Arthritis is a medical condition that causes pain, stiffness, and swelling of the affected joints. Arthritis in the back can be particularly troublesome because when the joints of the spine become damaged the patient may lose the ability to move normally. There is no actual cure for arthritis, so treatment is aimed at reducing symptoms and increasing mobility. Treatment options for arthritis in the back range from using heat or ice therapy to taking prescription medications or being placed on a gentle exercise regimen.
Heat therapy is a popular treatment choice for arthritis in the back. Some dry heat sources that may be useful in soothing the pain include heat lamps, disposable heat packs, and electric heating pads. Many patients prefer moist heat sources, which can include placing warm, damp cloths on the affected area. Another option is to soak in a tub of hot water. Some patients add epsom salt to the bath water to help to soothe the pain.
Some patients prefer to use cold therapy methods to treat the pain and swelling associated with arthritis in the back. Using cold therapy such as ice packs on the affected areas can work to temporarily numb the surrounding nerves, providing pain relief. This method of treatment can also reduce the inflammation and swelling of the tissues surrounding the affected joints. It is important to use this type of treatment for only a few minutes at a time, as prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can actually damage skin tissue.
Gentle exercises, particularly stretching exercises, can often ease the pain and stiffness from arthritis in the back. It is important to have these exercises medically approved so that further damage to the joints does not occur. Therefore, it is often recommended to have a physical therapist supervise the exercises and help the patient develop a regimen to use at home. Massage therapy can also help to relax the muscles surrounding the inflamed joints, lessening the amount of pain and increasing the ability to move.
Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen are often useful in treating arthritis in the back. Ibuprofen is often preferred because it also contains anti-inflammatory properties. In some cases, the doctor may prescribe stronger medications to help to reduce the pain. Many arthritis medications are taken by mouth. However, in some cases, the doctor may recommend either periodic or regular injections into the affected joints as a way to treat the symptoms of arthritis in the back.