Chronic or long-term back pain can be difficult for doctors to treat. However, it is possible to treat back pain without surgery, such as spinal manipulation, acupuncture, and lifestyle changes.
Back pain is a widespread problem, with lower back pain affecting approximately 80% of adults at some point in their lives. Pain can develop suddenly as a result of a muscle strain caused by heavy lifting or an accident. Other times, conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis, or scoliosis can cause back pain. Sometimes, depending on the cause, doctors may recommend surgery to treat chronic back pain.
However, surgery is not always necessary. Other treatment options that can improve or relieve back pain include home remedies, alternative medicine, and lifestyle changes. A person may want to try these options before deciding on surgery.
Back pain has many different causes and varies in severity. There is no single treatment that works for everyone.
1. Manipulation of the spine
Spinal manipulation, or chiropractic manipulation, involves the use of the hands to adjust, massage, or stimulate the spine.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) states that some studies have shown that manipulation of the spine can help with low back pain. However, spinal manipulation is not safe for everyone, including people who have osteoporosis, arthritis, or spinal cord problems. Only a licensed and trained provider should perform these treatments. People who can perform these techniques include:
- Osteopathic doctors.
- Some doctors.
When a trained specialist performs spinal manipulation, serious side effects are rare. Any minor side effects, such as discomfort in the area, will usually resolve in 1 to 2 days.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice. An acupuncture practitioner inserts fine needles at specific points on the body. People use acupuncture for a variety of ailments, from chronic illnesses to chronic pain.
A summary of systematic reviews indicates that acupuncture may help restore function and relieve pain in some people who have chronic low back pain. A meta-analysis also found that acupuncture relieves chronic pain that can continue to work well over time.
3. Weight loss
The back muscles, bones, and joints work hard to support the body when a person moves, sits, and stands. Being overweight can cause back pain due to increased pressure on the spine and tightening of the back muscles. One study found that obesity is linked to high levels of low back pain and disability in men.
Losing weight could help relieve some or all of a person’s back pain if weight is a contributing factor. If a person is overweight, you may want to work with your doctor to find ways to lose weight.
4. Anti-inflammatory diet.
Studies have shown that higher levels of inflammation have a close connection with certain types of chronic pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, work well for some types of pain. Inflammation has many causes. One way to help decrease inflammation in the body is to follow an anti-inflammatory diet.
Evidence suggests that some foods, especially sugary and processed foods, can make inflammation worse. Research suggests that certain foods can help decrease inflammation in the body, including:
- Whole grains.
Similarly, studies show that processed foods and sugar can promote inflammation, which may make pain worse. People with back pain may want to try to focus on whole foods and avoid processed foods, trans fats, and sugar.
5. Correcting posture
Incorrect posture can be the cause of back pain in some people, so taking steps to correct it can bring relief. Studies show that incorrect posture contributed to low back pain in teens. In one study, researchers found that participants who completed an 8-week exercise program that corrected posture experienced relief from back and shoulder pain.
People can buy wearable devices that gently pull their shoulders back, reminding them to correct their posture. There are many types to choose from in online stores. In some cases, a person may need to make changes to their work area if their desk or computer does not have proper ergonomics.