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Minimally Invasive Options For Back Pain
Most adults have experienced some form of back pain at some point. Often exacerbated by movement, back pain can completely disrupt daily life. Most cases are treatable through at-home remedies and rest. More severe cases can be corrected with physical therapy and minimally invasive treatments such as epidural steroid injections, ablation, and surgery.
What causes back pain?
Back pain is the leading cause of doctor visits and missed work. The pain can result from a problem with the muscles, nerves, and ligaments of the back. Referred pain such as kidney problems or a pulled leg muscle can also put a strain on the lower back. Pain symptoms range from dull throbs to stabbing pain and even numbness. Pain can start in the back and continue down the legs. Back pain often becomes worse during any movement. When the back pain lasts more than a couple weeks or begins to impact daily life, it is time to see a physician. Back pain is more likely to occur in adults than in adolescents.
At home therapies
Most cases of back pain can be treated at home with over the counter medication and rest. Topical ointments can alleviate discomfort in the affected area. Movement during back pain is often painful and uncomfortable. Going to the gym should be avoided until the individual has been cleared by a physician. Treatment plans will often include physical/chiropractic therapy and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, medical massages, and yoga. For individuals with more severe back pain, popular minimally invasive options include epidural steroid injections, ablation, and surgery.
1. Epidural Steroid Injections
Injections can be given into the epidural space of the spine. These epidural steroid injections (ESI) work to reduce inflammation caused by the narrowing of the spinal passages. Though ESI will not treat the underlying cause, the steroids can momentarily relieve the cycle of pain and discomfort and allow the patient to move more freely.
Blocking pain signals through ablation involves blocking the nerves used to transmit pain signals. A surgeon will first use a temporary nerve block to identify the nerves causing the pain. The spine specialist will then use heat, cold, or chemicals to remove or destroy the identified bundle of nerves responsible for sending the pain signals to the brain. Ablation is often only temporary as many of the nerves will fight to grow back.
Minimally invasive options for surgery are widely used. This type of surgery uses smaller incisions, causes less harm to surrounding muscles and tissues. This less invasive procedure also provides the patient with quicker recovery time. Many minimally invasive surgeries (MIS) are performed with microscope video cameras and tubular retractors. The tubular retractors work by dilating the surrounding tissues, eliminating the need to cut directly through the muscle. Popular MIS methods include discectomy, spinal decompression, and transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF).
Life with back pain
Back pain ranges from dull throbs to stabbing pains and can make for a miserable existence. There are many treatment options available that may include physical therapy, lifestyle changes and over the counter medications. MIS may be an option for more severe cases. Consulting with a spine specialist for the best solution should be the first line of defense for back pain.