As a chiropractor, I obviously see my fair share of chronic low back pain patients. If they have been managed through mainstream medicine, there’s a very good chance they’re on some, if not multiple, medications. Currently, narcotic pain meds like Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycodone are given out like candy, despite their lack of efficacy in clinical trials. So what good options are present to help manage the pain of chronic low back pain? Luckily, there are options.
The first option (if you would really call it an option…) is to find a good chiropractor to be on your team. Numerous studies have shown that, when a chiropractor is the first point of entry for any musculoskeletal complaints, the costs are much lower, while drug, surgery and imaging use is cut drastically. A chiropractor can not only help with chronic pain in the office, but can guide you to other approaches that might help with your condition. These may include an inversion table for low back pain or a cervical traction device for neck pain.
I have always been much more of a fan of moist heat rather than ice. In reality, for most spinal conditions, ice and heat are going to have direct effects only about 1-2 cm beneath the surface. The tissues that create pain such as the muscles, joints and discs of the low back are much deeper than this. Thus, ice and heat are going to have their effects at a much deeper, indirect level. Here ice and heat have similiar effects.
Heat wraps probably had their origins for menstrual-related pain and cramps, and then gradually expanded their use from there. These packs (made by Thermacare, Sunbeam, etc…) use the exothermic reaction between oxygen in the air and iron in the wrap to generate hours of heat.
This particular article looks at the use of a heat wrap in chronic low back pain sufferers. Researchers evaluated the effects of 2 hours of use of this type of heat wrap on chronic low back pain sufferrers and found a decrease in muscle activity as well as an improvement in self-report of disability, pain-related anxiety, catastrophizing, and self-efficacy.
That’s pretty powerful stuff for such a simple and safe intervention. Now imagine what would happen when this is coupled with chiropractic care…