|RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Did you ever stand in the cereal aisle at the grocery overwhelmed by the dozens and dozens of choices before you? If you're looking for relief from chronic back pain, you're likely to be faced with the same confusing conundrum—too much to choose from. Because back-pain sufferers make up a massive market (85 percent of people report lower-back pain at some point during their lifetime), there is no shortage of gadgets and treatments on the market that claim to ease your aches. The problem is, many of them don't work, says Scott Haldeman, MD, PhD, DC, clinical professor of neurology at University of California–Irvine.|
Money spent on direct medical costs for the treatment of lower-back pain are estimated to hit $12 to $90 billion a year in the United States, comparable to the revenue of a Fortune 500 company. Yet 95 percent of people who undergo back surgery for pain are not cured, and could even feel worse after going under the knife, Dr. Haldeman says. "The cost of back pain has gone through the roof, and results of all of our treatments have been very mediocre," he adds. Even though there's no magic cure for chronic back pain, there are strategies that can bring relief. Before you try them, rule out the four conditions that do respond well to surgery: spinal stenosis, vertebrae slipping, a tumor or fracture, or a truly herniated disc that's causing leg pain. These can generally be identified through MRIs or X-rays. Second, keep a positive attitude, but be realistic. If you've had chronic back pain for more than three months, says Dr. Haldeman, it's likely you'll have it off and on for the rest of your life. "It'll move around between no pain, a little pain, and occasional bursts of severe pain," he says. To manage that pain, there are interventions that tend to work much better than others. Of the 200-plus different treatments currently available for back pain, here are nine that seem to be most effective. Everyone is different, so keep trying until you find the ones that work for you.