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Back Pain Relief: Strategies that Work
Sciatica

Looking for back pain relief? Back pain causes significant limitations in the daily routines and lives of those who experience it. Sometimes, people feel a sharp, shooting pain. Other times, it can appear as a burning sensation. Whether, it’s low back pain and radiculopathy, or sciatica, back pain accounts for a large number of medical complaints and appointments.

 

So, when Eat This, Not That! Health reached out about some common back pain relief strategies, we were excited to share some insights. We’ll link to the article here, and we’ll also include the content of the interview below:

 

 

1. Why does back pain happen?

 

Let’s start with pain. Take a look at the official definition of pain according to the International Association for the Study of Pain: “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with, or resembling that associated with, actual or potential tissue damage.”[2] Simply put, our sensory system (like our brains) create the sensation of pain to protect us from tissue damage or the threat of tissue damage. So, if our brain thinks something could potentially cause damage, we can still feel pain.
How does this work? Normally, our pain response results from acute tissue damage [1]. For example, touching a hot stove causes pain because the burner damages the skin and other tissues. The heat from the stove stimulates nerves that send a signal to your brain, and your brain says “Oh, this is causing damage. We need to get out of this.” So you get the feeling of pain, and that’s usually enough to get you to jerk your hand away from the stove. There was a threat. Your nervous system put out the alarm. And your body responded. And so, you save your hand from burning to a crisp. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.
So, in the instance of back pain, it may be a result of lumbar spinal stenosis, sciatica, or some other musculoskeletal imbalance.

2. When is it time to seek medical treatment?

 

I typically tell patients that the time to seek treatment is when the pain is when the pain is affecting your daily routines. If it begins affecting the amount or quality of sleep, ability to complete self care tasks, household tasks, or if you experience decreased mobility or motion, it’s time to seek out some help.

Share 3-5 Back Pain Relief Strategies

 

Below are 3 evidence-based methods and strategies for relieving back pain. While these strategies may not be a cure-all or work for everyone, they are supported by the research. Before trying any at home strategies, it’s always recommended to seek the guidance of a licensed medical professional.

 

1) See a good Physical Therapist for Back Pain Treatment

 

Research suggests that early referrals to physical therapy for acute onset low back pain or sciatica improved disability and other outcomes when compared to usual, wait-and-see care [3]. That means, if you’re experiencing back pain, peaking with your doctor about a physical therapy referral, or reaching out for a back pain assessment, may help reduce pain and improve function more quickly than other methods. 
Current research also suggests that physical therapy treatment should include exercises to reduce pain and discomfort, techniques for improving functional spinal movement, walking and dynamic posture, and manual therapy and cardiovascular exercise [4]. Look for a clinic or clinician that takes a biopsychosocial approach, and takes the time to individual care to each patient. 

2) Flexion-based Exercises for the Back

 

Stretches and exercises involving spinal flexion can help with back pain relief, if the symptoms are a result of spinal stenosis. A simple exercise is the common “floor touch” stretch. Stand up with your apart. Slowly bend forward, reaching towards to floor. Hold for several seconds. Slowly return to the upright position.
This helps restore some normal mobility, and also works to help retrain the nervous system about safe movement. As mentioned in the pain section above: pain is the nervous system’s alarm signal. Sometimes, especially in instances of low back pain (which is a common cause of chronic pain), safe, controlled movement is the best pain medication there is. It improves motion while also teaching the nervous system that movement is ok, safe, and not a danger.

3) Get in the pool for Back Exercises and Aquatic Therapy

 

Aquatic therapy has been shown to reduce pain and increase physical function in patients with low back pain [5]. The physical properties of water (buoyancy, laminar flow, hydrostatic pressure, and heat) can allow people to participate in exercises and activities that they might not be able to do on land. It can be a great way to start off with some early movement, in an environment that reduces the stress on the back and also begins building the strength and endurance you’ll need to begin setting the stage for long-term relief from low back pain.

 

Summary

 

 

At the end of the day, we were excited to share some insights for that article on back pain relief, and hope that some of the information in this post helps if you experience back pain. While no single pain relief method works for every single person, the strategies suggested here are supported by research and our current understanding of how to best treat back pain. Again, it’s always a good idea to seek the guidance of licensed medical professionals in your area. Don’t just read an article on the internet and think you’ve got it figured out. A good clinician can help guide you with selecting treatment strategies that are the most appropriate for you and your situation.

References:

[1] Clauw DJ. Diagnosing and treating chronic musculoskeletal pain based on the underlying mechanism(s). Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2015 Feb;29(1):6-19. doi: 10.1016/j.berh.2015.04.024. Epub 2015 May 23. PMID: 26266995.

[2] Raja, Srinivasa N.a,*; Carr, Daniel B.b; Cohen, Miltonc; Finnerup, Nanna B.d,e; Flor, Hertaf; Gibson, Stepheng; Keefe, Francis J.h; Mogil, Jeffrey S.i; Ringkamp, Matthiasj; Sluka, Kathleen A.k; Song, Xue-Junl; Stevens, Bonniem; Sullivan, Mark D.n; Tutelman, Perri R.o; Ushida, Takahirop; Vader, Kyleq The revised International Association for the Study of Pain definition of pain: concepts, challenges, and compromises, PAIN: September 2020 – Volume 161 – Issue 9 – p 1976-1982 doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001939

[3] Fritz JM, Lane E, McFadden M, Brennan G, Magel JS, Thackeray A, Minick K, Meier W, Greene T. Physical Therapy Referral From Primary Care for Acute Back Pain With Sciatica : A Randomized Controlled Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2021 Jan;174(1):8-17. doi: 10.7326/M20-4187. Epub 2020 Oct 6. PMID: 33017565; PMCID: PMC7856080.

[4] Boote J, Newsome R, Reddington M, Cole A, Dimairo M. Physiotherapy for Patients with Sciatica Awaiting Lumbar Micro-discectomy Surgery: A Nested, Qualitative Study of Patients’ Views and Experiences. Physiother Res Int. 2017 Jul;22(3):e1665. doi: 10.1002/pri.1665. Epub 2016 Feb 23. PMID: 26914525; PMCID: PMC5516132.

[5] Shi Z, Zhou H, Lu L, Pan B, Wei Z, Yao X, Kang Y, Liu L, Feng S. Aquatic Exercises in the Treatment of Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review of the Literature and Meta-Analysis of Eight Studies. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2018 Feb;97(2):116-122. doi: 10.1097/PHM.0000000000000801. PMID: 28759476.

Are you dealing with pain?

We understand that struggling with the stress and strain of pain can be tough…Whether it’s waking up feeling stiff or severe tension after walking, running, or playing, no one wants to spend each day dealing with the soreness that pain brings. While many people choose surgery or injections for pain relief, at ProActive Rehabilitation & Wellness, we offer non-surgical therapies which prevents patients from going under the knife.

 

If you’d like to book a pain consultation now, with one of our top clinicians, click the button bellow or have your provider fax over a referral. We only book a limited amount of these consultations each month, so act quickly before they’re gone.

Rafi Salazar OT

Rafael E. Salazar II, MHS, OTR/L (Rafi) is the CEO & President of Proactive Rehabilitation & Wellness, as well as the Principal Owner of Rehab U Practice Solutions and the host of The Better Outcomes Show. He has experience in a variety of rehab settings, working with patients recovering from a variety of injuries and surgeries. He worked as the lead clinician in an outpatient specialty clinic at his local VA Medical center, where he worked on projects to improve patient & employee engagement and experience throughout the organization. He has experience as a faculty member at Augusta University’s Occupational Therapy Program, as a Licensed Board Member on the GA State OT Board, has served on several committees for the national OT Board (NBCOT), and as a consultant working for the State of Georgia’s DBHDD. He is also on the Board of Directors for NBCOT. Rafi also authored the book Better Outcomes: A Guide to Humanizing Healthcare