For the majority of people, managing and treating back pain will require a consistent schedule of proper exercise, nutrition, safe stretches, and improved working techniques. As an Evans Health Lab video points out, 90% of back pain cases will be managed effectively with simple lifestyle changes alone.

For others, more interventional pain management techniques will be needed. As part of our holistic philosophy of health, these will always be combined with the aforementioned lifestyle techniques. We believe no matter the condition, an informed, engaged patient is always more able to confront any health challenges they face. This month on Holistic Pain, we aimed to provide more information about certain conditions that cause back pain, how to handle them holistically, and if that’s not available, some minimally-invasive treatment options that might work for you.

Incorporate new lifestyle habits to manage your back pain 

This month, we started at the most straightforward approach to improving your health, and by extension, your back pain: nutrition.

We profiled one blogger in particular who is baking prevention directly into her recipes. Nicole, the blogger behind Prevention RD, is a registered dietitian who creates healthy and delicious meals. As we noted:

“Eating right can also help you manage pain. Avoiding processed foods and animal-based fats, while emphasizing fresh produce and healthy fats, can reduce inflammation and increase your pain threshold. If a healthier diet helps you lose a little weight, too, that’s great; less weight means less strain on your joints, which can help you reduce your pain.”

From Mexican quinoa chili to slow cooker chicken enchilada soup, we know you’ll find a recipe that is both healthy and perfect for your lifestyle. If you haven’t already checked them out, we also recommend our weekly pain-healthy recipes over on!

If diet just isn’t enough, we also rounded up a few supplements that might be able to help with your back pain. We always suggest talking to your doctor before starting supplements, however, for some people, they can provide the nutrients their body is lacking. We looked at the recent research on the following supplements for back pain:

  • Glucosamine
  • Willow bark extract
  • SAMe, or S-adenosylmethionine
  • Devil’s Claw
  • Ginseng
  • Fish oil
  • Boswellia serrata
  • Vitamin B12

Check out the post to learn even more about these dietary supplements!

Understand how certain conditions can change your treatment plan

Many cases of back pain are musculoskeletal in nature–arising from repetitive motions, overuse, injury, or degeneration. Some conditions can also lead to more specific types of back pain. If you suffer from back pain along with any of the following conditions, we recommend talking to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. The posts linked to below contain more information about these related conditions.

  • Depression:
    [A]s many as 50% of people with chronic pain also have depression. It seems that one particular pair of conditions – back pain and depression – may be particularly widespread. Considering how often chronic pain and mood disorders can co-occur, this isn’t very surprising. After all, back pain is one of the most commonly-reported pain conditions, and depression is one of the most common mood disorders.”
  • Osteoporosis“Osteoporosis is sometimes referred to as brittle bones. It is the loss of bone density, which leaves bones vulnerable to painful breaks and fractures. The best way to avoid pain from osteoporosis is to take preventative steps before developing brittle bones, but there are also lots of ways to live well with osteoporosis and manage osteoporosis pain.”
  • Spinal stenosis“Spinal stenosis symptoms typically emerge slowly and become progressively worse over time. Pain is a common symptom of spinal stenosis, often manifesting in the back, neck, or limbs. Pain might also radiate down the leg. Additional potential symptoms of spinal stenosis include muscle weakness or cramps or sensations of numbness.”
  • Scoliosis: “Scoliosis is the most common malformation of the spine, affecting between two and three percent of people in the U.S. by age 16. Instead of continuing to extend vertically as a person grows, the spine begins to curve laterally in one of two ways, either as a C-shape with one curve or in an S-shape with two curves.”
  • Osteomyelitis“Osteomyelitis is a serious bacterial infection that occurs in the bones. When this type of infection occurs in the spine, it can lead to debilitating back pain. Thankfully, this condition is rare and only occurs in two of every 10,000 people.”
  • Back pain after surgery“Initially, people who have undergone back surgery may experience lessened pain at first. In those whose back surgery fails, the pain will begin to increase after three to six months. A dull ache in the back and legs is common of people with failed back surgery syndrome.”

Learn more about minimally-invasive back pain treatments

After you’ve figured out the main reason for your back pain, it’s time to get started on a treatment plan. In consultation with your doctor, you’ll want to explore types of exercises that might help, as well as some non-invasive techniques like physical therapy or chiropractic care that might work. Chiropractic care is especially useful as a treatment option. A recent study from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health found that chiropractic could be as useful as taking pain-relieving medications.

Another non-invasive option involves popular back stretcher devices that safely stretch out the muscles of the backs. Six recent products have been produced thanks to the crowd-funding site Kickstarter.

Beyond these, patients can also explore pharmaceutical or interventional options for treatment. Even though they’re typically associated with back pain treatment, medications may not be as useful as we originally thought. They do still work well for some patients, though. Epidural steroid injections are another scientifically-proven method of managing low back pain. This is an interventional technique, however, it has few risks or side effects. Finally, we also looked at the new low-level laser therapy. Through our research, we were unable to find any strong support for the use of this therapy for back pain. As with all treatments, though, it depends on the specific patient and the cause of their back pain.

Do you suffer from back pain? What conditions or treatments do you want to learn more about?

Image by nicoleneu via Flickr