Back Pain Relief — Causes, Prevention, And Treatment Methods

Dr. James - Orthopaedic Surgeon in Singapore

Medically reviewed by Dr. James Tan

Back pain is a common complaint among individuals of all age groups, and chances are that you might have experienced it at least once in your life. While the causes of back pain may differ for different individuals, it can be a debilitating condition that can have an impact on your physical and psychological life. Effective back pain relief and prevention strategies are, therefore, important to ensure that the pain is effectively managed.

This article discusses the causes and answers some of the common questions, such as how to cure back pain, how to prevent it, and the various back pain treatment options in Singapore.

What Causes Back Pain?

Back pain can be acute, meaning that it has a sudden onset, usually after an accident or injury to the muscles and ligaments of the back muscles. However, if it persists for more than three months, it is considered to be chronic. Severe lower back pain treatment options are different from acute back pain, and the underlying causes need to be determined to effectively recommend a treatment plan.

Some of the possible causes of back pain include:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Poor posture
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated or slipped discs
  • Scoliosis
  • Arthritis of the spine
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Sciatica
  • Fractures such as Osteoporosis fracture
  • Tumours
  • Kidney infection or stones
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Myofascial pain syndrome

What Causes Lower Back Pain in Females?

Although females can suffer from back pain due to any of the above-mentioned causes, there are some gender-specific causes that may result in lower back pain in females. Lower back pain relief for females depends on the correct diagnosis of the underlying cause.

  • Endometriosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Fibroids
  • Hormonal changes
  • PMS
  • Ovarian cysts
woman stretching at her desk

How to Relieve Back Pain?

Whether you are looking for mild or severe back pain treatment, there are several options that include at-home remedies for back pain, as well as conservative and surgical treatment options recommended by a back pain specialist.

Lower Back Pain Treatment At Home

The following measures can prove to be effective in how to relieve back pain fast at home.

  • Improve Posture — Poor posture is one of the major culprits of back pain. Adopting a good posture while standing and sitting can greatly relieve back pain. Moreover, practising a good posture while bending and lifting heavy objects can also help with pain relief.
  • Exercise — Starting a daily exercise program that includes moving the muscles and strength training can also alleviate pain. Yoga, pilates, swimming, a short walk, core stability exercises, and other low-impact activities are all helpful exercises.
  • Use Heat and Cold TherapyApplying an ice pack to your back in case of acute back pain can help reduce inflammation and pain. In case of chronic pain where you feel sore muscles in the back, applying heat on the affected area few times a day can help reduce pain.
  • Massage — Massage therapy, such as deep tissue massage, can also provide short-term relief for back pain.
  • Comfortable shoes — Wearing good-fitted, comfortable shoes or using orthotics to support the feet can also help with back pain.
  • Lifestyle Changes — Making such changes in your so as to avoid the activities that strain your back can also help alleviate your pain. This is especially necessary for people who do lifting as part of their jobs. They must adopt the proper lifting techniques to lift with their knees and not the back.
  • Dietary Changes — Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding sugars and foods that are inflammatory is also crucial to relieving back pain.
  • Manage Stress — Sometimes, anxiety and stress can be linked to back pain. Managing your stress and practising meditation and relaxation techniques can also help with back pain in certain cases.
  • Get Enough Sleep — Not having enough sleep or having poor quality sleep over a long period has been associated with chronic pain. Once it becomes chronic, it creates a vicious cycle in which the back pain contributes to poor quality sleep and that contributes to more back pain. Therefore, it is essential to get enough, good quality sleep daily to help relieve back pain.

How to Sleep with Lower Back Pain?

People struggling with back pain often find it hard to sleep properly at night. One of the most important steps to better sleep is to choose the right mattress. A mattress should neither be too soft nor too hard. A firm or medium-firm mattress with a good quality foam or inner springs, added with a memory foam top layer, is recommended. Secondly, you should choose a posture that best provides you relief and comfort. Choose from the following sleeping postures:

  • Sleep on the side with a pillow between the knees.
  • Sleep on your side with a pillow behind your back for support.
  • Sleep on your back by laying flat and place a pillow underneath the knees.
  • Sleep on your back and place a rolled-up towel under the small of your back for support.

Conservative Treatment Options For Back Pain

When you visit an orthopaedic specialist for back pain, he/she may recommend the following back pain relief options:

  • Painkillers — A doctor may recommend over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines, muscle relaxants, high-potency painkillers such as opioids, and nerve pain medication for chronic back pain relief. In some cases, the doctor may also prescribe antidepressants. 
  • Injection-based Treatments — For severe back pain relief, injections are often prescribed and administered. These include nerve blocks, steroid injections and trigger point injections. These injections provide short-term pain relief so that the patient can participate in exercise and physical therapy during that time and strengthen his/her muscles.
  • Physical Therapy — Physical therapy is an effective pain relief option. As recommended by your physical therapist and doctor, different exercises and stretches can help strengthen your core, improve flexibility and posture, and maintain the spine’s stability, all of which can aid towards pain relief.
  • Alternative Treatments — Alternative treatments such as acupuncture, laser therapy, and biofeedback therapy are some of the non-surgical treatment options that may be helpful in treating chronic back pain. 

Surgical Back Pain Treatment

Usually, an orthopaedic doctor considers conservative treatment options and home treatment for lower back pain relief. Only in situations where there is severe back pain or some other red flags will surgery be recommended as the first option. Sometimes, if conservative measures fail to provide any relief or if the symptoms worsen, the doctor may recommend surgery. The following back pain symptoms may require surgical intervention:

  • Bladder or bowel incontinence
  • Groin numbness
  • Severe numbness and tingling in the arms, legs, or chest
  • Chest pain
  • Weakness in the arms or legs
  • Gait problems and instability while standing or walking

Surgical treatment options for back pain will depend on the underlying cause. The following surgical procedures are typically recommended:

  • Spinal laminectomy — This is done to treat spinal stenosis, where the surgeon removes the walls of the vertebrae and any bone spurs to make room in the spinal column.
  • Discectomy — This procedure involves the removal of a disc which has herniated.
  • Artificial disk replacement — This procedure involves replacing a disc with a synthetic one to maintain the height and movement between the vertebrae.
  • Spinal fusion — In this procedure, the surgeon fuses two or more vertebrae together using metal devices and bone grafts. The vertebrae fuse together over the next few months.
  • Foraminotomy — In this surgical procedure, the hole where the nerve root exits the spinal canal is enlarged. This allows more space and prevents the bulging discs to compress the nerve roots.
  • Nucleoplasty — This is a laser surgery technique that is beneficial for patients with a mild disc bulge. During the surgery, a needle with a plasma laser device is inserted into the disc, and its tip is heated. This causes the disc to reduce in size and minimises nerve compression.
  • Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty — In these procedures, the surgeon repairs compression fractures of the spine caused by osteoporosis.

How to Prevent Back Pain?

Back pain can have a negative impact on one’s life. Like it is said that prevention is better than cure, preventing back pain is important so that you do not have to go through its debilitating effects. The following measures can help prevent back pain.

  • Modify activities so that you do not strain your back.
  • Take breaks while doing repetitive tasks and do stretches in between.
  • Always maintain a good posture.
  • Follow a regular exercise schedule.
  • Get a good sleep.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.

Which Doctor to Consult for Lower Back Pain?

An orthopaedist or orthopaedic specialist is a doctor who specialises in conditions of the musculoskeletal system. You should consult an orthopedist for back pain relief in Singapore.

For effective back pain relief, it is recommended to consult a qualified orthopaedic specialist for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Dr James Tan at Ray of Health is an experienced specialist in Singapore who can help diagnose your condition and create a personalised treatment plan for back pain relief. Schedule an appointment with Dr James Tan today.

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About The Author

dr james tan

Dr James Tan Chung Hui

Dr James Tan is a skilled orthopaedic surgeon at Quantum Orthopaedics who has more than 10 years of experience in sports surgery and exercise medicine in Singapore. Apart from partnering with the industry to introduce various treatment techniques, Dr Tan has treated athletes from the Singapore National Teams and professional footballers from the Singapore Premier League and the Young Lions.

Dr Tan specialises in treating sports injuries of the knee, shoulder and elbow joints, as well as cartilage and meniscus surgery. He is a member of the elite Asian Shoulder and Elbow Group and a founding member of the Singapore Shoulder and Elbow Surgery Society.

Qualifications and Achievements
MBBS - National University of Singapore (NUS), Faculty of Medicine
Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (MRCS)
MMed - Master of Medicine in Orthopaedic Surgery (NUS)
Fellow of Royal College of Surgeons (Edinburgh)
Adjunct Assistant Professor | NUS, LKC
Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgery, Sports and Exercise Medicine
Head of Department | Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Centre
Awards
Principal Investigator of Tissue Engineering
National Medical Research Council grants
Collaboration with Scientists at NTU, TUM, A*Star, Osteopore & Trendlines Medical Singapore

Accreditations

  1. Mount Elizabeth Orchard
  2. Mount Elizabeth Novena
  3. Farrer Park Hospital
  4. Mount Alvernia Hospital
  5. Aptus Surgery Centre
  6. Novaptus Surgery Centre

Insurances

  1. Great Eastern
  2. Prudential
  3. HSBC Life

Corporate

  1. MHC
  2. Fullerton
  3. Adept
  4. Alliance