Back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek medical care today, and seems to be one of the most difficult things for modern medicine to effectively treat. Despite treatments such as pain relievers, injections and even surgery, many people have difficulty finding relief from their pain and must deal with unwanted side effects.
If you regularly seek care from alternative medical providers, you will know that the brain, emotional landscape and lifestyle factors play a much bigger role in the presence of pain than was originally thought. This is because of something called nervous system sensitization. The concept of nervous system sensitization means that once the body experiences pain, the pain signals can get stronger over time even if there is no active injury in that area of the body. The longer the pain signals are present, the more ingrained the pain signaling pathway becomes. The pain pathways are also strongly affected by emotions, stress and lifestyle factors. High levels of stress, anxiety or depression can worsen symptoms of pain. That’s why mindfulness-based therapies, and treatments that improve a person’s overall sense of wellbeing can have such a positive impact on back pain.
The good news is there are plenty of alternative therapies that can effectively treat back pain, and they’re gaining traction in the conventional medical world. New guidelines from the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention along with the American College of Physicians have encouraged doctors to advise patients to try “non-drug therapies” such as:
- Tai chi
- Meditation and mindfulness exercises
- Regular exercise
It’s important to figure out what combination of therapy works best for you and your lifestyle. If you experience chronic back pain, schedule an appointment to learn more about what therapies might be best for you!
Belluz J. A comprehensive guide to the new science of treating lower back pain. Vox. https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/8/4/15929484/chronic-back-pain-treatment-mainstream-vs-alternative. Published August 4, 2017. Accessed August 21, 2017.
Dowell D, Haegerich T, Chou R. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR): CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain — United States, 2016. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/rr/rr6501e1.htm. Published March 18, 2016. Accessed August 21, 2017.
Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, McLean RM, Forciea MA. Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of PhysiciansNoninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain. Annals of Internal Medicine. http://annals.org/aim/article/2603228/noninvasive-treatments-acute-subacute-chronic-low-back-pain-clinical-practice. Published April 4, 2017. Accessed August 21, 2017.