Surgery is not always the best option for people living with chronic back or leg pain. Sometimes, the symptoms of chronic back and leg pain may be treated without surgery, with methods that involve medication, heat, massage, and physical therapy. Here are some of the most common conservative treatment options for chronic back and leg pain:
Nonsurgical Treatments for Chronic Back Pain
1. Physical Therapy
2. Mindfulness and Meditation
4. Lifestyle Modifications
5. Strength-Building Exercises
6. Heat and Cold Therapy
7. Practice yoga
8. Quit smoking
Exercise is the foundation of chronic back pain treatment. It’s one of the first treatments you should try under the guidance of your physician and spine physical therapist.
However, the same set of exercises doesn’t work for everyone, says Nava. The exercises have to be tailored to your specific symptoms and condition. Maintaining the exercise routine at home is also a big part of success.
Benefits of physical therapy
Depending on the reason for treatment, the benefits of physical therapy include:
Pain management with reduced need for opioids
Improved mobility and movement
Recovery from injury or trauma
Recovery from stroke or paralysis
Management of age-related medical problems
A sports therapist can help an athlete to maximize their performance through strengthening specific parts of the body and using muscles in new ways.
A healthcare provider or physical therapist can advise individuals about the benefits specific to their personal medical history and their need for treatment.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Chronic back pain is straining both physically and emotionally. To manage the frustration, irritability, depression and other psychological aspects of dealing with chronic pain, you may get referred to a rehabilitation psychologist.
This specialist may recommend meditation, yoga, tai chi and other cognitive and relaxation strategies to keep your mind from focusing on pain
Mindfulness is available to us in every moment, whether through meditations and body scans, or mindful moment practices like taking time to pause and breathe when the phone rings instead of rushing to answer it.
Some diets are highly inflammatory, especially those high in trans fats, refined sugars and processed foods. Consult with your doctor to see if your diet could be contributing to your chronic back pain and how you could change it. Maintaining a healthy weight could also help lessen your back pain by reducing the pressure on your spine.
When you have chronic pain, it’s important to accept your limitations and adapt. “Listen to your body and learn to pace yourself,” suggests Nava. Take a break when mowing the lawn, or make several trips when carrying groceries.
Take note of the activities that worsen your pain and avoid them if possible. Not only could this help your back feel better, it could also prevent the underlying condition from advancing. Another important lifestyle change to try is giving up smoking.
Lifestyle modification involves altering long-term habits, typically of eating or physical activity, and maintaining the new behavior for months or years. Lifestyle modification can be used to treat a range of diseases, including obesity.
Back pain may be caused by structural changes such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis. The stronger you can make your back muscles, the more effectively those muscles can compensate for these changes.
With a stronger back, you can maintain a straighter posture with less pain. Common exercises to strengthen the back include bridges, lying lateral leg raises, and partial curls.
Heat and Cold Therapy
Heat and cold have their own distinct healing and pain-relieving properties. Our physiotherapist may administer either technique or both techniques together (in sessions of 15 to 20 minutes each).
Cold therapy can prove especially useful as an immediate treatment for acute back injuries or when dealing with severe muscle strain.
The cold reduces inflammation and swelling while also numbing the nerves. Heat boosts the circulation, helping inflammatory substances to exit the tissues and relaxing painful muscles.
Regardless of the type and severity of your back pain, yoga can significantly reduce your symptoms. Some patients are able to avoid pain medication and surgery altogether.
According to a July 2019 study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, patients with chronic back pain were less likely to take pain medication after participating in a 12-week yoga practice, which in this study was comparable to the results of patients who participated in physical therapy.
Yoga can help you:
Reduce your risk for injury. Each yoga pose targets specific muscles. …
Increase your concentration.
Understand the mind and body connection.
Gain strength and stamina.
Improve balance and stability.
Surprised? Smoking inhibits blood flow and prevents tissue throughout the body from getting oxygen and nutrients, which can cause the spine and back muscles to weaken. The result: chronic back pain.
When you’re ready to quit smoking, talk to your doctor about tools to quit, such as prescription medications or nicotine gum or patches. Also, consider a nicotine cessation program, which, in combination with medication, has been shown to help patients quit tobacco for good.
When it comes to treating back pain, surgery should be reserved only for patients with severe conditions or when more natural treatments don’t work. For the majority of patients, lifestyle changes and alternative therapies can help keep back pain at bay over the long term.