There are few physical conditions that can be more disruptive to your life than a significant back injury. Mobility can be severely limited, and the pain can be excruciating. Surgery may often provide relief and enable recovery, but invasive procedures always come with some level of risk — plus, surgery is usually a permanent solution that may come with other consequences, such as placing some long-term limits on your mobility. Thus, whenever possible, we prefer to exhaust other alternatives before recommending surgery.
The good news is that numerous non-surgical treatment options are available for patients suffering from severe back injuries — all of which incorporate different approaches to help the body heal itself. Let’s explore 6 of the most common non-surgical treatments below.
1. Physical Therapy
Even with significant, painful injuries, physical therapy can relieve pain and inflammation by helping the body improve flexibility. When used as a treatment for an injury, physical therapy should only be overseen by a trained professional who understands how to improve movement without causing more damage to the affected parts of the back.
2. Massage Therapy
Various types of therapeutic massage can also be quite helpful in relaxing muscles and reducing inflammation in tissues. Massage therapy can also help the body release harmful toxins that accumulate in the tissues, reducing pain and enabling the body’s healing process.
There’s a growing body of medical evidence to support the use of this ancient technique in treating back injuries as well as injury in other parts of the body. Acupuncture serves to stimulate tissues and nerves strategically to ease muscle tension and improve blood flow near the injury site and throughout the body, effectively “waking up” the body’s self-healing traits.
4. Spinal Cord Stimulation (Electrotherapy)
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) can help with nerve pain and pressure while the body heals itself, and it can be very effective as a non-surgical treatment for patients experiencing chronic pain. SCS involves delivering a low-voltage electrical charge to certain nerve points, effectively interrupting the “pain” messages these nerves transmit to the brain and thereby reducing the pain. Because this treatment involves small implants to deliver and receive the current, candidates for this treatment typically undergo a seven-day trial period where the voltage is delivered by an external power source. If the patient responds well, a power source will be implanted to deliver the current as needed. This process requires minimal incisions but can be a highly effective alternative to major surgery for some patients.
5. Pain-Relieving Steroid Injections
Another treatment option includes various types of steroid injections which may be delivered at key points in the body, depending on the patient’s situation and need. This family of treatments may include any of the following:
- Epidural steroid injections: Relieves pain/pressure on spinal nerves caused by a variety of sources
- Facet injections: Delivers steroid medication to specifically affected facet joints
- Medial branch blocks: Delivers pain relief to nerves near the joints, also used as a diagnostic to determine whether the pain is coming from the joint or the nerve
- Sacroiliac joint injection: Delivers medication do the sacroiliac (SI) joint connecting the spine to the pelvis.
6. Regenerative Injection Therapies
This unique non-surgical treatment approach has gained popularity in recent years as a more direct opportunity to enhance the body’s self-healing capabilities and encouraging tissue regeneration. The two types of regenerative injection treatments most commonly used for significant back injuries are:
- Platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP): Injects a concentrated amount of platelets extracted from the patient’s own blood at the pain site to encourage the healing process. Can be used to treat facet joints, SI joints, and degenerative disc disease, among other things.
- Stem-cell therapy: Injects stem-cells extracted from the patient’s abdominal region at the injury site to encourage tissue regeneration. Stem cells are non-specific cells that can differentiate to replace dying or damaged cells. This process can be used to help numerous spinal injuries and ailments, including degenerative disc disease, arthritis, and cartilage damage.
These non-surgical treatment options all help the patient heal without the need for invasive procedures, and several of these treatments may even be used simultaneously. The best way to know whether you’re a good candidate for these treatment options is to be evaluated by an experienced spinal health specialist. To learn more, call Polaris Spine & Neurosurgery Center for an appointment at 404-256-2633.