Pain management in chronic diseases – alternatives to taking oral medication

Exercise, medical advice and taking medication are not the only ways to alleviate the discomfort of chronic diseases. Patients suffering from non-specific low back pain can rely on alternatives and counteract their complaints gently and effectively.

Exercise therapy and educational measures

Primarily, therapists treat subacute and chronic nonspecific low back pain supportively through exercise therapy and educational interventions as part of behavioral therapy approaches. These interventions facilitate physical activity for patients. To this end, reviews of various studies, such as a cohort study, show that early intervention focused on reducing anxiety-avoidance behaviors can halt the progression of chronic courses. Studies showed improvement in physical functioning and significant changes in anxiety-avoidance behavior for the better.

In terms of pain reduction and promotion of physical functioning in chronic non-specific low back pain, exercise therapy is more effective than traditional medical care or passive therapy interventions. Programs designed to build and stabilize back muscles achieve better results than cardiorespiratory-related interventions. In addition, exercise programs that include behavioral therapy solutions promote increased physical functioning and accelerate return to work.

Thus, exercise is important to reduce non-specific low back pain and prevent it in the future. Additional exercise puts unaccustomed stress on the body, so patients can usefully supplement alternative therapy with relaxation techniques.

Progressive muscle relaxation for non-specific low back pain

Usually, therapists treat the patient for several weeks to deeply relax the affected person. Due to the duration of several weeks, relaxation techniques are only suitable to a limited extent for the treatment of acute low back pain. However, science points to the positive effect of progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) when the patient suffers from chronic low back pain due to tension or stress.

Experts recommend the implementation of various relaxation techniques with elements of behavioral therapy, in combination with other therapeutic methods. Additional measures are weighed by doctors and therapists, taking into account a patient’s individual preferences. For example, sufferers can also reduce and numb low back pain with the help of a spinal catheter or heat therapy.

Heat as a therapeutic agent against low back pain

Heat therapy can be used as part of independent pain treatment in combination with activating measures. In a study with 295 patients, a review examined the effect of heat patches on patients with low back pain. A temporary decrease in pain intensity and an improvement in physical functioning were observed compared to oral placebo.

As a sole heat therapy, the joint application of heat patches and exercise is suitable. Here, a study of 49 patients showed dramatic improvement in low back pain and increased physical functionality. In addition, individual studies showed an improvement in non-specific low back pain with the use of patches and creams containing capsaicin.

Experts advise heat therapy in combination with activating measures as part of self-management, because the combination of the therapy increases the patient’s sense of well-being. No harm or worsening is expected from self-help.

Note: If the methods used increase pain, sufferers should seek a medical diagnosis. Tumors and inflammation increase the discomfort of heat-induced hyperemia.

In addition to heat therapy, treatment of persistent non-specific low back pain may take the form of occupational therapy. Researched reviews of occupational therapy for affected individuals focused on restoring patients’ ability to work.

Occupational therapy reduces low back pain

Occupational therapists condition restoration of work adjustment function. To do this, therapists make use of multimodal programs and combine them with occupational therapy interventions. This way of working promotes general health, reduces pain and thus increases the patient’s participation in working life and the patient can quickly resume work.

Occupational therapy for the treatment of non-specific low back pain improves functional status and reduces absenteeism from work. Using targeted measures, the occupational therapist prepares the patient individually for everyday work.

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