to sit, stand, and walk.
Common spinal conditions, such as degenerative disc disease, herniated disc, spondylolisthesis, and spinal stenosis, affect women, just as they do men. These conditions can lead to chronic lower back pain.
Lower right back pain in females can be caused by spinal conditions, soft tissue injuries, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, pregnancy, or various underlying conditions.
The spinal conditions that can cause lower right back pain in females include spinal stenosis, degenerative spondylolisthesis, and disc degeneration. These conditions can trigger spinal nerve compression, which may lead to sharp or burning pain in the right side of the back.
Endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and pregnancy are possible causes of lower right back pain that can only occur in women.
Certain internal organs can lead to lower right back pain in female patients. Specifically, organs located in the pelvis, abdomen, and mid-back area may be the root of lower back pain.
In women, the reproductive organs in the pelvis can trigger pain in the lower right area of the back. For instance, endometriosis, which typically affects the ovaries and fallopian tubes, can lead to pain that extends to the lower back.
The appendix is an organ that’s linked to the large intestine. People who develop appendicitis, which occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed, can develop lower right back pain.
Appendicitis requires immediate treatment to prevent rupture and complications. In addition to lower right back pain, symptoms may include sudden pain on the right side of the lower abdomen that worsens with abrupt motions, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting.
The kidneys are organs that remove waste from the blood. Kidney issues, such as kidney stones or a kidney infection, can lead to pain on one side of the lower back. Other symptoms of kidney problems often include pain while urinating, nausea, and vomiting.
Ulcerative colitis is a condition that’s characterized by inflammation in the colon. It causes repeated cramping in the abdomen that may trigger lower back pain, as well as symptoms including diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue.
Extreme lower back pain can be a cause for concern. But, since back pain is a common ailment, it can be difficult to know whether or not your pain requires medical attention.
As a general rule of thumb, visit your doctor for an evaluation if you experience back pain that persists for longer than two weeks and holds you back from regular activities. If you experience severe back pain, visit a doctor sooner than after two weeks. Additionally, seek out immediate medical care if you have:
Whatever its origin, there’s no reason to live with back pain, as a variety of treatment options exist for all their causes. Women wondering how to help lower back pain may consider physical therapy, medication, or even lifestyle changes to alleviate back pain caused by spinal conditions.
Physical therapy can help with lower back pain by helping relieve tension in the back muscles. Additionally, physical therapy exercises can target and strengthen the muscles that support the back.
Over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications may help women manage lower back pain in the short term. These medications can also help alleviate menstrual cramps and the associated back pain.
However, women experiencing back pain caused by more complex conditions, such as endometriosis, should speak with their doctors about the available prescription medications for the condition.
Lifestyle changes may help you naturally achieve relief from lower back pain. For example, in women experiencing back pain during pregnancy, gentle, low-impact exercise may offer relief.
Women with back pain caused by cramps during menstruation can consider lifestyle changes including quitting smoking, cutting down on alcohol consumption and adding more high-fiber foods to their diet. Additionally, women with spinal conditions, such as spinal stenosis, may need to modify their activities to avoid straining the spine.
Surgery is rarely required for women with back pain. However, if the back pain doesn’t resolve within six months of conservative treatment, your doctor may recommend spine surgery for lasting pain relief.
Among women for whom spine surgery is recommended, there are multiple surgical approaches to consider. Thankfully, advanced microsurgical techniques and stabilization systems provide effective treatments for potentially disabling spinal conditions.
Decompression spinal surgery is a commonly performed spinal procedure for conditions including spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and herniated disc. In this procedure, a portion of the vertebra that’s impinging on a spinal nerve is removed. Decompression surgery can have a dramatic and immediate impact on back pain associated with prevalent spinal conditions.
Spinal fusion surgery has traditionally been performed in conjunction with spinal decompression. This process involves fusing adjacent vertebrae at the affected segment to stabilize the spine.
Unfortunately, while spinal fusion may offer pain relief for patients suffering from chronic back pain, it has numerous drawbacks. For one, spinal fusion eliminates the patient’s motion at the affected segment. As a result, the patient loses the ability to bend, twist, and flex that area of the spine.
Additionally, spinal fusion can lead to adjacent segment disease. This fusion complication occurs when the vertebrae surrounding the fused bone degenerate faster than usual. As a result, the patient may experience back pain, stiffness, and/or neurological symptoms.
Alternatives to spinal fusion are available and can help patients avoid the drawbacks of spinal fusion. The TOPS™ System from Premia Spine, in particular, provides a superior, clinically-proven outcome when compared to spinal fusion back surgery.
Unlike spinal fusion, the TOPS™ System preserves the vertebrae’s range of motion. Having been used since 2005, the system has enabled patients around the world to maintain their full range of activities following decompression surgery. TOPS™ has further advanced the treatment of common but potentially debilitating spinal conditions.
Women experiencing back pain from spinal conditions should consult their doctors to learn about the complete range of spinal treatments available today.
Back pain affects people of all ages and genders. Although back pain is more common in women than in men, it also affects a significant portion of the male population. Given that back pain can lead to diminished mobility and a decreased quality of life, it should be given prompt medical attention.
In men, back pain can be triggered by a broad range of factors, from a severe infection to a mild injury. Understanding the different causes of back pain in men can help you identify the warning signs of a serious condition and seek out the medical care that you need.
This article will explore the possible causes of back pain in men, as well as the treatments available today.
There are several different causes of back pain in men. The most common of these conditions include:
Spinal disorders can lead to inflammation, nerve impingement, and, ultimately, back pain. Some of the most prevalent spinal disorders that affect men include:
Additionally, spinal injuries that occurred in childhood can manifest in later years, providing a painful reminder of long-ago trauma.
Back strains and sprains are extremely common causes of lower back pain across all demographics. A back strain occurs when some of the muscles and/or tendons of the spine become damaged. The tissue may be pulled, torn, or twisted, typically due to overextending the spine.
Though it’s commonly confused with a strain, a back sprain affects the ligaments of the spine, not the muscles or tendons. With this injury, the ligaments are strained or torn due to excess strain on the back.
A wide range of medical conditions can trigger back pain in men. The most prevalent of these conditions are arthritis, sleep disorders, shingles, kidney stones, and kidney infections.
Over an extended period, poor posture can lead to back pain in men. This is because poor posture forces the spine out of its proper alignment. This places added stress on the structures of the spine and speeds up the process of spinal wear and tear.
Being overweight or obese is a key risk factor for back pain in men. With every step, excess weight places added impact on the structures of the spine. Over time, this extra stress with day-to-day motions can lead to back pain.
Men are especially prone to traumatic back pain due to their participation in high-impact physical activities and other lifestyle habits. These activities and habits include heavy lifting, prolonged sitting, and inconsistent exercise (i.e., the weekend warrior). These activities carry a significant risk of injury to the structures of the spine, as well as the ligaments, muscles, and tendons that support the spine.
Accidents and sports injuries can lead to sudden back injuries. But, even simple day-to-day actions, such as improperly lifting a heavy object or twisting the back awkwardly when reaching for an object can trigger traumatic back injuries.
The physical stresses and strains on the spine to which men are subjected can also accelerate and exacerbate the onset of spinal conditions, such as degenerative disc disease.
Kidney and bladder infections can cause back pain in men. With a kidney infection, men typically experience pain in the sides of the back. If a bladder infection spreads to the kidneys, it can cause mid-back pain.
Back pain caused by an infection won’t improve with changes in body positioning. This is unlike most other forms of back pain, which can be alleviated by moving or changing position.
To tell if your back pain is kidney-related, consider the following factors:
Kidney pain is generally felt higher on the back and “deeper” within the body when compared to back pain. Additionally, kidney pain can radiate to the abdomen or crotch area. In contrast, if back pain radiates, it typically travels down the legs.
As mentioned in the previous section, back pain can usually be improved by changing the position of the body. Patients may find temporary back pain relief by bending forward, standing up, or sitting down.
Kidney pain, on the other hand, won’t improve with different positions or movements. It tends to be constant.
Serious kidney problems can cause other symptoms, including fatigue, fever, and body aches. If you experience these symptoms with what you suspect is kidney pain, or if the pain is sudden and excruciating, visit a doctor immediately.
Yes, prostate problems can cause lower back pain in men. Recurrent pain or stiffness in the lower back is a symptom of prostate problems, along with:
If you experience these symptoms of prostate problems, seek out urgent medical care.
The kidneys, prostate, bladder, colon, liver, gallbladder, and appendix are organs that can cause lower back pain in men. With organ-related lower back pain, you may experience pain in only one side of the back.
Back pain at night is considered a red flag because it can be a sign of a serious condition, like cancer or an infection. This is particularly true for back pain that doesn’t just continue at night but worsens when you’re sleeping.
If you experience worsening back pain at night, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a serious medical issue. But, especially if you experience other symptoms in conjunction with back pain, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. Other symptoms to keep an eye out for with back pain at night include saddle anesthesia, incontinence, and weakness, numbness, or pain in the leg muscles.
Prompt medical treatment and self-care help back pain for men. If you’re concerned about an underlying condition that could be causing your back pain, remember that the great majority of back pain cases in men involve muscle trauma, strains, or other minor injuries. These common conditions resolve on their own with rest and proper care.
However, if your back pain persists despite at-home therapies, a qualified medical specialist can identify the problem. After diagnosing the condition, your physician can recommend a variety of effective treatment options, most of which are non-invasive. Even serious spinal conditions such as degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis can be effectively treated.
When non-invasive treatments fail to provide relief after six to 12 months, your physician may recommend surgery. Spinal decompression surgery can relieve pressure on spinal nerves, dramatically reducing pain and the other symptoms associated with various spinal conditions.
Thankfully, patients today no longer need to surrender the full range of spinal motion to benefit from spinal decompression surgery. In the past, spinal fusion surgery was routinely performed in conjunction with spinal decompression surgery to stabilize the spine. Now, the TOPS™ System is available as a spinal fusion alternative.
As a non-fusion implant, the TOPS™ System enables spinal decompression patients to maintain their full range of spinal motion. Instead of fusing adjacent vertebrae at the point of the decompression surgery, this implant allows each vertebra to maintain independent flexion and lateral motion.
Though men are likely to experience back pain at some point in life, they have many advanced treatment options to choose from today. With these effective therapies, men can achieve relief from back pain, even in its most serious forms.
Though you may not realize it, spinal decompression is an important topic for many people suffering from debilitating back pain. Spinal decompression refers to the process of relieving pressure on one or more pinched (or impinged) nerves in the spinal column. The pressure on such nerves can cause pain, restrict mobility, and a host of other physical problems.
A vast range of spinal conditions, including spinal stenosis, disc degeneration, bulging, herniated or slipped discs, and facet syndrome, can place pressure on nerves emanating from the spinal column. This may create the need for spinal decompression surgery.
This article will dive into the specifics of spinal decompression and how it could benefit your recovery from chronic back pain.
So, what is spinal decompression? It’s a treatment for various spinal conditions that can be performed both surgically and non-surgically.
Non-surgical spinal decompression utilizes mechanical, computer-controlled traction devices to reduce the pressure placed on nerves in specific portions of the spine. Inversion therapy, in which patients hang upside down, is another form of non-surgical spinal decompression. Certain spinal decompression exercises may also be effective for alleviating back and nerve pain.
For patients who don’t respond to non-invasive methods, spinal decompression surgery can provide dramatic symptom improvement. In this surgical procedure, portions of the bone or tissue of the spine that impinge on a nerve are cut away, relieving the pressure.
Historically, the spinal fusion procedure has been performed in conjunction with spinal decompression surgery. Fusion stabilizes the spine at the point where the decompression procedure was performed.
Unfortunately, spinal fusion, which fuses two (or more) vertebrae to enhance spinal stability, eliminates the independent motion of the fused vertebrae. This may accelerate the degeneration of adjacent vertebrae.
Today, the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Spine) System provides a spinal fusion alternative for patients who are considering spinal decompression surgery. In contrast to fusion, TOPS preserves the complete range of the spine’s natural motion and has been shown to provide better outcomes than fusion in global clinical studies.
A large nerve pathway extends through the middle of the spinal canal. When these nerves become compressed and irritated, whether due to an injury or age-related degeneration, you may experience lasting pain. With this in mind, patients undergo spinal decompression for relief from spinal nerve compression symptoms.
Non-surgical spinal decompression is performed as a conservative treatment option for persistent back pain. Whether caused by a condition like spinal stenosis or simply poor posture, back pain can benefit from non-invasive spinal decompression.
Surgical spinal decompression, on the other hand, is typically done only for severe spinal conditions. It’s generally only considered after the patient has undergone six to 12 months of non-surgical treatment without experiencing improvement.
Additionally, surgical spinal decompression is typically implemented for patients experiencing severe spinal nerve compression and who are at risk of permanent nerve damage.
Spinal decompression, both surgical and non-surgical, may be used to treat:
The tough outer shell of an intervertebral disc becomes weaker and thinner with age. Eventually, the disc may flatten and bulge out into the spinal canal.
A herniated or slipped disc goes one step beyond a bulging disc. When a disc becomes herniated, it means that the soft disc interior protrudes through a crack in the disc exterior.
Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve, which extends from the lower back through the backs of both legs, becomes irritated. This results in symptoms including burning, tingling, numbness, pain, and/or weakness along the path of the sciatic nerve.
Degenerative disc disease refers to back pain and other symptoms caused by a degenerated intervertebral disc. This degeneration typically occurs from age-related wear-and-tear.
A pinched or compressed spinal nerve causes symptoms like pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness.
Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal gradually becomes narrower. This condition limits the amount of open space in the spinal canal, which can trigger spinal nerve compression.
Spondylolisthesis develops when one of the vertebrae in the spine shifts out of its regular position and settles on the bone directly beneath it. In some cases, the displaced vertebra compresses nearby nerves.
During non-surgical spinal decompression, the patient is positioned on a motorized device like a traction table. This device uses motorized traction to gently stretch the spine. This process alters the alignment of the spine, as well as the forces placing stress on the spine.
When non-surgical spinal decompression is successful, it removes pressure from the nerves and other spinal structures. It also increases the flow of oxygen, nutrients, and water to the spine, which promotes healing.
Although the goal of surgical spinal decompression is the same as its non-surgical counterpart, the process is completely different. For one, numerous techniques of surgical spinal decompression exist, namely laminectomy/laminotomy, foraminotomy/foraminectomy, and discectomy.
Chiropractors perform non-surgical spinal decompression therapy. Only a qualified, licensed spinal surgeon can perform spinal decompression surgery.
A spinal decompression chiropractor stretches and manipulates the spine to alleviate back and leg pain. This process is entirely non-invasive, making it a safe, low-risk choice for patients to consider.
Your chiropractor may also be able to recommend spinal decompression stretches. You can perform these stretches anywhere, at any time, making it possible to undergo spinal decompression at home. For example, reaching your arms above your head, interlacing your fingers, and trying to touch your palms to the ceiling is one stretch that can help decompress the spine.
Most patients who undergo non-surgical spinal decompression therapy from a professional chiropractor will experience symptom relief after four to six weeks. In this period, patients may undergo weekly spinal decompression sessions. Some patients may notice pain relief after just one session, while others will need more sessions to experience significant symptom improvement.
Surgical spinal decompression works differently. Patients will likely experience soreness and inflammation for a few days after the procedure. Post-operative pain will gradually improve, with most patients needing approximately four to six weeks to regain their mobility.
Spinal decompression surgery is commonly paired with spinal fusion. As aforementioned, the goal of fusion is to prevent spinal instability by permanently connecting the affected vertebrae. Spinal fusion significantly lengthens the recovery time for spinal decompression surgery, requiring up to a year for patients to make a full recovery.
Spinal decompression is typically considered necessary if:
If you’re a patient whose pinched spinal nerve is not responding to non-invasive decompression methods, make sure to discuss all of your surgical options with your physician.
Back pain affects an estimated eight out of 10 people over the course of their lives. So, it’s no surprise that this widespread medical condition sparks many questions among patients.
One of the most prevalent questions that spine specialists receive from back pain patients is whether or not they’ll need surgery. Understandably, most patients want to avoid back surgery and the risks that it involves.
In this article, we’ll answer some of the most common questions about back pain and back surgery. With this information, we aim to give you peace of mind in the range of treatments available for back pain today.
If you’re experiencing ongoing or severe back pain, you may be wondering if you’ll need back surgery to finally eliminate that constant backache. To answer this question and get on the path to relief from debilitating back pain, you’ll likely need to consult a spinal surgeon.
Your spinal surgeon will need to assess your back symptoms, take a full medical history, and review your general health. But, don’t start worrying about the prospect of surgery. Back surgery is generally only needed in a small percentage of back pain cases.
According to the UT Southwestern Medical Center, only 10% of back pain cases require surgery. Additionally, among back pain patients who require surgery, minimally-invasive procedures are widely successful.
So, for most patients, back pain can be resolved with a range of non-surgical options. These trusted treatments can keep you off of the operating table and quickly restore your quality of life.
When conservative treatments don’t help, your physician may recommend back surgery. This is often the case when the doctor is looking to provide relief from severe, disabling back pain that’s limiting your lifestyle, interrupting your sleep, and preventing you from being active.
The most common non-surgical treatment options available for back pain include:
In some cases, patients may benefit from epidural steroid injections, which can alleviate pain and inflammation in the spine. Unfortunately, steroid injections can also trigger tissue damage if they’re used in excess. Most physicians recommend that patients undergo no more than three to four injections per year.
Additionally, lifestyle changes are often very helpful in treating back pain without surgery. Specifically, changing your diet to lose weight can help remove pressure from the spinal nerves. This can help the irritated tissue heal and recover, as well as lessen neurological symptoms.
Your physician may recommend rest for back pain after your initial diagnosis. However, it’s important to stay active with low-impact activities to prevent stiffness and maintain strength. Once back pain and inflammation have decreased, you’ll likely be able to increase your activity level.
Exercise is beneficial for back pain because it prevents stiffness in the ligaments and tendons. It can help you maintain mobility in the back while increasing circulation to the injured tissue.
However, high-impact, strenuous exercise can do more harm than good for back pain patients. So, it’s crucial to choose your activities wisely.
Some of the best types of exercise for back pain include:
While exercising with back pain, remember to start slowly with short periods of activity. Make sure to rest in between your workouts. If you feel any pain or other concerning symptoms, such as numbness or tingling in the extremities, stop exercising and consider other activities.
The most common lower back pain causes include:
Strains and sprains are the most common causes of lower back pain. Strains involve stretching or tearing of the muscles or tendons, while sprains involve stretching or tearing of the ligaments.
The causes and treatments of strains and sprains are similar. Overexerting the back while lifting a heavy object, suddenly twisting the back, or falling are possible causes. To treat lower back sprains and strains, physicians typically recommend rest and at-home care, such as heat/cold therapy.
Patients may benefit from physical therapy for sprains and strains. A physical therapist can recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to alleviate tension while improving support for the back.
The spinal structures, including the vertebrae, facet joints, and intervertebral discs, naturally degenerate with age. This degeneration can contribute to spinal conditions like a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease, and osteoarthritis. All of these spinal conditions can lead to chronic lower back pain.
Lower left back pain and lower right back pain can be caused by any of the common back pain causes listed above. However, if you have one-sided back pain along with other symptoms, such as fever and/or pain while urinating, the pain could be stemming from an internal organ. So, in this case, make sure to receive a medical evaluation promptly.
Especially in young adults, participating in sports is a key risk factor for lower back pain. According to Medscape, 7% to 13% of all sports injuries in college athletes are lower back injuries. Additionally, certain sports are more likely to trigger back pain than others.
The sports that present the highest risk of lower back pain include gymnastics, soccer, and dance, according to a 2009 study published in Sports Health.
Here are the symptoms and conditions that might make back surgery an optimal solution for you:
Back injuries and conditions that compress your spinal nerves can cause debilitating back pain and/or numbness, tingling, and weakness in the legs.
With a bulging, ruptured, or herniated disc, the rubbery discs that cushion and separate the bones in your spine are injured. So, the spinal structures are subject to more impact with day-to-day movements.
A fractured vertebra typically causes back pain and spinal instability. Many vertebral fractures heal on their own, while others require surgery. or other damage to your spinal column from a back injury. A fractured disc will cause pain, and also leaves your spine unstable, often causing additional back pain.
You may also be diagnosed with a condition that causes back pain and additional progressive nerve compression:
For lower back pain relief in severe cases, spinal surgeons may recommend one of the following types of lower back surgery:
Spinal decompression is the most common lower back pain surgery. It involves alleviating pressure on the spinal nerves by removing certain spinal tissues.
Several procedures fall under the umbrella of spinal decompression, including:
During fusion surgery in the lower back, your surgeon will secure bone graft material in between one or more vertebrae. This process permanently fuses the targeted vertebrae to prevent spinal instability.
Unfortunately, lower back fusion eliminates all independent motion of the vertebrae. This significantly diminishes patients’ back flexibility and may keep them from performing certain activities. Fusion also largely prolongs the recovery time for lower back surgery.
Recent innovations in spinal surgery, such as the TOPS™ System from Premia Spine, can prevent spinal instability after decompression surgery without compromising the patient’s mobility. The TOPS™ System is a non-fusion spinal implant that moves with the spine, protects neighboring segments from degeneration, and preserves spinal mobility.
Your spinal surgeon’s primary goal is to eliminate your back pain and restore your quality of life. When a progressive condition is diagnosed through testing and examination, back surgery may certainly move to the forefront of your surgeon’s mind. It’s their job to consider the best, most individualized treatment options to eradicate back pain before it becomes worse.
Whether to treat a slipped disc from age-related spinal degeneration or a traumatic spinal cord injury, spinal surgery is never taken lightly. When lower back surgery is selected as the preferred treatment option, it indicates that the condition being treated is severe.
Spine surgery comes along with the expectation that it will provide a meaningful improvement in the targeted medical condition. This improvement generally includes a reduction in the patient’s pain, as well as restored movement.
With these improvements in mind, there’s actually much to look forward to while you prepare for spine surgery! To ensure that the procedure and recovery go as smoothly as possible, consider these tips:
So, what’s our top tip for how to prepare for spinal surgery? Get in the best shape you can – mentally and physically.
To improve your physical fitness, exercise thoughtfully and eat a healthy diet. Exercising can be difficult when you’re dealing with a spinal condition. However, maintaining muscle strength and flexibility, as well as reaching a healthy weight, will aid in your spinal surgery recovery.
Additionally, exercising boosts endorphins, the body’s natural “feel good” chemicals. Endorphins can help you manage stress, pain, and your general mental well-being leading up to spinal surgery.
Certain physical activities are safer and more beneficial for patients with spinal conditions than others. These activities include:
We recommend speaking to your physician before starting any new exercise regimen. Your physician can inform you of any exercises to avoid as you prepare for spinal surgery.
Additionally, as a general rule of thumb, avoid high-impact activities, like running and jogging, while you’re recovering from a spinal condition. High-impact activities can place added stress on the spine and may impede its recovery process.
Extra weight places stress on the back. In fact, excess weight leads to increased impact on the spine with each step that you take, potentially complicating back surgery recovery.
A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that intervertebral disc disorder and chronic lower back pain are connected to obese and overweight body status. With this in mind, losing weight can support the outcome of your spinal procedure and recovery.
However, lose weight sensibly! Extreme and unhealthy weight loss can compromise your condition leading up to the surgery.
Here are our top tips for losing weight healthily:
If you smoke, it’s in your best interest to quit before spinal surgery. Smoking is detrimental to the success of spinal surgery, as well as the body’s healing process, even for minimally-invasive spine surgery.
Nicotine constricts the blood vessels. This means that when you smoke, the circulation throughout your body decreases. As a result, all of your cells, including those in your spine, will receive less of the oxygen and nutrients that they need to heal.
Decreased blood flow from smoking can also prevent surgical wounds from closing and increase the risk of infection. The infection risk after spinal surgery is further increased in smokers because smoking hampers the immune system.
Smokers are also at a higher risk of complications from surgery, including stroke, heart attack, shock, and even death.
Several clinical studies illustrate the risk of smoking for patients with spinal conditions:
If you don’t quit smoking, you’ll be required to stop approximately four to six weeks before the lower back herniated disc surgery and other spinal procedures. You’ll also need to abstain from smoking for two weeks after the procedure.
Quitting smoking can be difficult, to say the least. Here are a few tips that may help you quit before spine surgery:
Talk to your doctor about all of the medications that you’re taking long before undergoing spinal surgery. Be very thorough, as even herbal supplements can impact your recovery or interact with other medications prescribed for surgery.
There are a few different types of drugs that you generally must stop taking before surgery. These include:
Anticoagulants are also known as blood thinners. This type of medication prevents the formation of blood clots. But, before surgery, blood thinners also raise your risk of bleeding. So, it’s crucial to talk to your prescribing physician and surgeon about the right time to stop taking anticoagulants before surgery.
Common prescription anticoagulants include warfarin, NSAIDs, enoxaparin, ticlopidine, clopidogrel, and dipyridamole. Additionally, there are several over-the-counter and herbal anticoagulants, including aspirin, NSAIDs (like ibuprofen), vitamin E, ginger, garlic, and ginkgo biloba.
MAOIs remove specific neurotransmitters from the brain. This category of drugs includes certain antidepressants and anti-Parkinson drugs. Unfortunately, MAOIs also interfere with the medications utilized during anesthesia and should be stopped about a week or two before spinal surgery.
All MAOIs are prescription medications. Examples include tranylcypromine, phenelzine, rasagiline, and isocarboxazid.
Prepare for lower back surgery by learning as much as you can about the facets of your spinal condition, as well as the available treatments. There are numerous lower back surgery types, especially with recent advances in the medical field. Different types of lower back surgery may offer unique benefits and drawbacks.
One essential aspect of education before lumbar spine surgery is to understand the expected recovery period. Spine surgery recovery can last anywhere from a few months to a year if you undergo lower back fusion surgery.
Learning about the recovery time for lower back surgery well in advance of your procedure will streamline your healing process. With this knowledge, you can better plan how much help you’ll need around the house, how much time to take off of work, and when you can expect to return to your favorite activities.
The last few years have seen dramatic advances in spinal procedures that can provide significantly improved clinical outcomes and shorter recovery periods. The TOPS™ (Total Posterior Solution) System, often used in the treatment of spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and other back problems involving a pinched nerve, is one such advanced procedure.
TOPS™ is an implant system approved for use as an alternative to lumbar spine fusion surgery after spinal decompression. The TOPS™ System preserves the independent flexion and bending of the individual vertebrae. This is in contrast to fusion surgery of the lower back, which eliminates this independent motion and can contribute to the deterioration of adjacent vertebrae.
The TOPS™ System has also been shown in clinical studies to provide better short- and long-term outcomes than spinal fusion.
Before undergoing spinal surgery, make sure to learn everything that you can about your condition and surgical options. By thoroughly discussing your treatment plan with your physician and asking any questions that come to mind, you’ll be far better prepared for your back surgery.
Back pain is one of the most complex and confounding conditions in medicine. There are several types of back pain, typically classified by their cause. These forms of back pain may originate in the back muscles, ligaments, and spinal structures, or even as a result of problems in other parts of the body.
Below, we’ll discuss some of the most prominent types of back pain, along with the causes of each.
Muscle strains are one of the most common lower back pain causes. A strain is a type of injury that affects muscle or tendon tissue. Tendons attach muscle to bone.
With a strain, the affected muscle or tendon has either been pulled, torn, or twisted. This injury is usually caused by overuse, such as engaging in strenuous physical activity that your body isn’t accustomed to. For example, you may sustain a back strain if you lift more weight than your body can safely handle.
Symptoms of muscle strains include muscle weakness, inflammation, cramping, and spasms. You may also experience a reduced range of motion in the back.
A back strain can result in severe lower back pain. However, the pain will remain localized and won’t radiate down to the legs. This is in contrast to back pain caused by certain spinal conditions, which can cause pain that spreads to the extremities.
Sprains and strains are commonly mixed up as back pain types. However, while strains involve muscle or tendon tissue, sprains involve injury to a ligament. Ligaments attach bones within a joint and provide stability to that joint.
With a back sprain, the ligaments in the spine are forced out of their usual position. This is typically caused by a fall, sudden trauma, or forceful twist.
Symptoms of ligament sprains are similar to muscle strains but take longer to heal. While a mild strain typically heals within three to six weeks, a sprain may take between six to eight weeks (or even several months) to heal. If you don’t allow a back sprain to heal properly, it can give rise to chronic back pain.
Although anyone, at any age, can sustain a back strain or sprain, you may be at a higher risk of developing one of these injuries if you:
Back strains and sprains can hamper your day-to-day activities and cause significant pain. To reduce your risk of developing these common back injuries, follow these tips:
Patients who are only experiencing pain on one side of the back often wonder about the cause of their pain. Both lower left back pain and lower right back pain can be caused by injuries to the muscles or ligaments that uphold the spine. One-sided back pain may also be triggered by spinal injuries and conditions.
However, one-sided back pain can also indicate an issue with the kidney, intestines, or reproductive organs. If this is the case, you’ll likely experience additional symptoms, such as nausea, pain while urinating, and/or fever.
Stress-related back pain isn’t an official diagnosis. But, there’s no denying that stress can play a significant role in the development of back pain.
Your body’s natural reaction to concerning, unpleasant, or scary situations is stress. When you feel stressed out, your body releases various chemicals and triggers physical reactions to protect you. These chemicals include cortisol and adrenaline, which tends to cause an involuntary tensing of your muscles.
This is a primal response that’s largely unhelpful against the stressors that people experience today, such as a deadline at work or a complicated social situation.
Frequent stress can lead to significant tension in the back. This may lead to chronic lower back pain when left unaddressed.
A 2021 study published in Scientific Reports confirmed that the severity of stress is directly correlated to chronic lower back pain. Specifically, severe stress was associated with a 2.8-fold increase in the risk of chronic lower back pain.
Spinal conditions are common types of lower back pain. Many of the most common spinal conditions trigger back pain by exerting pressure on the spinal nerves. This typically leads to what’s known as a pinched nerve. A pinched nerve can cause localized pain, much like a muscle strain, but may also involve other parts of the body.
Pinched nerves in the lower, or lumbar region of the spine, can cause burning lower back and leg pain. Surprisingly, a pinched nerve in this region can also have far-reaching effects on the bladder, appendix, large intestine, sex organs, knees, and prostate.
While several different spinal conditions can trigger back pain, the most common include:
A herniated disc occurs when the soft interior of an intervertebral disc protrudes through a damaged portion of the disc interior. The injured disc may push on spinal nerves, causing back pain and other symptoms.
Spinal stenosis develops if the space in the spinal canal becomes more limited. This may result from thickening spinal ligaments, a bulging or herniated disc, and osteoarthritis, among other factors.
Degenerative disc disease refers to symptoms of gradual, age-related spinal disc deterioration. As people grow older, the spinal discs become drier, thinner, and weaker, making them more prone to damage.
Spondylolisthesis occurs when spinal instability causes a vertebra to slip out of its normal position onto the vertebra beneath it. This can cause back pain and neurological symptoms. Although there are many possible causes of spondylolisthesis, the most common are degenerative spinal changes and spinal defects.
Osteoarthritis is also known as wear and tear arthritis. This condition occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joints starts to deteriorate. If osteoarthritis impacts the facet joints in the spine, it can lead to back pain.
When someone has scoliosis, it means that their spine is abnormally curved. This curve may cause back pain in a few different ways. It may cause spinal stenosis, disc degeneration, and facet joint damage. The curved spine can also press on nerves, leading to neurological symptoms.
Several factors can lead to the development of spinal conditions that cause lower back pain. The most prevalent of these factors include age-related spinal degeneration, spinal injuries and disorders, and congenital spinal defects. To understand exactly what’s causing your lower back pain, you’ll need a diagnosis from a qualified physician.
Numerous approaches exist for lower back pain relief in patients with spinal disorders. Almost always, physicians will start with a non-surgical treatment plan for six to 12 months before considering surgery. Most patients don’t need surgery to recover from the symptoms of various spinal conditions.
Simple rest, lifestyle modifications, medications, and physical therapy are among the beneficial non-invasive approaches to alleviate different types of lower back pain.
When patients continue to experience debilitating back pain after months of non-surgical treatment, surgery may be required. Additionally, spinal specialists may recommend surgery if the patient is experiencing significant disability as a result of their condition.
Thankfully, even serious spinal conditions can today be effectively treated with advanced microsurgical procedures. Innovative approaches to spinal decompression surgery use endoscopic techniques for smaller incisions, less blood loss, and less tissue damage.
Advanced, minimally-invasive spinal procedures offer relief from conditions that have condemned previous generations to crippling pain and restricted mobility.
After spinal decompression, spinal fusion is often performed to stabilize the affected portion of the spine. The fusion process involves positioning bone graft material in between the affected vertebrae. The graft will, in the months following the procedure, permanently join the adjacent vertebrae.
Though decompression spinal surgery can dramatically alleviate pain and other symptoms of compressed or pinched nerves, spinal fusion eliminates the independent motion of the fused vertebrae. This limits patients’ activities and increases the risk of degeneration in the surrounding vertebrae.
Today, the limitations of spinal fusion have been surmounted. The TOPS™ System from Premia Spine provides a clinically proven superior alternative to spinal fusion. This non-fusion spinal implant replaces the tissues removed during decompression surgery while preserving the full, independent motion of each vertebra.
If you’re experiencing back pain, don’t hesitate to see a qualified physician. You can achieve relief with the variety of treatment options available today.
Can you really travel to a foreign destination for a vacation and receive high-quality medical care at the same time? That’s the question many people raise when the subject of medical tourism comes up.
Many people are skeptical of medical tourism, and understandably so. When you receive medical care in your home country, you’ll naturally feel more comfortable with the treatment process. However, there are many advantages that medical tourism can offer.
For some patients, traveling to a different country for medical care is a worthwhile task. Keep reading to learn more.
Medical tourism is a term used to describe the action of traveling internationally for medical care.
The following benefits are attributed to the popularity of medical tourism for USA patients:
This is the key benefit of medical tourism. Many people can attain high-quality medical care at a fraction of the cost by traveling overseas. This particularly applies to patients in the U.S., which lacks a public healthcare system.
The quality of care should always be the primary consideration in medical tourism. There are first-rate medical facilities and health care professionals in many areas across the globe. Some of these areas, which are widely considered to be the best countries for medical tourism, include Germany, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Israel, India, Thailand, Singapore, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Cyprus.
Different areas of the world have different medical regulatory bodies. Here in the United States, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) protects Americans’ health by regulating drugs, biological products, medical devices, food, cosmetics, and even certain electric products.
In many instances, medical innovations have been developed, proven to be successful, and used for many years in other areas of the world. But, with the FDA’s regulatory processes, it can take a long time for those proven medical solutions to become available in the United States. This can also apply to residents of other countries who don’t have access to many of the advanced medical treatments in the United States.
Medical tourism can give patients access to the latest medical technology and, as a result, a higher quality of care.
The United States has the most expensive healthcare in the world. So, while few people would consider medical tourism to the U.S., many Americans contemplate international travel to lower their medical expenses.
When considering traveling internationally for a procedure, it’s wise to consider medical tourism examples and statistics.
Consumers who are interested in medical tourism value a variety of factors. The most prominent of these factors include:
Finances are arguably the most important factor to medical tourism consumers. In fact, in a study from the Medical Tourism Association, 85% of surveyed patients who traveled overseas to a hospital reported that the cost of medical care was a very important deciding factor.
The healthcare system in the United States leaves an estimated 9.6% of residents without health insurance, as of 2021. Even among individuals who do have health insurance coverage, high co-pays and deductibles can make it difficult to afford medical care.
With these facts in mind, it’s unsurprising that cost is a crucial factor for medical tourism consumers. Above all, these consumers want to secure an affordable price for medical care by traveling overseas.
Quality of care is paramount for many medical tourism consumers. By traveling to other countries, patients can attain a higher quality of care (at a lower cost) when compared to the medical treatment available in their home countries.
However, without the assurances that Americans are accustomed to under the FDA, consumers must consider the laws and regulations surrounding medical care in the country that they’re traveling to, as well as the foreign practice’s certifications.
While discussing the benefits of medical tourism, we mentioned that it can grant patients access to advanced treatments that aren’t available in their home country. With this in mind, the treatments available in other countries are a key consideration for medical tourism consumers.
Waiting lists for health care services are another consideration among medical tourism consumers. As of 2022, in the United States, 28% of patients sometimes, rarely, or never receive a response from their primary physician on the same day. This is a high percentage when compared to many other areas of the globe. However, 27% of patients in the U.S. wait one month or more for a specialist appointment, which is a lower percentage than in many other countries, including Norway and Canada.
With that said, long wait lists are primarily a concern for medical tourism consumers in nations with public healthcare systems.
Although medical tourism can provide several benefits, it also presents certain risks and safety concerns, including:
Some countries have a risk of complications including HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, blood infections, wound infections, and infections from donor tissue or blood.
If patients travel to a facility using a language that they don’t speak fluently, doctor-patient communication can be difficult. Given that doctors provide crucial pre-op and post-op information, as well as procedure specifics, this may lead to confusion and errors.
Certain areas may not have comparable requirements for medical licensing and accreditation. This creates the risk of low quality of care.
Doctors typically advise against air travel immediately after surgery. This is because flying raises the risk of developing a blood clot. Depending on the type of surgical procedure, patients should wait between seven and 10 days before flying.
To avoid these risks, medical tourism consumers should ensure that:
As we’ve already mentioned, a significant benefit of medical tourism is that you can gain access to treatments that have not yet or have only recently been, approved for use in your country. Procedures that have been proven effective and are widely used in certain areas of the world can often benefit international patients.
The TOPS™ (Total Posterior Solution) procedure, performed in association with spinal decompression surgery, is an example of a procedure that has been used extensively in Europe but not yet in the United States. TOPS is an alternative to spinal fusion back surgery.
Spinal fusion is widely used with spinal decompression procedures for conditions like spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, bone spurs, and more. Unfortunately, fusion can severely limit patients’ range of motion in the back. Additionally, the complete recovery process for spinal fusion may last for six months to a year.
The TOPS System preserves the full range of motion between the individual vertebral segments, unlike spinal fusion. It involves a minimally-invasive surgical procedure, which greatly shortens the spinal surgery recovery period. In fact, patients may start moving around the day after TOPS surgery with few, if any, restrictions.
For certain patients with specific medical conditions, medical tourism could be the ticket to high-quality, low-cost healthcare. If you think you may benefit from medical tourism, make sure to conduct thorough research, find an accredited facility, and evaluate all of the risks before scheduling your appointment abroad.
Back pain is a prevalent health concern in the United States and around the world. In fact, almost 65 million Americans have had a recent episode of back pain.
Thankfully, most back pain episodes can be successfully resolved with at-home care. But, if this approach doesn’t relieve your back pain after a few weeks, you should consult with a back pain specialist.
A specialist may recommend medication for back pain to improve your symptoms. There are several different types of medications that can alleviate back pain, all of which we’ll discuss below.
Before we dive into the topic of medication for back pain relief, let’s answer some of the most commonly asked questions about back pain.
Back pain can be either acute or chronic. Acute back pain typically develops suddenly and resolves within four weeks. However, many cases of acute back pain go away within just a couple of days.
Chronic back pain lasts for 12 weeks or longer. Patients with chronic back pain may experience temporary pain relief, followed by a flare-up.
Back pain cases lasting between four and 12 weeks are considered subacute. This means that while the pain lasts longer than acute pain, it’s not defined as chronic.
Back pain may be a sign of a more serious condition if:
Generally, if you’re experiencing back pain that hasn’t improved at all after two weeks of at-home care, we’d recommend scheduling a medical evaluation.
Back pain can stem from a wide range of factors. Muscle strains and spasms are common causes of acute back pain and often resolve without medical intervention. Muscular back pain may feel like:
Spinal problems, on the other hand, tend to require expert medical treatment. Conditions such as a slipped disc, spinal stenosis, spondylosis, and spondylolisthesis can trigger persistent back pain.
Unlike muscular pain, spinal problems can cause neurological symptoms, including numbness, tingling, and weakness in the extremities. Additionally, back pain stemming from the spine generally won’t improve with rest, although changing positions may provide some relief.
Cases of back pain caused by a spinal condition may require surgical spinal solutions if conservation treatment methods fail after several months.
If your back pain is continuing to get worse despite self-care and at-home treatment, you may have a more serious condition, rather than an acute injury. Spinal arthritis, herniated disc, and spinal stenosis are among the most common causes of chronic back pain.
A slipped disc occurs when one of the intervertebral discs that cushion the vertebrae is injured. Specifically, the jelly-like disc interior presses out through a crack in the disc’s tough outer shell. If the damaged disc presses on nearby nerves, you may experience a range of symptoms, including:
Most back pain improves with a few weeks of self-care and at-home remedies. This may include over-the-counter pain relievers, ice, heat, and rest. While you should avoid lifting heavy objects and vigorous exercise, gentle, low-impact exercise and moving throughout the day can also help relieve back pain.
While it may seem like sitting and lying down will help relieve your pain, it can actually make it worse by increasing tension in the back muscles. Additionally, movement improves circulation, which helps deliver healing nutrients and oxygen to the back.
Along with these at-home remedies, the following non-invasive and alternative treatments can help decrease back pain:
The most common first step in using medication to alleviate back pain is taking over-the-counter medicine. Typically, this involves acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil and Motrin), and naproxen (such as Aleve) are widely used for back pain management.
These medications are often effective at relieving back pain and can work within a very short period. However, make sure to always consult the medication label and/or ask your doctor about the best dose of these lower back pain medications for your needs.
Taking too high a dose of over-the-counter pain medications, or taking them for an extended period, can trigger side effects including:
Additionally, you may not be a candidate for over-the-counter pain relievers if you have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, peptic ulcer disease, gastrointestinal problems, kidney disease, or liver cirrhosis.
If over-the-counter medications don’t relieve your back pain issues, your doctor may also prescribe a muscle relaxant. This type of prescription medication for back pain has proven to be effective for many patients and can help manage secondary pain, such as sore hips.
While muscle relaxants will often lessen back pain, they can cause side effects like sleepiness and dizziness. So, you should take them only when you’re done driving for the day. Ideally, you should only take muscle relaxants when you’re at home and can fully relax.
Don’t take muscle relaxants when you’re at work, have to make important decisions, cook, or complete any other tasks that require focus. Additionally, only take them when you can be sure that someone is available to care for your kids and pets.
Some patients are more sensitive than others to the effects of muscle relaxants and can’t function safely while on this particular type of back pain medication. Your physician will help determine if muscle relaxants are the right choice for you.
Your doctor may also prescribe you a narcotic, such as codeine or hydrocodone, as a chronic back pain medication. These medications aren’t prescribed to everyone because they present several risks, including the risk of addiction. Your physician will likely try several other courses of treatment before resorting to narcotics for back pain.
With this in mind, narcotics should be used only for a short period and with close doctor supervision. Take these lower back pain relief medications only as prescribed and be mindful of side effects including:
Interestingly, some back pain patients experience chronic back pain relief from low doses of certain types of antidepressants. Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline, in particular, have been beneficial for some back pain patients.
While you may not feel depressed or show other signs of depression, antidepressants are among the arsenal of low back pain medication that your physician may recommend.
Side effects of antidepressants can include:
Cortisone injections are another treatment option for severe back pain. These anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving injections are delivered directly to the space around your spinal cord.
Your doctor might inject cortisone into the facet joints of your vertebrae. This can decrease inflammation in the areas causing your back pain, allowing for a fuller range of motion and greater stability. Additionally, a cortisone injection can decrease inflammation around the nerve roots, potentially providing back pain relief for up to a few months after the injection.
Unfortunately, cortisone injections don’t support the body’s healing process or accelerate recovery. In fact, if a patient receives too many of these injections, they can cause tissue damage. For this reason, physicians recommend no more than three to four cortisone injections per year.
Ultimately, the best medication for back pain relief will vary from patient to patient. So, talk to your doctor about which medications may be ideal to relieve your back pain.
Additionally, don’t hesitate to request information on possible side effects and how long you should take each type of suggested medication. It’s crucial to closely follow your physician’s instructions to relieve your back pain with over-the-counter or prescription medications.
All patients undergoing back surgery should actively ensure that the healing process goes as smoothly as possible. In doing so, you can attain the best possible results from the procedure while avoiding complications that could compromise your health.
Proper incision care is a key step in the process of adopting healthy habits and positive lifestyle choices to promote healing. As an aspect of your spinal surgery recovery, incision care will benefit your overall health.
Here, we’ll discuss how to care for a spinal incision to ensure a successful surgical recovery and back pain relief. Additionally, we’ll explore innovations in the field of spine surgery that allow for smaller incisions and, as a result, a lower risk of complications.
After spinal surgery, the incision may be closed with Steri-Strips, staples, or sutures, including dissolvable sutures. Most often, spinal surgeons use a combination of these closure methods.
Since spinal surgery is performed beneath the layers of skin and muscle in the back, the incision must be closed at various layers. Your surgeon will suture the muscle layer together before closing the skin.
In preparing for back surgery, patients should begin on a path of improving their diet and physical activity. These practices will improve your overall health to ensure that the spinal surgery goes off without a hitch.
With that said, implementing healthy habits is not only essential for the surgery itself but also for the recovery process following the operation. While continuing the positive lifestyle changes that you applied before the procedure, make sure to rigorously follow your doctor’s orders, including those about what medications to avoid. Certain medications can interfere with the healing process, namely including NSAIDs. NSAIDs, like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, are blood thinners and can impair the body’s repair processes.
Proper care for the surgical incision is one of the most important aspects of post-operative home recuperation following back surgery.
You won’t be permitted to apply any ointments or lotions to the incision while it’s healing. You also shouldn’t bathe in a tub, swim, or use a hot tub until your incision is healed. Immersing the incision in water before your surgeon clears you to do so may increase your risk of infection and inhibit the healing process.
Additionally, you’ll need to keep the incision clean after spinal surgery. You can clean the incision site with soap and water, then gently dry it with a clean cloth. This helps prevent infection as the incision heals.
In most cases, non-dissolvable sutures and staples are removed 14 days following the spinal surgery. At this point, the incision is usually fully healed.
Many spinal surgery patients are eager to reduce scarring by applying scar treatments and vitamin creams to the incision. However, you must wait to get the go-ahead from your surgeon before doing so. Typically, surgeons allow patients to start applying scar creams six weeks after the procedure.
It generally takes about two weeks for a spinal incision, including a spinal stenosis incision, to completely heal. At this point, your surgeon will remove sutures and staples, as well as clear you to take baths and swim. However, this timeline can vary from patient to patient.
Spinal incision infections typically appear two to four weeks after the procedure. Your surgeon will advise you to be aware of infection symptoms, which include fever, worsening redness at the incision, and changes in the infection drainage. If any of these symptoms occur, make sure to reach out to your surgeon immediately.
Additionally, if the surgeon places any hardware or devices during the procedure and an infection develops, they may need to be removed. This also applies to patients with an implantation spinal cord stimulator incision or spinal fusion incision.
Immediately after the spinal nerves are decompressed in surgery, the healing process can begin. But, nerve tissue heals far slower than other types of tissue in the body, namely muscle tissue. So, while some patients will experience an immediate improvement in nerve pain after spinal surgery, other patients may need more time to notice a difference.
In the weeks and months after spinal surgery, patients should notice a gradual improvement in neurological symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and weakness. By adopting healthy lifestyle habits, such as engaging in low-impact exercise, eating healthily, and refraining from smoking, you can ensure that the spinal nerves heal as quickly as possible.
Surgeons always aim to create as small an incision as possible while successfully carrying out the procedure. This is because a smaller incision leads to less blood loss, less scarring, and a lower risk of infection.
Fortunately, the last several years have seen a revolution in back surgery procedures and outcomes. Now, more minimally-invasive procedures are available to patients that require spinal surgery. These procedures allow for much smaller incisions, among other advantages over traditional open back surgery.
One procedure that can now be replaced with minimally-invasive alternatives is spinal fusion back surgery. This procedure was traditionally performed in conjunction with spinal decompression surgery for spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and related conditions.
Spinal fusion involves positioning an implant containing bone graft material in between the affected vertebrae. Over the course of several weeks after the procedure, the bone graft will trigger the fusing of the vertebrae, turning them into a single bone. As a result, the patient can avoid spinal instability after decompression surgery.
Unfortunately, spinal fusion requires a long recovery period and eliminates the natural movement of the individual vertebrae. It also creates the risk of adjacent segment disorder, or ASD, which occurs when the vertebrae surrounding the fused segment degenerate more rapidly than they otherwise would.
Thankfully, a spinal fusion alternative has emerged to improve outcomes and preserve patients’ range of motion: the TOPS (Total Posterior Solution) System. The TOPS System is an implant that facilitates a minimally-invasive spinal surgery. It’s been shown in clinical trials around the globe to provide superior outcomes for patients who undergo treatments such as lumbar laminectomy or other spinal decompression procedures for various causes of lower back pain.
As the example of the TOPS System indicates, these advances in minimally-invasive back surgery allow for not only fewer complications in surgical incision healing, but also improved outcomes overall.
Don’t hesitate to discuss concerns surrounding post-op incision care with your surgeon, and make sure to explore all of your spine surgery options.