NYACK, N.Y. -- Although back pain is very common, it isn't necessarily an inevitable part of aging.
“Talk to your doctor about what steps you can take so your back pain doesn’t get worse,” said Dr. Neil Patel, medical director of Pain Management and Palliative Care at Nyack Hospital. “If your pain is severe or if it hasn’t gotten any better after several weeks, don’t ignore it. There are many treatments available that can provide relief.”
One of the most common causes of back pain, herniated discs are often a result of overuse injuries, trauma to the spine or develop as a normal part of aging. Thankfully, most herniated discs can be treated without surgery.
Spinal stenosis is another trigger of chronic spine discomfort, occurring when the spinal canal narrows and pressure is placed on the ligament. In most cases, spinal stenosis occurs as a natural part of aging, and wear and tear on the spine. Many cases of spinal stenosis can be treated without surgery, using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and pain.
Osteoarthritis can also affect the spine, causing back pain, particularly in the morning. There is no cure for spinal osteoarthritis, but medication, physical therapy, exercise, heat/cold therapy and rest have been proven to reduce discomfort.
When seeking to resolve any back pain, doctors begin with mild, non-invasive remedies. “We start with conservative, non-drug treatments,” said Patel. Non-drug treatment options for back pain include exercise—such as yoga, Pilates or tai chi—as well as massage therapy. Doctors may also recommend physical therapy to decrease back pain, increase function and teach patients how to prevent future back problems.
If non-drug treatments aren’t effective, doctors may recommend a variety of painkillers or other medications. Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, creams, ointments and salves rubbed onto the skin may provide relief, as can nerve pain drugs such as Lyrica or Neurontin.
The best ways to prevent back pain are to exercise often, keep back and stomach muscles strong and avoid heavy lifting. If you have to lift something heavy, bend at the legs and keep your back straight. “If you are overweight, losing weight can help prevent back pain, or ease back pain if you already have it,” said Patel.
For more information on the spine services offered by Nyack Hospital, click here.