Chronic back pain can really disrupt your life, preventing you from doing your favorite things and even limiting mobility in some cases. Whether your pain is caused by an injury or a condition like degenerative disc disease, it is possible to experience long term pain relief without surgery.
Here, we’ll answer some of the most common questions patients have when it comes to treating their chronic back pain, and cover 5 of the most relevant non-surgical or minimally invasive treatments.
But first – can I treat my chronic back pain at home?
We understand the desire to treat your pain at home and prevent disruptions to your daily life and routine – but unfortunately chronic pain is just that. While it can be masked in some cases with over-the-counter medications and a heat pad, it cannot be properly treated without medical intervention. Thankfully, the vast majority of back pain can be treated without surgery.
But the longer chronic pain is left untreated (especially when there’s an underlying cause running rampant without treatment), the more severe the symptoms will become. Try our free pain assessment tool today.
So, whether you’re suffering from chronic lower back pain from 30+ years of working in a role lifting heavy items, or you’ve slipped a disc from age, here are some of the alternatives to back surgery.
1. Physical Therapy
Physical therapy helps you restore physical function and can relieve the source of your chronic pain. In this method, your physical therapist will take into consideration the area of your pain, the severity and duration of your symptoms and will develop a custom plan for you.
So, for example – if your pain is primarily in your lumbar spine (the lower back), this treatment program would revolve around helping you to properly stretch that section of your back, relieving the pressure on the nerves. Physical therapy can be used for pain in really any part of your spine.
2. Intracept Procedure
Intracept® is an outpatient procedure used to treat chronic low back pain in a range of patients. While there is 3 to 5 mm incision that must be made with Intracept, it is minimally invasive and the patient will be on their way home the next day – this is definitely not an extreme spinal surgery.
The physician will make the incision on the lower back to insert a radiofrequency probe into the bottom of the basivertebral nerve. The probe then heats up slightly, burning the nerve and preventing it from sending pain signals to the brain – essentially curing your chronic pain.
3. Epidural Steroid Injections
If you’re experiencing pain in your lower back, then an epidural steroid injection may be the route your doctor determines is best for you.
It’s fairly straightforward in that it is what it sounds like – a steroid that is injected into the epidural space in your spine. Its main purpose is to reduce the swelling and inflammation that could be caused by a range of spinal conditions, which is then causing pain. Typically an injection like this will alleviate the pain for around 3 months. This option can be great if your chronic pain is down to an injury that may heal over a long period of time.
There are also a variety of other injections that may be right for you, such as facet joint and sacroiliac joint injections. Talk with our team to find out what kind of injection might be right for your pain.
4. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
While most of the treatments that we’ve discussed so far focus on the lower back, TENS can be used across any of the spine – and sometimes even for symptoms that are presenting in your extremities too.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is an alternative to surgery for pain relief, making use of a mild electrical current. It shoots the electricity through sticky pads that attach to the skin during the treatment, shocking the nerves that are sending pain signals to the brain and disrupting their process during the treatment. It’s also thought that this kind of therapy can increase the production of endorphins, which are known as the body’s natural painkiller.
5. Spinal Cord Stimulation
Spinal cord stimulation is similar, in theory, to TENS – but think of it as a more permanent option. It also uses mild electrical currents to stimulate the nerve and interrupt or change the pain signal it’s sending to the brain, but it does require a minimally invasive surgery similar to that of Intracept.
A spinal cord stimulator is implanted, typically close to the skin in your lower abdomen, while electrodes are placed near to your spine. You will have control of the implant, and they typically will last up to 10 years.
This kind of treatment is typically a last resort for complex chronic pain sufferers, who have not succeeded in achieving pain relief from more conventional methods. If that sounds like you, speak to our team to discuss your options.
And remember – this is just a selection of some of the minimally invasive treatments that are alternatives to serious spinal surgeries. What is right for you will depend on the severity of your condition, underlying causes and your medical history.
Not sure if you need medical intervention yet? Don’t wait and let the pain worsen.