Sometimes, you know exactly the reason why your back hurts. You lifted a heavy object, felt the pain right away. In other cases, the cause of that pain is a mystery. Either or, the pain can be very severe at times. Often is the back pain that hurts, although the middle and upper back pain can also be a problem. The back muscles and spine support the body’s weight, and these structures are used many times, every day- when you sit, stand, or walk.
Choosing which therapy to choose can be mind-boggling if you are looking for quick relief. What is the most effective pain reliever? What is the fastest way to relieve back pain? Let’s find out your best options.
Back pain treatment options
From over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to muscle relaxants, corticosteroids, and opioid painkillers, there are plenty of options. It is best to use the over-the-counter products as much as possible, as the prescription narcotic and opioid drugs are reserved for the short term, and for severe cases only. More details about the pros and cons of back pain medication are in this article.
Pain relief creams, patches, and sprays
These products relieve pain due to their active ingredients. If you are looking for a cooling sensation, choose a product based on camphor, menthol, or salicylate. If you prefer a warming sensation, choose a product with capsaicin. Generally speaking, patches are great options for back, neck, and shoulder pain as they stick to the painful area and provide constant pain relief. Sprays are the second-best option. Creams and ointments can be used too, but they work best on joints that move a lot – like elbows or knees. These last two products are messier, too.
- Biofreeze is highly recommended by pharmacists, physiotherapists, chiropractors and other healthcare professionals. Without thousands of 5 star reviews you may wonder what are the secret ingredients. It has one simple, yet powerful ingredient: menthol 5% or 10%, depending on the formula. There are more cost effective, pharmacy brand products. Menthol has been used since ancient times, and research shows it has multiple mechanisms that lead to pain relief.
- Tiger balm. Used by millions of people, tiger balm is another fast acting, effective pain reliever. It contains multiple active ingredients including menthol, camphor, capsicum and salicylate, along with several essential oils.
- Arnica extract -cream or gels. Based on a 2021 review study of multiple clinical trials, arnica extracts have clear anti inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial effects and could be a great ad on therapy for acute and chronic pain management. Traumeel, a homeopathic preparation containing Arnica and other ingredients, has been around for decades and is recommended for both acute back pain. Traumeel has comparable efficacy with the diclofenac to manage acute ankle pain, according to a randomized controlled trial. Closely related to Traumeel, the Zeel formula is more suitable for chronic back pain. Both products are available in injectable form, tablets, ointments and creams.
Physical therapy and assistive devices
An exercise program should be part of everyone’s life, and should also be a key component of a back pain rehabilitation program. Exercise improves blood flow throughout the body, bringing nutrients and oxygen to the injured area. Thus, it speeds up the recovery process and helps prevent future back problems. It also increases the range of motion and flexibility of the spine, while preventing osteoporosis. Based on the current recommendations, an exercise program should start as early as possible after a back injury or surgery and should be modified based on individuals’ abilities and limitations. More details are in this article.
Assistive devices are great tools to complete day-to-day activities safely and comfortably. For example, chronic low back pain due to poor posture can improve with a back brace that prevents harmful movements and promotes healthier posture habits. Special back pads can be used for the chair at home or when driving, massage gums, and back massagers with head, infrared, or magnets.
Other therapies (nondrug, non-surgery therapies)
Thanks to modern research, many new therapies can help alleviate back pain. From soft lasers using infrared and visible spectrum to magnet therapy, ultrasound therapy, electric stimulation, and virtual reality devices, there are plenty of options for those who can’t take certain painkillers or have surgery. They are non-invasive, have an excellent safety profile and there are scientific studies supporting their effectiveness. More details are in this article.
When it comes to alternative healthcare therapies, osteopathy, chiropractic medicine, and acupuncture are among the most popular modalities for low back pain.
Back surgery is rarely needed. It is reserved for back pain that does not respond to conservative measures like anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy. It is a good idea to get a second opinion before making the decision to have surgery-and which type of surgery.
Back surgery comes with benefits and also risks. Not everyone is a good candidate for back surgery. For those who are, a few different procedures are available including discectomy, laminectomy, fusion, and artificial disks. For more details, read this article.
What is the fastest way to relieve back pain? For mild back pain, a cold or hot compress, or a tiger balm application may be all you need to feel better. Drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen offer quick pain relief for many. A short acupuncture session can relieve pain quickly, too. You may need to try a few options and see which one works best for you.