If you have ever suffered with back discomfort, you are probably familiar with the common back treatment procedures and techniques that are used to help alleviate pain.
There are treatments like acupuncture, which is designed to inspire shifts in the body by increasing circulation in places of tightness, weakness, and pain. On the other side of the spectrum, there are surgeries such as a laminectomy, which removes then entire lamina, allowing more room for the nerves of the spine and thus reducing irritation and inflammation.
However, for those of us who are wondering what other procedures and treatments are out there that claim to diminish pain and get us back to our normal, active selves, let’s take a look at a few of the more unusual back procedures and treatments used for back pain.
Spinal Cord Stimulation
Used for: Chronic back pain, sharp or stabbing pain, pain that nothing else has worked on
This type of treatment to alleviate sharp and chronic back pain works the way a pacemaker does, but instead of working for the heart, the generator is used to send waves of electricity along the spine.
Insertion of most permanent spinal cord stimulation devices involve an implant and surgery. As with any such procedure, there are certain risks and potential complications, such as an infection or bleeding.
Once the device or “generator” has been inserted, stimulation works by creating a pleasant tingling sensation which in turn is meant to distract the brain from feeling any signals of pain. When more than one signal approaches the brain at the same time - one telling it to feel pain and the other a tingling sensation from the spinal cord stimulator – the brain can only allow one to pass. If the tingly sensation is chosen over pain, you may experience some relief.
It should be noted, however, that a few disadvantages of this type of treatment include:
- Fluctuations in stimulation: Unwanted changes in stimulation may include a jolting or shocking feeling.
- Negative reaction to pressure: Those using spinal cord stimulation should not take part in activities that add pressure to the body around the time of treatment, including scuba diving or flying in airplanes.
- Discomfort around generator: Some people find the implanted generator irritating or uncomfortable.
It should be noted that while some generators now work for years, surgery will be required every few years to remove and replace the generator.
Bee Venom Acupuncture
Used for: Arthritis, back pain, osteoarthritis
How does a few dozen bee stings sound to help alleviate your pain? While this may seem counterproductive to relieve discomfort, many patients of bee venom acupuncture strongly believe that the sting actually does help.
How does this strange treatment for back pain work? Honeybee venom is said to increase blood circulation, soften tissues, reduce inflammation, and increase feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, giving you an emotional boost in addition to treating your pain.
The bee venom is sterilized and then injected into the same acupuncture points that needles would normally be placed during acupuncture therapy. While this is said to help alleviate pain, we are not yet completely convinced injecting venom is the best way to resolve back pain.
Percutaneous Disc Nucleoplasty
Used for: Lumbar herniated discs
This is a relatively new technique for the decompression of contained lumbar herniated discs. A unique device the size of a needle is inserted into the affected disc. The probe is slightly angled, and uses radiofrequency electrodes at its tip. It is moved around inside the disc, vaporizing a very controlled amount of disc nucleus, typically 1 - 2 ml.
A percutaneous disc nucleoplasty procedure is minimally invasive, which offers many advantages to patients suffering with a lumbar herniated disc. For one, unlike other back procedures, it requires no bone graft, and because the procedure is not extremely invasive, it also promises a shorter recuperation time. However, the new procedure has received mixed reviews, and many claim that it is not effective.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
Used for: Lower back pain, neck pain, chronic headaches
Electrical stimulation, also known as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), uses a small, battery-operated device to send electricity through your muscles and cause them to contract and release. The electricity from the device then stimulates nerves in the affected area, relieving pain.
During treatment, stickers are placed on the lower back, neck, and shoulders, which provide electrical voltage directly to the muscle. The electrical impulses are thought to release endorphins that block pain messages from reaching the brain.
While these procedures and treatments have received mixed reviews, some claim that they have achieved life-altering relief from pain as a result of their use. Would you try one of these treatments to alleviate pain?