Surgery is not always the best option for people living with chronic back or leg pain. Sometimes, the symptoms of chronic back and leg pain may be treated without surgery, with methods that involve medication, heat, massage, and physical therapy. Here are some of the most common conservative treatment options for chronic back and leg pain:
- Medications – Back pain can be alleviated by over-the-counter or prescription medications, such as acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, or narcotics. Talk with your doctor to see what medications may be right for you.
- Heat – By dilating blood vessels, heat therapy improves the supply of oxygen that the blood takes to the back. Heat also alters the sensation of pain. Heat therapy is generally used for chronic injuries or those with no inflammation or swelling, such as muscle spasms or sore, stiff, nagging muscle pain.
- Massage – Massage therapy can help increase blood circulation and improve range of motion of the back muscles. Before starting treatment, your therapist should ask detailed questions about your injury and the location of your pain, in order to determine which therapy is best.
- Acupuncture – Acupuncture may provide some relief from chronic back pain and might be effective when used as part of a comprehensive treatment for low back pain.
- Exercise – An effective approach to managing back pain is exercise. Generally, some form of consistent stretching and strengthening exercise is believed to be an essential component of most back treatment programs.
- Physical Therapy – A physical therapist will assist with the use of exercises and physical activities to help condition muscles and restore strength and movement. Length and type of treatment depend upon the severity of the condition.
If your symptoms do not improve with these conservative treatment methods, your physician may suggest spinal surgery. Surgery is reserved for those who do not gain relief from non-operative forms of treatment, patients whose symptoms are increasing or worsening, and/or patients that present with a spinal condition which indicates the need for surgery. It is important that you speak to your physician about the best options for you.