Conservative Treatments for Back Pain

Back pain is one of the symptoms associated with back problems. Back pain could be as a result of sprain and strain injuries to the back, degeneration of the discs or articulating joints of the back, or it may exist as a secondary symptom of a disease of the body, The type of treatment approach for the back pain will be directly related to the cause of your problems. There are many possible causes of back pain, including mechanical, inflammatory, neoplastic (spinal cancer), metabolic, psychosomatic, referred pain, depression, and oxygen deprivation.

Though we just mentioned an exotic list of possible causes of back pain, the vast majority of cases will be due to mechanical causes. Mechanical causes of back pain usually refer to damage to the anatomy of the spine either due to trauma strain of the structures of the bones and tissues of the spine, or due to some degree of degeneration to the shapes of the vertebral bones, discs and facet joints, ligaments, and muscles. Degenerative disc disease is the most common of the mechanical causes, and refers to a loss of height and cushion to the intervertebral discs that are located between the vertebral bodies along the length of the spine that help to hold up the spine, provide shock absorption, and separate the vertebral bones. These discs are designed to bulge outwards and change their shape when a compression is applied to the spine (such as when we land on the ground after taking a jump shot). The discs will then begin to revert back to their cube shape after recovering from this compression and to revert back to an even higher (vertically) shape when we lie down at night. The discs take on the weight of our body for many years, eventually losing some of their height and ability to hold their volume of gellike fluid within their tough outer membrane. The toll of time and injury can accumulate throughout the years, eventually causing degenerative disc conditions such as bulging discs and herniated discs. Other mechanical causes of back pain include fractures, lumbar spinal stenosis, thoracic spinal stenosis, and apophyseal osteoarthritis.

The list of causes of back pain are too great to list here, but the majority of treatments for back pain will involve the elimination of muscle imbalances of the back, strength building of the abdominal muscles (core muscles), medications to reduce inflammation of joints involved in the motion of the vertebral column and back, and other forms of physical therapy. The non-surgical treatments for back pain may fall under two main categories: conservative and alternative (aka holistic). I don't find it easy to define the difference between conservative and alternative therapies, though here are some key differences.
  • Conservative therapies will be the therapies that are prescribed by physicians or highly specialized medical specialists that work in medical clinics (e.g. physician assistants, nurse practitioners).

  • Conservative therapies are generally covered by the majority of health insurance plans (though you may have to pay deductibles on appointments) while you will probably have to pay out of your own pocket for alternative therapies. Some insurance plans will offer coverage for "alternative therapies" such as massage, chiropractic, and acupuncture, though the coverage will more likely be in the nature of "discounts" or high deductibles.
Conservative treatments for back pain include medications to reduce inflammation of joints of the back, medications to relieve back pain, physical therapy, and pain clinic injections when medication therapy and physical therapy has failed to produce desired results (back pain relief).