Ways to Prevent Pain and Get Around

Helpful devices and ways to manage back pain.


Most back problems will never require surgery, injections or implanted devices; some may not ever require medications. For back pain, there are many remedies to try on your own or with a health professional either instead of or along with more invasive treatments. These can help relieve and prevent pain and make getting around a little easier.

Here are some remedies worth trying:

Physical Therapy. Taught or administered by a health-care professional called a physical therapist, physical therapy is a rehabilitation program focusing largely on exercise to strengthen the muscles in your back. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to strengthen a bad back, which can help prevent the recurrences of pain or help you recover from back surgery.

Massage therapy. Massage therapy is one of the most widely used therapies for back pain. Many doctors recommend it for their patients. Some have massage therapists working in their clinics. Although there are many forms of massage, the type most people are familiar with is Swedish massage, a full-body treatment that involves stroking or kneading the top layers of muscles with oils or lotions. Other forms of massage include:

• Deep tissue massage, in which the massage therapist uses fingers, thumbs and even elbows to put strong pressure on deep muscle or tissue layers to relieve chronic tension.
• Neuromuscular massage, in which the therapist uses his or her fingers to apply pressure to certain spots that can trigger pain in other parts of the body.
• Myofascial release, a type of massage that involves applying slow, steady pressure to relieve tension in the fascia, or thin tissue around the muscles.

Heat and Cold. Using heat and cold treatments, easy relief methods you can do at home, can temporarily reduce back pain and stiffness. Cold packs can numb the painful area and reduce inflammation and swelling. They are especially good for back pain caused by injuries. Heat, on the other hand, relaxes muscles and stimulates blood circulation.

Braces and corsets. Corsets are adjustable and made of elastic; braces are sturdier and have metal stays. Both are typically worn under clothing and have the same purpose: to reduce pressure on the discs, provide back and abdominal support and stabilize and restrict movement of the back during healing. They are often prescribed for short-term use during recovery from a fractured vertebra or some spine surgeries. For some people with certain conditions, including spondylolisthesis or scoliosis, braces may be prescribed longer-term to support the back and restrict movement.

Often braces are prescribed for temporary pain relief, especially during times you'll be particularly active or sitting for long periods of time. However, recent research shows they may not be effective for pain relief.   

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). As its name suggests, TENS is a technique that uses electrical stimulation to the nerves to block pain signals to the brain. TENS is administered through electrodes placed on your skin near the painful area. The electrodes are attached to a small battery-operated box that emits low-level electrical energy. When the box emits its energy, you receive a low level shock that will give a tingling sensation and, if all goes well, some temporary relief from your pain.

Shoe insoles. Many people use special insoles or orthotics in their shoes to correct over pronation, or rolling over of the feet, which causes the lower leg to rotate and the pelvis to tilt forward, stressing the lower back. While insoles may be useful for treating other problems, a recent study shows that for treating or preventing back pain, they are probably not helpful.

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