Throughout our lives we experience pain that mostly goes away on its own given enough time. We might even help it along with some over the counter medications, and soon enough we’re going about our day without that nagging pain. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Especially when it comes to
Sometimes we get an ache or pain that lasts for months and hasn’t eased in the slightest. In some cases it has even worsened with rest. Advil and Tylenol might “take the edge off” of the pain, but it returns to hamper our daily activities.
Lifting, bending, and twisting can become a grueling task. The pain may even prevent us from activities we enjoy like gardening or exercising. Worse yet, these back pains might even begin to reflect in our moods by making us IRRITABLE because we’re in constant pain and can’t get back to those things that bring us joy!
Once we finally go see our primary care doctors, we are often given a diagnosis of low back pain or sciatica. We are then prescribed muscle relaxers or painkillers. But as before, the medication still only succeeds in “taking the edge off” of the pain. If this use of medication continues on for weeks or months, it can even be dangerous. Long term use of medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen and others can increase the risk of liver damage, ulcers, heart attacks and kidney disease.
So, if you have taken over-the-counter or prescription medications for weeks or months – or, like some of our patients – fight through your back pain while popping 3 or 4 pills at a time for months on end, I would strongly encourage you to read on!
Where do you go once medications and rest have failed?
A common story we’ve heard from our patients is that they return to the doctor and ask about getting a MRI . Insurance companies will then encourage them to have physical therapy before the MRI, and they often get frustrated because they believe that MRI images are the gold standard for diagnosing back pain. While the clarity of a MRI makes it one of the best means to see problems in the spine, there are important points that most of us would benefit from knowing about MRI images:
- Healthy people have been found to have disc bulges and arthritic or degenerative changes without the presence of back pain.
- Just because you have a disc bulge or an arthritic spine doesn’t mean that your pain is coming from that particular issue.
- MRI imaging exposes us to radiation that is often needless given the success of Physical Therapy in the diagnosis and treatment of back pain.
- Most people end up at therapy before other interventions such as injections and surgery are attempted, even after a MRI is taken.
Too often we’ve seen people rushed into a MRI and be exposed to needless radiation for a problem that a course of therapy could have easily addressed. In worse MRI cases, we’ve seen patients go through spinal surgeries that leave them in either the same or worse condition without having tried a course of physical therapy. Often it is best to try conservative treatments like physical therapy first, because at worst we will only fail to improve the pain – and we’ll do it without causing permanent physical changes to your spine.