The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)


I have chronic back pain. What non-surgical treatments are available?

Assuming that you have tried nonsteroidals, narcotic pain medications, anti-epileptic drugs, anti-depressant medications, physical therapy, chiropractic and other treatments such as massage or acupuncture, a number of minimally invasive procedures and blocks are available.

Epidural steroid injections and selective nerve root blocks may help back and leg pain. A powerful anti-inflammatory drug, like cortisone, is injected into the space around the nerve root.

Facet blocks and median branch nerve blocks help pain which is due to damaged facet joints, the small joints in the back. Sacroiliac joint injections are for similar problems involving the joint between the sacrum and the pelvis.

Radio frequency blocks are similar to steroid blocks but provide longer-lasting relief for some problems.

Intrathecal pain medicine pumps and spinal cord stimulators involve placing mechanical devices inside the body. The pain pump delivers small but continuous doses of pain medicine to the nerves in a controlled fashion. Spinal cord stimulators are devices that circulate a tiny electrical current around the spinal cord. They may block the pain impulses and stop them from reaching the brain.

There are many more options for pain. All have specific risks and benefits. Ask your spine specialist. 



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Last modified: 07/27/08