Back pain runs in my family and the older I get, the worse it gets. My family isn’t the only one, though—back pain in adults is gradually becoming more pervasive. NPR reports that one out of every four adults in America today has sought treatment for back pain. In fact, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, we spend upwards of $90 billion dollars each year in search of back pain relief—much of that on spinal surgery, pain medicine and spinal shots.
Yet many of the traditional methods we try don't work—some even make the problem worse! One in five back surgery patients is estimated to return for more surgery—and often to address the same back pain. For this reason, physicians and health experts today are recommending much less invasive ways to cure back pain. So here is a list of affordable, non-invasive resources to help ease your pain!
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states 66% of individuals seeking relief from back pain through chiropractic care experience relief.
- Where to go: The Joint is a nationwide chain of chiropractic clinics. With a staff of licensed chiropractors in each clinic, visits starting at just $29, and more than 225 clinics nationwide, The Joint has made finding quality chiropractic care accessible and affordable.
- What you will pay: The Joint starts patients off at $29 per visit (most clinics charge upwards of $65 per session).
- Find a clinic: http://www.thejoint.com
Fox News reported that after 10 weeks of weekly massage treatments, back pain sufferers reported noticeable relief. Yet paying for 10 weeks (or even one week) of massage can be challenging when a 60-minute session starts at $60 or higher! A better strategy is to find free or cheaper local massage services you can count on.
- Head to the mall: If your back pain is localized, you may benefit from shorter massage sessions. Many malls today feature "massage booths" that offer a menu of prices starting around $10 for a 10 minute massage—affordable and easy!
- Locate a local massage therapy school: Natural Healers has a nationwide list of massage therapy schools. You can often find free or inexpensive ($25 or less) massage services by booking an appointment with a student who is working towards their certification hours.
- Attend massage therapy classes: You can find weekend or one-day clinics for singles and couples—taking along a partner and friend can ensure you can "trade" massage services for free after you have mastered the basics! Here is a free 17-class series you can take online!
3. Capsaicin cream
Capsaicin is the ingredient in chili peppers that burns your taste buds and makes you want to run for a glass of water. The British Journal of Anaesthesia's 2011 study results showed that capsaicin is not just tasty in cooking—it’s also an effective source of relief for back pain!
- What you will pay: Most tubes will cost between $8-$25 for 0.025% dosage.
- Where to find the cream: You can find it online or in most drugstores.
4. Tai Chi
Tai Chi is an ancient martial art with many modern applications. The NIH released a 2011 study from Arthritis Care & Research that highlighted the effectiveness of Tai Chi for study participants suffering from low grade to long-term back pain.
- What you will pay: You can pay nothing (or close to it)—many Tai Chi classes are offered for free (or for a freewill donation). If you have a gym membership, check to see if they offer classes.
- Where to take classes: You can take an introductory series of classes for free via YouTube here. You can also find free local classes on Meetup.com or by doing an Internet search.
5. Back pain “boot camp”
While there are some types of exercise that exacerbate back pain, certain strength training exercises can improve back pain. Dr. James Rainville at Boston's New England Baptist Hospital has found evidence showing that chronic back pain responds very well to targeted exercise.
- What you will pay: It varies. If your insurance covers physical therapy, check with your doctor to get a prescription for back pain therapy.
- Where to take classes: You can learn basic back pain exercises online for free through the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. If you have a gym membership, find out if it includes a session with a fitness expert who can teach you back-strengthening exercises.