Back pain affects a large number of individuals each and every year. The pain can be caused by a number of different things, including injuries or the vertebrae and intervertebral disks in the back breaking down over time. No matter what the cause of your back pain, pain relief is a high priority to decrease overall discomfort and increase quality of life. Although there are some invasive treatment options, such as surgery, there are also a number of over-the-counter pain remedies that can help to reduce the pain. Here are four effective options to help reduce and control back pain.
Topical Pain Killers
Topical pain medications come in the form of creams, gels, or rubs and are a great alternative to ingestible pills. These work to expose the nerve endings under the skin to sensations of either hot or cold. This causes the nerves to relax or become numb, which can reduce their sensitivity to pain and decrease general discomfort. Topical medications can also help to lessen swelling or other irritation, which can decrease overall sensitivity.
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and these units utilize a low-voltage electrical current to help relieve pain. A TENS device is a small battery-operated unit that uses two electrodes that connect to the skin. The electrical impulses created travel between the two pads through the nerve fibers. This often causes a tingling sensation and can even cause muscles to contract.
TENS devices can help to stimulate the nerves and block their ability to feel and transmit sensations of pain. It is also believed that this nerve stimulation may increase the body’s ability to produce endorphins, which act as natural pain relievers. These devices can be used for 15 to 30 minutes at a time, and their effects are noticed almost instantly. TENS units can be used by most everybody, with the exception of those who are pregnant or use a pacemaker.
One of the most common ways to reduce pain is through anti-inflammatory drugs. Some of the most common of these include Advil, Aleve, and Tylenol, which are also known as NSAIDs. NSAID stands for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, and these painkillers work by inhibiting the pathways in the body that are used to transmit pain. This can help to ease discomfort and significantly decrease pain levels for a variety of activities.
NSAIDs do not work to heal the body’s injuries and only serve as a temporary pain reliever, so they are best used for mild symptoms or less severe back issues. These can be taken regularly when needed, but it is best to avoid taking them on a long-term basis as it can have negative effects on the liver and digestive tract.
Cold and Heat Therapy
Cold therapy and heat therapy can be a very effective alternative to oral or topical pain medications, and each of them works in a different way. When muscles or joints in the back become injured, the body attempts to heal these tissues. This causes the tissues to become inflamed with the additional blood and other inflammatory markers that flow to the area. Cold therapies, such as ice packs, cold compresses, or ice baths, help to reduce excess swelling and pain.
Pain in the back can also be caused by strains or spasms, which can create muscle and joint tension and reduce blood flow to these areas, causing pain. In these instances, heat can be an effective pain reliever. Hot compresses or hot baths work to relax the muscles, release tightness, and increase blood flow to the affected area. The extra blood flow brings more oxygen to the muscles and joints and can speed up the healing process.
Cold and heat packs should be used for 15 to 20 minutes at a time and can be used a few times a day. These treatments can also be alternated with one another, and some individuals find this treatment to be highly effective.
Over-the-Counter Pain Relief
There is a large number of over-the-counter options available to help alleviate pain and discomfort in the back. These options, such as topical creams, oral medications, TENS units, and hot and cold therapy, provide easy, non-invasive pain control options that can be highly effective at reducing overall pain and significantly improving the quality of daily life.