Conservative (nonsurgical) back pain management

If you’re just starting to research back pain management, you may have seen the word “conservative” used to describe certain treatment options. Typically, the term is used to refer to any type of nonsurgical treatment. These therapies are usually the first to be recommended because they can be highly effective and thus help many patients avoid unnecessary surgery.

Examples of conservative treatment

Some common examples of conservative back pain treatment include:

  • Aspirin
  • Acetaminophen
  • Heating pads
  • Ice packs
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Nerve block injections
  • Trigger point injections
  • SI joint injections
  • Facet joint injections
  • Activity modifications
  • Exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Back bracing
  • Prescription painkillers
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Physical therapy

The most effective approach to back pain management often involves a combination of several options. Your personal physician can help you choose the treatments that are most appropriate for your needs, then suggest any modifications that may become necessary over time.

The pros and cons of conservative back pain treatment

Many people who use conservative treatments notice a significant improvement in their symptoms. That said, you might need to explore several options before you find a treatment plan that works for you.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that the results of conservative treatment typically wear off over time. You might find yourself taking medications on a daily basis or even several times a day just to maintain an adequate level of pain relief. The effects of injections tend to be longer lasting, mainly because these treatments contain both short-acting and long-acting medications that could potentially provide relief for up to one year.

Additionally, conservative treatments are only capable of providing symptom relief. They do not actually treat the underlying cause of the pain. To address a slipped disc, bone spur or other degenerative issue, surgical treatment might be necessary.

Throughout the treatment process, it’s important to remember that what works for someone else might not work for you. You should always listen to your body, making note of what helps and what doesn’t so that you and your physician can improve your treatment plan together. With a bit of trial and error, you can come up with a back pain management plan that allows you to return to your daily activities.