Question: I have had low-back pain most of my life, but I don’t want to take painkillers. What's the best way to deal with this without taking drugs?
Dr. Hibberd’s answer:
Chronic back pain is best managed without narcotics. Much of the time, it relates to degenerative discs or arthritic changes that can be addressed with anti-inflammatories (such as naproxen), and topical treatments with products such as Zostrix or dicofenac, prescribed by a doctor. Sometimes Lidoderm patches can also be helpful.
Physical therapy is important to maintaining movement and function. Heat, ultrasound and therapy with whirlpool can often relieve chronic stiffness. Sometimes epidural steroid injections are used to ease pain. Resistant cases may require MRI scans to determine if back surgery is an option, when other alternatives have not been successful.
Consider consulting a physiatrist — a rehabilitative specialist — who can work with an orthopedic specialist and your family physician to develop an effective treatment program. Much of the management of chronic back pain relies upon experience and you must be sure your physicians understand the discomfort you have. There is no need for chronic narcotic use with the current state of technology and the vast array of treatment options available.
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