Non-surgical treatment of the spine, sometimes referred to as “conservative
treatment,” is used to describe any treatment or therapy that does
not involve surgery. In fact, the vast majority of back or neck problems
are successfully resolved with treatments or therapies that do not involve
surgical procedures. For example, treatment may be as simple as reassurance
that the problem is not serious and all that is needed is to refrain from
certain activity while the body heals.
Other non-surgical treatments include preventative measures, such as learning
to protect the spine when lifting and doing exercises to strengthen it.
The goal of any treatment—conservative or surgical—is to reduce
pain, limit further degeneration, and get you back to your activities
as soon as possible.
What conditions can be treated non-surgically?
Most back and neck problems can be treated conservatively. In fact, surgery
is not considered until conservative treatments have failed to provide
relief. Symptoms such as headaches; sciatica; and pain in the neck, arm
and lower back can often be successfully treated by non-surgical measures.
These symptoms are most often caused by conditions such as disc herniation,
muscle strains, arthritis and\ spinal stenosis.
What are some of the types of non-surgical treatments?
There are many types of non-surgical treatments available today, and of
course your particular diagnosis will determine which treatments may be
recommended. Non-surgical treatments include:
Physical Therapy – Physical therapy can help you stretch, strengthen and exercise
your back or neck in ways that can relieve discomfort and help prevent
further episodes of pain. Physical therapists can educate you on proper
ways to move and maintain correct posture, as well as the anatomy of the
spine. They also work with your doctor to determine if other treatments,
such as heat, ultrasound, spinal traction, electrical stimulation or spinal
manipulation may be helpful.
Epidural Steroid Injections – Epidural steroid injections (ESI) involve an injection of steroid
and anesthetic directly into the area of inflamed nerves in the back.
The anesthetic acts to block the pain, while the steroid works to reduce
inflammation. They can ease symptoms while you undergo a physical therapy
program or consider surgical options.
Facet Joint Injections – Facet joints are the small joints between vertebrae along the
back of the spine. Facet injections can be used to either help confirm
or deny the location and source of the pain, or they can be used to reduce
inflammation and possibly offer long term relief.
Alternative Therapies — Many people find relief of their back and neck pain through the
use of alternative therapies, such as yoga, massage, acupuncture, herbal
medicines, guided imagery and cognitive behavioral therapy.
How does a good diagnosis help?
Any treatment’s effectiveness depends on beginning with an accurate
diagnosis of the particular problem and an understanding of the cause
of the pain. Your spine specialist will make every effort to arrive at
the appropriate diagnosis for the pain you are experiencing.
As a key member of the team, your input is crucial. Be prepared to answer
the following questions: How did it start? Where does it hurt? How long
have you been experiencing the pain? Describe the pain: is it sharp, burning,
dull, achy, or throbbing? What activities or positions make it worse?
What makes it feel better?
To learn more, attend a free upcoming educational seminar on back and joint
pain, or call us at (800) 258-2723 to receive additional educational materials
and a referral to a physician affiliated with the Advanced Spine Institute.
For an online referral,
click here or call our nurse navigator at (619) 229-4548.