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Overview of Back and Neck Pain Treatments

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Updated October 22, 2012

Alternative Medicine:

The National Center for Alternative and Complementary Medicine (NCCAM) cites back pain as the No. 1 reason people seek alternative medicine care. Neck pain is No. 3, still a major reason. Reasons for trying CAM include:
  • it may work well in conjunction with more traditional type treatment
  • other traditional treatments have been tried, with unsatisfactory results
  • CAM is less expensive than traditional treatment
  • conventional medical professionals suggest it.
CAM treatments include acupuncture, massage, chiropractic and osteopathy. Yoga and Pilates are physical movement systems also associated with CAM.

Conservative Treatment:

Treatment for back and neck pain generally starts with a conservative approach. Conservative treatments include:

Exercise:

Consumer Reports Medical Guide rates exercise as the best of all the options for treatment of long-term back pain. Often your doctor or physical therapist will prescribe a set of exercises for your back or neck condition. There are several very popular forms of exercise that appear to help control back pain, among them yoga, Pilates, and the Egoscue Method. Ergonomic experts suggest taking frequent work mini-breaks to do back exercises, as well.

Back surgery:

Back surgery is usually tried after conservative treatment methods such as physical therapy, home exercise programs, injections, and other methods have failed after six months or longer of use. While most people don't need back surgery, the number of surgeries is on the rise. Not all back surgeries are successful. A back surgery that fails to remove the pain, or causes pain or problems not present prior to surgery is a condition known as failed back surgery syndrome.

Injections:

Injections are an invasive technique that can diagnose the cause of pain, and can treat the pain itself. The great thing about injections for back pain is that they deliver medicine directly to the site of the pain. There are several types of injections. Recent advances in medicine have introduced two new types of injections:

Implanted Drug Pumps:

Because it’s easiest for both patient and doctor, drugs such as pain medications are generally taken by mouth. But did you know that there are other routes of administration for medications? The implantable pump that delivers medication directly to a targeted area around the spinal cord.

Implanted Neurostimulation:

Implanted neurostimulation, also known as spinal cord stimulation, helps to modulate chronic back pain. This treatment is not for everyone. For one thing, surgery is required to put the device in, take it out, and sometimes to maintain it. It can be inconvenient, as well. If you are considering implanted neurostimulation as a treatment option, below are FAQs.

Medication:

According to the American Chronic Pain Association, analgesics and other medications are the most common chronic pain treatment. While short-term use of drugs for chronic back or neck pain probably won’t get you into trouble, prolonged use may increase the risk for serious side effects. For example, in 2004, Vioxx, a COX-2 inhibitor, was removed from the market after it became evident that prolonged use of these drugs could result in fatal heart problems.

Medications get the best results when used in conjunction with other treatments such as physical therapy, behavioral therapy and more.

Non-InvasiveTreatments for Back Pain:

Before jumping to permanent to back pain or neck pain, doctors generally suggest non-invasive treatment. Non-invasive for back or neck pain can start with your understanding about back pain and can include postural alignment, smart body mechanics in daily chores, and can include conservative treatments as listed above.

Pain Management:

The branch of medicine that helps patients manage their pain is called pain medicine or pain management. Pain medicine is a multi-disciplinary approach to managing the presence of pain in your life. Pain management treatment considers physical, social, and psycological lifestyle factors.

Types of Back and Neck Pain Doctors:

Many doctors specialize in one or two areas. Sometimes doctors' specialty areas overlap with one another. The most important thing to remember when choosing a doctor who specializes is to find one with excellent skills in diagnosing and treating your condition.

Sources:
1 (2004, Sept). The Use Of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States. Retrieved December 26, 2006, from NCCAM - NIH Web site: http://nccam.nih.gov/news/camsurvey_fs1.htm

2 Treatments for long term back pain. Retrieved December 26, 2006, from Consumer Reports Medical Guide Web site: http://www.consumerreports.org/mg/home.htm (subscription required)

3 Medications & Chronic Pain. Covington, Edward, M.D., Feinberg, Steven, M.D. American Pain Association Website: http://www.theacpa.org

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