Most cases of back pain do not require medical treatment. For those who do seek professional help, there are a number of healthcare providers from which to choose. Your family doctor or back specialist can guide you toward the road to recovery.
Be aware that only in rare occasions is surgery necessary or recommended. Surgery is appropriate for conditions such as tumors, herniated discs and spinal stenosis, if these have not responded to other kinds of treatment. If your physician seems eager to operate, you should get a second opinion.
Chiropractors and some physical therapists routinely perform a treatment called spinal manipulation. During this procedure, the chiropractor or therapist uses his or her hands to apply pressure to the back in order to return the vertebrae to their proper position. The manipulation creates a popping sound similar to cracking your knuckles. There is evidence that spinal manipulation can be helpful for acute-back-pain sufferers during the first month of symptoms. After the first month, according to the latest studies, such treatment may or may not be effective.
If you do seek the help of a chiropractor, you should see one who is licensed by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, which certifies that the individual has completed a four-year graduate program at one of 16 accredited institutions. Chiropractic care is not a recommended treatment for patients with fractures, osteoporosis, bone or joint infections, cancers, or diseases of the spinal cord or bone marrow.
Acupuncture, derived from ancient Chinese medicine, is another option, though it has not been clinically proven to help back pain. Some patients report success with acupuncture, a procedure during which needles are inserted into the body at specific sites. However, a number of physicians believe a phenomenon called the placebo effect is at work. That is, patients who think they are being treated successfully will show improvement, regardless of whether the treatment itself is effective. Nevertheless, it is a personal decision whether these therapies are right for you.
While many people attest to the benefits of various treatments, statistics do not show any one treatment to be superior to others. For acute back pain, a short period of rest followed by regular low-impact exercise has been shown most effective. The prognosis for a full recovery from nonspecific back pain is good. And although back pain does recur, that does not indicate a chronic or worsening condition.
Tags: back pain, healthcare, treatment