The New Year is here. How are your resolutions going so far? If your fitness goals are frequently sidelined by back or neck pain, then it’s time for new resolutions. You don’t have to live with pain or depend on addictive medications. Non-invasive and minimally invasive therapies are the most effective treatments for back pain, according to the American Medical Association. Here are three treatments to consider.
1. Spinal Decompression Therapy
Spinal decompression therapy uses state-of-art computerized traction to gently and precisely stretch the spine. It relieves pressure on nerves and brings healing blood flow, oxygen and nutrients to the disc space. Decompression therapy is ideal for treating conditions that are difficult to see on imaging, like nerve root irritation and persistent inflammation. It moves bulging discs back into place and assists with healing herniated discs.
Acute disc injuries are less likely to cause long-term pain when treated promptly with spinal decompression therapy. Chronic pain from old injuries, or even idiopathic back pain (pain with no identifiable cause), responds well to spinal decompression. In clinical studies, over 80% of patients with chronic back pain experienced a significant reduction in symptoms after completing a spinal decompression therapy treatment plan.
Unlike treatments that only bring short-term relief, spinal decompression therapy gives lasting results. When researchers followed up with chronic pain patients five years after their treatment, they found that nearly all of them were still in less pain than they were before treatment.
Here are some conditions we commonly treat with spinal decompression therapy:
Degenerative disc disease
Bulging and herniated discs
Intervertebral joint dysfunction
First-time back surgeries fail nearly fifty percent of patients. Failed back surgery patients who had their surgery at least six months ago and don’t have metal implants or any spinal fusions can be decompressed. Many of these patients finally find relief after completing their decompression treatment regimens.
2. Joint Injections
You’re probably familiar with cortisone shots, but did you know there are better options now? While cortisone injections are effective for short-term conditions, they aren’t ideal for stubborn long-term pain.
PRP and Hyaluronic Acid injections are safer and more effective for chronic pain or slow-healing injuries. PRP or platelet-rich plasma injections bring healing factors to the injured or painful area, and hyaluronic acid is used to lubricate arthritic joints (usually knees). Both injections are FDA-approved and proven effective.
PRP is made from the patient’s blood. Your provider will draw a blood sample and spin it in a centrifuge to separate platelets and red blood cells from the liquid portion of the blood called plasma. Platelets mixed with a small amount of plasma are injected into the treatment area. Platelets are specialized cells that send chemical messages to start healing. Sometimes areas like joints, tendons, and other tough tissues that receive little blood flow struggle to progress past the inflammatory phase of healing. The result is long-term pain, tenderness, and weak tissues that are easily re-injured.
PRP injections jumpstart the healing process by bringing in the healing factors found in blood. Studies show that PRP injections reduce inflammation and speed healing. We can use them on acute injuries like muscle tears or sprained ankles as well as repetitive use injuries, and arthritic joints. Arthritis can’t be cured, but some studies show that PRP injections can slow progression in the early stages.
Hyaluronic acid is a substance the body produces naturally to lubricate joints and plump up skin. As we age, the body produces less. This results in thinned joint fluid that can’t protect cartilage from friction damage. When hyaluronic acid is injected into the joint, it coats nerves and cartilage and relieves inflammation. Using it with PRP injections increases the benefits.
3. Physical Therapy and Rehab
The body works as a system. If one part is out of balance, it throws the rest of the system off. Physical therapists are body mechanics experts who can evaluate you to find causes of your pain, such as foot and gait problems, over or underdeveloped muscles, and stiff areas. Physical therapy is often used with other treatments like injections, spinal decompression therapy, or chiropractic care.
During a physical therapy session, your provider will evaluate your condition and progress. Then they will lead you through exercises and stretches to rebalance your body and assist with healing. Rehab after an injury can prevent excess scar tissue growth and improve function and range of motion.
How Long Do Non-Invasive Treatments Take to Work?
Most decompression treatment plans last for four to six weeks. Usually, patients feel some relief after the first week of treatments. Pain continues to improve after that. Some patients with chronic conditions like arthritis continue coming in monthly or less often after their treatment plan is complete to keep their pain at bay. Patients with healable conditions like herniated discs are typically pain-free after their initial treatment regimen.
PRP and hyaluronic acid injections encourage natural processes, which means they don’t work overnight. Most patients begin feeling results within a couple of weeks, but it can take several weeks for results to peak. The relief is long-lasting. Hyaluronic acid typically lasts anywhere from six months to one year, and PRP works for a similar time frame in arthritis patients. If you use PRP on an acute injury, you shouldn’t need more injections after it heals. For chronic conditions, most people choose to get a yearly booster injection. Unlike cortisone shots, there is no limit to how many times per year you can safely receive a PRP or hyaluronic acid injection.
Most physical therapy patients find that their function and pain is significantly improved after completing their treatment plan.
Integrated Pain Management in Houston
At Vanguard Spine and Sport, our pain relief centers employ several types of specialists to meet the needs of our patients. Pain is a multifaceted problem that requires well-rounded treatment. Our patients can receive joint injections, spinal decompression therapy, physical therapy, and other treatments under one roof. Research shows that patient outcomes improve when a team of medical experts works on their care together. Integrated clinics like ours are also convenient for busy patients who don’t want to drive to several clinics to get necessary care.
Schedule a consultation with one of our pain relief experts today to find out how we can improve your quality of life in 2023.