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Alleviating Lumbar Pain: Practical Non-Narcotic Relief

Lumbar pain, often described as a relentless ache or sharp discomfort in the lower back region, is an all-encompassing experience that can profoundly impact one's daily life. It resides in the lumbar spine, the lower portion of the backbone, encompassing the five vertebrae between the rib cage and the pelvis. This area is a crucial support structure for the body, bearing the upper body's weight while facilitating movement and flexibility.

People living with lumbar pain often sacrifice their mobility to avoid hurting themselves or feeling worse. Getting specialized pain management can help restore a better quality of life.

What Causes Lumbar Pain?

Lumbar pain can have a myriad of causes, ranging from everyday issues like muscle strains, ligament sprains, or poor posture to rarer conditions such as spinal stenosis, herniated discs, or degenerative disc disease.

Diagnosis often involves a comprehensive evaluation by healthcare professionals, including physical examinations, imaging studies like X-rays or MRIs, and possibly nerve conduction studies to pinpoint the exact source of discomfort.

Treating Lumbar Pain

Managing lumbar pain effectively often requires a multifaceted approach that addresses the symptoms and underlying causes of discomfort. By incorporating stretches, physical therapy, nerve blocks, and non-narcotic medications into a comprehensive treatment plan, persons can achieve meaningful relief while minimizing the risks associated with long-term opioid use.

Stretching and Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is often a first-line treatment for people with back issues. However, recovering from PT exercises can cause pain as you build strength and muscles. Regularly loosening up muscles can alleviate pain, especially if caused by a compressed nerve.

Here are some stretches commonly used in PT to help with lumbar issues:

  • Hamstring Stretching: Tight hamstrings can contribute to lumbar pain by pulling on the pelvis, altering posture, and straining the lower back. Regular hamstring stretches, such as toe touches or using a towel to pull the leg toward the chest, can help alleviate tension and improve flexibility.
  • Piriformis Stretch: The piriformis muscle, located deep within the buttocks, can irritate the nearby sciatic nerve, leading to radiating pain down the leg. Stretching this muscle through techniques like the seated piriformis stretch or pigeon pose in yoga can help minimize pressure on the sciatic nerve and reduce discomfort.
  • Cat-Cow Stretch: This yoga-inspired stretch involves alternating between arcing and rounding the back, promoting flexibility and mobility in the lumbar spine.
  • Core Strengthening Exercises: Weak core muscles can exacerbate lumbar pain by placing excess strain on the lower back. Strengthening exercises that target the abdominal and lower back muscles, such as planks, bridges, and bird dogs, can improve spinal stability and reduce the likelihood of recurrent pain episodes.
  • Pelvic Tilts: Pelvic tilts involve tilting the pelvis forward and backward while lying on the back, engaging the abdominal and lower back muscles. This exercise helps to improve pelvic alignment, relieve pressure on the lumbar spine, and enhance overall posture.

Nerve Blocks

Nerve blocks, a form of interventional pain management, offer targeted relief by disrupting the transmission of pain signals along specific nerves. In lumbar pain management, nerve blocks commonly target the facet joints, sacroiliac joint, or sciatic nerve. Doctors will inject a local anesthetic or anti-inflammatory medication near the affected nerve.

These blocks can provide significant pain relief for weeks to months, allowing people to engage more fully in rehabilitative exercises and activities of daily living.

Non-Opioid Pain Medications

In cases where non-narcotic methods alone may not provide sufficient relief, medications may be appropriate to help with the pain.  People can take medications in combination with other therapies to mitigate pain while minimizing the risk of dependency and adverse effects.

Some medications commonly used for lumbar pain include:

  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, reduce inflammation and alleviate pain by inhibiting prostaglandin production. When used under medical supervision, NSAIDs can effectively relieve mild to moderate lumbar pain.
  • Muscle Relaxants: Muscle relaxants like cyclobenzaprine help alleviate muscle spasms and tension, often accompanying back pain. These medications can promote relaxation and improve mobility. They are usually used with stretching and physical therapy.
  • Gabapentinoids: Drugs like gabapentin or pregabalin are commonly prescribed for neuropathic pain, including lumbar radiculopathy (sciatica). These drugs can reduce the intensity of pain in the lumbar nerve.
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs): Certain TCAs, such as amitriptyline or nortriptyline, possess analgesic properties independent of their antidepressant effects. In low doses, TCAs can help alleviate chronic lumbar pain by enhancing pain tolerance.

MAT Can Work for Pain As Well As Cravings

MAT, also known as Medication-Assisted Treatment, such as suboxone and naltrexone, is used in addiction medicine to reduce opioid cravings. Still, it also has been found to help pain patients who have run out of options and can’t take opioids. Some people want to avoid opioids but need pain relief that is potent enough for their pain issues.

Low-dose naltrexone (LDN) and buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) offer alternative pathways for pain management, each with unique mechanisms of action. LDN, administered at lower doses than traditionally used for addiction treatment, may alleviate chronic pain by modulating neuroinflammation, enhancing endogenous opioid activity, and normalizing immune function.

Buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist in Suboxone, provides analgesia by acting while exhibiting a ceiling effect on respiratory depression and euphoria, making it a safer option with lower abuse potential than full opioid agonists. (People cannot increase their “high” by taking more, but they still could overdose if misused.)

These medications represent valuable tools for addressing pain while minimizing the risks associated with traditional opioid therapy. Still, their use should be carefully considered in consultation with healthcare providers to ensure appropriateness and safety for individual patients.

Getting Help for Lumbar Pain

However, working and communicating with your healthcare team will help determine the most appropriate interventions. A personalized and holistic approach to lumbar pain management can help people regain mobility, improve quality of life, and reduce reliance on narcotic medications.

We recognize that lumbar pain isn't merely a physical sensation but a deeply personal journey that necessitates compassion, support, and effective management strategies tailored to each person's needs.

At Solas Health, our team of experienced healthcare professionals is committed to navigating the complexities of lumbar pain diagnosis and treatment with empathy and expertise.

We offer a range of innovative interventions and therapies tailored to address your unique needs and concerns. We’re here to develop a personalized care plan to help you restore function and improve your overall quality of life. Don't let lumbar pain hold you back any longer—reach out to Solas Health today, and let us help you embark on a journey toward a brighter, pain-free future. You deserve to live your best life.

Get in touch to make an appointment today.

If you are in need of help, please call us at: 910-295-7246 or message us.



Contact Solas Health

Our mission is to improve lives and help you get better.

Addiction, pain, and mental health challenges interfere with the joys of living, but we can help. Dr. Corrigan, and the whole team at Solas Health, will help.

If you are in need of help, please call us at: 910-295-7246 or message us.

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