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11 Best Back Surgery Alternatives

Medically Reviewed by Cellaxys

By Published: January 7, 2023No Comments

Managing chronic back pain is equally challenging for the patients and the doctors. Unfortunately, the condition is a prevalent problem worldwide, affecting more than 80% of adults at any point in their lifetime. 

Many factors can result in back pain. Sometimes it could result from heavy lifting or accidents. Other times, it could come with other health conditions, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, scoliosis, etc. 

Back pain varies in intensity and causes. It typically builds up gradually after a muscle strain, injury, or trauma. However, it can start as a sharp and unbearable pain that makes your life miserable. In some cases, the doctor directly opts for back surgery to treat the pain, but it’s also possible to treat it with nonsurgical methods. 

Spinal manipulation, acupuncture, lifestyle modifications, and many home remedies are the best back surgery alternatives. They can not only help you manage pain but also delay the surgery. Here are 10 effective back surgery alternatives you must consider before going under the knife:

1. Spinal Manipulation

Spinal or chiropractic manipulation adjusts or stimulates the entire spine by massaging with the hands. The physical therapist or licensed chiropractor puts pressure on your spine to keep it aligned in its place. This helps reduce back pain. 

However, this alternative treatment may not be suitable for everyone, especially the elderly and people with severe spinal cord issues, osteoporosis, or arthritis. The primary reason is the amount of pressure involved in the procedure. 

If you opt for spinal manipulation, ensure it is done by a trained or licensed professional. Getting it done by a specialist will reduce the risks of any side effects. You may feel a slight discomfort in your back, which will resolve in the next 1 to 2 days. 

2. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an old-school, traditional Chinese treatment method for back pain. It involves inserting tiny, thin needles into the special points in your body to treat different sources of pain. It is also effective for chronic or mild back pain as well.

Acupuncture also helps relieve pain and restore function in many people with chronic low back pain. This pain relief may continue for a long time, according to a meta-analysis. However, it may not pose similar effects for everyone. Thus, always consult a healthcare professional to know whether it’s the proper treatment for your back pain. 

3. Weight Loss

Obesity is linked with multiple health-related issues. Excessive weight puts a lot of pressure on your back muscles, joints, or bones, resulting in severe back pain as you move, sit, stand, or walk. Being overweight can also strain your back muscles and increase pressure on the spine. 

According to a study, obesity leads to intense low back pain and disability in male subjects. Thus, losing excess weight can help alleviate strain on your spine, meaning no back pain. If you’re having difficulty losing weight, you can consult a professional nutritionist or dietitian and ask them to plan a special weight loss plan for you. 

At-home exercises can also help you shed extra weight, such as cycling, biking, or swimming. Regardless of the weight loss method, remember that it’s a gradual process and requires consistency and long-term determination. 

4. Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Inflammation is closely-connected with many types of chronic pain, including your neck, shoulders, back, and lower back. Inflammation is our body’s natural response against any harm, but there are other causes, such as nerve compression. 

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen and ibuprofen, work amazingly in relieving many types of pain. However, if you don’t want to opt this way, you can include some anti-inflammatory foods in your diet. 

Research suggests that trans fats and sugary and processed foods can worsen inflammation and pain in your back. Thus, it’s better to avoid these foods just as you start having back pain. The foods that reduce inflammation include:

  • Fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Fish

5. Posture Maintenance

Incorrect posture is an overlooked back pain factor in many people who sit in front of computers for long hours. A study shows that bad posture can result in intense low back pain in adolescents. In another study, researchers found that people who completed their 8-week posture-maintenance program had reduced or no back and shoulder pain. 

So, you must avoid sitting in poor posture for longer durations. If you can’t do that, you can try wearable devices to remind yourself about correcting your posture by gently pulling your shoulders toward the back. If you don’t have proper ergonomics, you must try to make changes in your desk or chair to support your back.

6. Physical Exercises

Contrary to popular relief, bed resting isn’t an effective back pain treatment. Yes, you may find it hard to move in back pain, but moving is the best back surgery alternative for many types of back pain. 

Multiple studies have found that physical exercises release endorphins in your body. These are your brain’s natural chemicals that bind to the brain’s opioid receptors to manage or stop the pain. Exercising may give you a similar effect to opioid pain medications. 

Exercise is also associated with back and neck muscle strengthening and pain reduction in people with chronic pain. So talk to a professional physical therapist, and treat your back pain at home.

7. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

In TENS, you will have to place sticky electrode patches on the areas causing intense pain in your back. There will be a battery-powered device, which you will activate to send electrical impulses to the electrodes. These signals interrupt the pain signals in your body.

According to a study, attending a 15-minute TENS session can give outstanding results in lower back pain relief. Another meta-analysis also reported massive pain reduction in people with chronic low back pain with TENS. 

If you’re using a TENS device for the first time, you must do it under a professional’s supervision. They will ensure that you’re using this back surgery alternative correctly. 

8. Stress Management Techniques

Stress is another cause of back pain that makes a person’s muscles stiff and tense. It can also worsen existing back pain in your body. According to the American Institute of Stress, back pain is a major symptom of stress.

Stress can also alter the way your body perceives pain. So if you think your back pain is due to stress, you can try relaxation exercises, yoga, or meditation to relieve it.  Many experts also recommend breathing exercises for stress management.

9. Proper Footwear

High-heeled or too-tight footwear can misalign your legs, back, and hips, leading to severe strain on the spine. Shoes that lack a comfortable sole or have poor support also result in intense pressure on your spinal cord, resulting in severe back pain. 

According to a study, people who wear shoes with customized orthotics for six weeks experience considerable improvement in their back pain. Consult a professional foot specialist to determine the right orthotics for your condition. 

As a self-safety measure, you must prevent wearing uncomfortable footwear and opt for low-heeled sandals and sneakers. 

10. Cannabinoids (CBD / THC)

Cannabinoids are the components of cannabis plants that possess therapeutic effects for many health issues. The most popular cannabinoids include cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

THC is a major component in marijuana and is responsible for causing the “high” among consumers. CBD, on the other hand, is present in the hemp plant and possesses exceptional medicinal effects. It doesn’t cause “high” among users. People have been using CBD oil as the best back surgery alternative for years. 

A systematic review has also confirmed CBD’s pain reduction effects. However, more research is required to support the effectiveness of CBD oil in treating different types of pain. Also, CBD is illegal in some US states, so you must check with your local laws before buying it.

11. Orthobiologic Methods

Over the years, regenerative medicine has evolved a lot. Orthobiologic treatments have now become popular among people and athletes in treating spine, sports, and orthopedic injuries without going under the knife. These treatments are less invasive and less painful and don’t require the patient to spend a night at the hospital. They also have a shorter recovery period than surgery. 

At CELLAXYS, our highly-specialized doctors perform two orthobiologic methods: cell-based therapies and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy. Depending on your condition, the doctor will opt for any of these treatments. 

Cell-based Therapies

You may already know cell-based therapies as stem cell therapy. This process includes harvesting healthy cells from your adipose tissue or bone marrow, processing them, and then reinjecting them into the injury site. 

Since the procedure deals with your own or autologous cells, it has a high acceptance rate by your body. We perform two cell-based therapies depending on where your cells are extracted.

  • Minimally Manipulated Adipose Tissue Transplant (MMAT). In this process, the cells are extracted from your adipose (fat) tissues. The best part about MMAT is that the doctor can perform it in multiple locations in the same procedure.
  • Bone Marrow Concentrate (BMAC). This process harvests cells from your bone marrow to promote healing in the damaged back area.

MMAT and BMAC take about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. The doctor uses live X-rays or Ultrasounds to detect the area causing back pain.

Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP)

PRP has been an effective back surgery alternative for decades, especially for athletes worldwide. The process includes taking the patient’s blood sample and isolating platelets. Platelets are the healing components in our body that act as the first line of defense in case of any injury or trauma. 

Once platelets are isolated, they are processed and reinjected into the area causing the pain. In the injury site, platelets release 10 Growth Factors to support the development of new tissues and cells. They also attract healing cells from the blood to promote recovery. Lastly, they produce fibrin, a web-like scaffolding to support the growth of new cells. 

PRP is performed within 45 minutes, and the doctor will ask you to go home once it completes. People who undergo PRP and cell-based therapies at CELLAXYS show remarkable improvement in their chronic back pain.

Dr. Pouya Mohajer

Director of Regenerative Interventional Spine Medicine
Board certification in Anesthesiology and Interventional Pain Medicine
Fellowship-trained from Harvard University
UCLA Alumni


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