Many people with back pain wonder about alternatives to back surgery. The good news is that wherever possible, and especially at Desert Spine and Scoliosis Center, back surgery is often treated as a last resort for those suffering from chronic back pain or injury.
Dr. Baig recommends starting with conservative treatment options, and then progressing toward surgery only if needed. Often these approaches will relieve the pain in your back. However, if there is truly a physiological issue with your spine to which your spine has become unstable, or your spinal canal is severely pinched or compromised, these alternatives will only help until they don’t, and you will have no choice but to have spine surgery.
Why consult with a spine surgeon?
Not all spine specialists are created equally. The differences are why we recommend that those with back pain see a board-certified spine surgeon. Many doctors who operate as spine specialists are pain-management specialists. Often these are trained anesthesiologists who got training in pain management, but who lack the specialized training in the bones, nerves, and joints of the spine.
Coming to a spine surgeon, like Dr. Baig, ensures that your imaging is being read appropriately and that you are getting custom-tailored treatment. It also helps ensure that you are being sent to appropriate trusted doctors for their conservative treatment, rather than someone with a “let’s try this and see if it works” approach.
When it comes to your spine, you want someone who has devoted their professional life to your spine.
And equally importantly, you don’t want to try any of the treatments we discuss below without talking to your doctor.
With that firmly in mind, let’s take a look at nine back surgery alternatives that you may want to consider and discuss with your spine surgeon:
Spine Surgery Alternatives
When you start looking at alternatives to back surgery, you may find a wide range of possible solutions. As we said above, some of these may work some of the time, some may not work very effectively, and some (if done incorrectly) may exacerbate your back pain and discomfort. Simply put, while you may be able to relieve the pain of a damaged disc or herniation, sometimes there are no real “alternatives” to spinal fusion.
A physical therapist can develop a personalized exercise program to strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and reduce pain.
Chiropractors use manual manipulation to align the spine and relieve pain.
Massage can help reduce muscle tension and improve circulation, which can alleviate pain and promote healing.
Practicing yoga can improve posture, flexibility, and muscle strength, which can help reduce back pain. Some studies show that yoga can be beneficial for degenerative disc disease.
Generally speaking, and as we discuss more thoroughly in our blog, ice is good for an acute injury, and heat works better for chronic pain. The University of Michigan says, “You may also want to try switching between heat and cold. Use heat for 15 to 20 minutes, then a few hours later use ice for 10 to 15 minutes.”
Eating a diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can help reduce inflammation in the body and alleviate pain.
For some kinds of back pain, over-the-counter pain medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help relieve pain.
Electrical stimulation uses small electrical currents to reduce pain and promote healing.
Certain injections, such as epidural steroid injections, can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
Keep in mind that each individual case of back pain or injury is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It is always best to consult with a spine surgeon to determine the best course of treatment for your specific condition.