Non-surgery options for managing, treating back and neck pain

WYNCOTE, PA. (WPVI) -- Dealing with chronic back and neck pain can be frustrating.

Some people don't seek help, afraid they'll be told to have surgery.

Experts at Temple Health say in fact, there are many non-surgical options for managing pain and getting back to life. However, many sufferers may not be told about all their options.

Pamela Daskus of Wyncote vividly recalls when pain set in one day before work.

"I was just getting ready for, getting dressed. And I had this sharp pain in my neck that went down my arm," recalls Daskus.

When oral medications didn't help, Daskus was referred to Dr. Gary Trehan, an interventional pain specialist with Temple Health.

Dr. Trehan, the section chief for acute and chronic pain, says the first step is finding the cause, to separate acute from chronic pain.

"50 to 60% of the acute back pain, which tends to be mainly muscle spasms, muscle and tendon strains, they resolve within a week or so. Most of it, 90% of it gets better in about 6 to 8 weeks," says Dr. Trehan.

Dr. Trehan says a conservative approach - anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, heat, massage, and physical therapy - usually help those.

If the pain continues toward the three-month chronic stage, some other medications can help.

"Such as anti-epileptics, as we call them, such as Lyrica, gabapentin, or antidepressants," Dr. Trehan notes.

But the herniated disks in Daskus' neck needed the next step in intervention.

"He treated those with a steroid injection, which helped. And then we started doing that about twice a year," she says.

Dr. Trehan says misinformation and fears about injections keep some patients from exploring this option, which he says is especially good for those unable to take anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxants.

"2 to 7 days when they start kicking in. And then we expect them to last 3 months or so," he says.

The medication can also be tailored to the exact problem. He doesn't use the same for all injections.

Daskus is now also receiving injections in her back for spinal arthritis.

The alternating treatments enable her to do daily exercise such as yoga and pilates, which really keep her on top of the pain.

"I'll move my body in ways that I couldn't before and it feels better," she says, adding, "Even with the injections and everything, you need to keep moving."

In addition to injections, Dr. Trehan says acupuncture, radiofrequency ablation, and medical marijuana are also good options to get for less pain and better function.
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