Non Surgical & Drug Free Solutions for Back Pain Treatment
Back pain of any sort can be debilitating and quite unbearable, often leaving suffers to consider various medications and even surgery to rectify the problem. In fact, estimates gathered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2014-2015 revealed that 3.7 million Australians suffer from back problems. It is also predicted that 70-90% of individuals will fall victim to back pain at some stage during their life.
Furthermore, Ian Harris, a Professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of NSW revealed that Lumbar spine surgery rates are doubling approximately every 10 years. He also mentions that such surgeries are becoming much more complex resulting in greater risk. Further, he also notes previous results for spinal surgery in worker’s compensation claims, expressing that only 3% of patients actually return to the same duties pre-injury while 89% of patients still rely on narcotics as a pain relief even after 2 years post-surgery. Not to mention, such a low success rate places a great demand on the worker’s compensation system, costing around $100,000 per procedure.
Meanwhile, Mark Hancock, an Associate Professor and physiotherapist who is researching lower back pain at Macquarie University notes the use of cortisone injections has “doubled, perhaps tripled, over a short period of time. However, both researchers are quick to point out the lack of evidence and justification to support the increasing popularity of such treatments.
In fact, while statistics like this are quite alarming, new research and developments in neuroscience identifies exercise as an effective option that will greatly minimise back pain, is a greater long-term solution for treating chronic issues and is significantly cheaper in comparison to complex surgeries or ongoing medical treatments. Of course, surgery is a beneficial option for specific circumstances such as trauma, tumours or neurological deficits however for common and chronic low back research for surgical intervention is inadequate and weak.
The new research explains that our brains often create the perception of pain in order to protect us and is our bodies way of communicating that the tissues need to heal. However, this perception can often be enhanced as the result of many influences and factors, including the fear of re-injury. For example, for chronic pain sufferers, the brain is particularly being overly cautious, creating a more intense level of pain as a buffer zone, protecting us from partaking in activities which will aggravate the pain further and would potentially make things worse. This often leads individuals to inactivity due to the perception it will let the body heal, however, this can be doing more harm than good.
According to Lorimer Moseley, a professor of clinical neurosciences at the University of South Australia and leader in this latest discovery of research focusing on pain and the brain, physical activity and exercise can actually be performed within this “buffer zone” and does not result in tissue damage as our brain may subconsciously believe. Professor Moseley even stated, “If we can appreciate that pain is a protective device, not a measure of tissue damage, if we can communicate that to people, then we change the game.” Associate Professor Hancock even backs this app by stating “If people stop moving, they get weaker and stiffer and it often causes more harm. Moving into a little bit of pain is appropriate.”
So what type of physical activity is best to treat back pain?
Associate Professor Hancock notes that currently, no strong evidence is available to suggest that one specific exercise is the most ideal for back pain treatment. However, once given an all-clear from a doctor or physiotherapist that it is safe to partake in exercise, most forms of activity are beneficial and not at all harmful if performed correctly. In fact, Pilates, multiple forms of yoga and the Alexander Technique all have a strong focus on correct posture and may be useful methods to help strengthen the back. However, a patient’s options are not limited to these forms of activity.
A patient’s doctor, physiotherapist or chiropractic practitioner should be able to advise suitable forms of exercise that will help minimise back pain while also accounting for the individual’s tastes and preferences. If the muscles in the back are weakened, a focused strength program may be the best choice, while coordination and movement issues will be better suited to other programs.
Researchers also discuss that another benefit of using exercise to treat back pain, that despite the brain using pain to prevent re-injury, physical activity plays a preventative role. Weakened muscles are more likely to experience injuries and pain in comparison to strengthened ones and in fact, some evidence suggests that “exercise reduces the rate of recurrence by 50%.” It is also noted that many medical treatments do not share the same rates and are not as effective, again strengthening the argument that surgical intervention and medication is not always an ideal treatment for most back pain sufferers.