Skip to main content

Chronic Back Pain - Prevent Back Surgery

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Back Pain


Back Pain Prevention

One of the reasons people over 40 seek medical attention is back or neck pain. If you have back pain or if you have been diagnosed with a back or neck problem, such as spinal stenosis, there may still be ways to avoid back surgery.

Back pain may be caused by arthritis, osteoporosis or a traumatic injury. One of the most simple ways to try to prevent back surgery is doing some easy stretches in the morning. I wish I had tried other pain reduction remedies before having back surgery, because I have had two 8 hour back surgeries without improvement in my pain.

Neck pain may be lessened by stretching your head toward your shoulder, then toward your chest and repeat several times.

By making stretches or simple exercises part of your morning routine, you could find significant relief. Simple leg lifts while tightening your abdominal muscles may be helpful. Another such exercise is explained below.

The Abdominal Contractions

  1. Lie on your back, knees bent with your hands resting at your side
  2. Tighten your abdominal muscles without holding your breath
  3. Then, hold your breath for 5 seconds
  4. Relax your body
  5. Repeat this exercise 10 times

The video below shows some other helpful stretches.

4 Best Lower Back Stretches for Pain

Other Ways to Treat Back and Pain

There are several other ways to treat back health, such as:

  1. Yoga - Limited research shows the benefit
  2. Walk 2-3 times weekly for 20 to 40 minutes
  3. Swimming in a slow, well-controlled manner
  4. Over-the-Counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  5. Spinal manipulation done by a chiropractor or physical therapist
  6. Nonsteroidal prescriptions from your doctor
  7. A back brace my help depending on the location of the back pain
  8. Steroid injections given by a pain management doctor provides some relief
  9. Pain medications that include hydrocodone or oxycodone

Radiofrequency Neurotomy


What is Radiofrequency Neurotomy?

Radiofrequency neurotomy or ablation is used as a treatment for chronic pain that does not respond to any other remedy. Radiofrequency neurotomy actually uses heat that is generated by radio waves. They target specific nerves that cause the pain and turn off the nerve’s ability to send pain signals to the brain. Radiofrequency neurotomy is also called radiofrequency ablation.

Radiofrequency neurotomy is commonly used for neck pain or back pain. It may also be used for knee or hip joint pain. There are several benefits to this procedure.

Some people can avoid surgery using this treatment. It typically gives the patient immediate pain relief lasting for approximately 6-12 months, and in some cases for years. It decreases their need for pain medication and improves function. It allows the patient to return to work or their former activities.

Radiofrequency Neurotomy Procedure Explained

First, the patient must lie facedown on a table. Lidocaine is used to numb an area of the skin near the pain. An intravenous medication will be given for mild to moderate sedation. Then, the thin needles are inserted on each side of the painful area to deliver radio waves to the painful nerves. Image scanning (fluoroscopy) is used by the doctor to check for proper needle placement.

Microelectrodes are inserted through the needles, and the doctor will ask if you feel a tingling sensation. Initially, a small radiofrequency current is passed through the electrode to actually heat your nerve tissue.

The current will briefly recreate the usual pain and cause a muscle twitch. This is to ensure the correct nerves are targeted, then the nerves will be numbed with an anesthetic. A controlled amount of radiofrequency will then be used to heat the tip of the needles to disrupt the pathway from the nerves to the brain.

Cervical Radiofrequency Neurotomy Procedure

Scroll to Continue

Expected Results From this Procedure

Radiofrequency neurotomy procedures work better for some than others, but it is not a permanent fix for either back or neck pain. It is often effective enough to allow you to enter a rehabilitation program. Patients are told to take it easy for the first 24 hours, and someone else should drive them home after the procedure.

Complications are very rare, but some temporary effects may include:

  • Weakness or numbness in your legs
  • Swelling and bruising at the injection site
  • Burning and/or hypersensitivity over the injection site
  • Superficial skin infections over the injection site

If you have any discomfort at the injection site, use an ice pack for relief. Wait 24
hours before bathing. Any soreness will be gone in 1-2 days.

Human Spine


Conditions Causing Chronic Pain

If you have suffered whiplash or another injury this may be a cause of chronic pain. Osteoporosis, arthritis and spinal stenosis are also causes of chronic pain.

In Summary

Radiofrequency neurotomy is not a good option for everyone, but it does reduce chronic pain for many people, sometimes lasting for several months.

It improves function for many people when everything else has failed. The nerves that cause the pain must be targeted for this procedure to work effectively.

This procedure will usually help reduce pain for people with lower back pain and for arthritis in the spine for 12 months or more. Over 70% of patients get substantial relief. This is an excellent remedy to avoid taking opioid medications for pain. I have not had this procedure, but I have 2 friends who experienced relief using this method.



This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on July 10, 2020:

Hi Rajan,

I wrote this article to let people know there are several options for back pain, so surgery is not your first choice.

Thanks so much for your comments.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 10, 2020:

Thanks for the information on Radiofrequency neurotomy and information on treating back pain.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 21, 2020:

Hi Peggy, Back pain is all to common.

I appreciate your comments.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 21, 2020:

Your article is excellent, Pamela. Many people, especially as they age, seem to suffer from back pain due to various causes. Those exercises are good to know. Surgery should always be a last resort.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 07, 2019:

Ann, You are very welcome.

Ann Carr from SW England on October 07, 2019:

Yes, we should have all the information to make a considered decision.

Thank you, Pamela.


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 07, 2019:

Ann, I also had my ovaries removed, but I was on prednisone for a long time. I think that is the bigger problem. I don't know why doctors cannot give you the whole story before a big surgery. It is good to know the good and the bad.

Pain is a problem sometimes and you have to be so careful not to get addicted to anything, but I do manage with my husband's help. I wish you all the best too.

Ann Carr from SW England on October 07, 2019:

Thanks Pamela. There is no evidence of osteoporosis in my family but I found out that having ovaries removed can cause it - the surgeon who did that omitted to tell me about that side effect! However, who knows whether it was that or not? Either way, it's too late now. I'm not suffering and hopefully the medication will keep things on an even keel which it is supposed to do.

I hope your pain is manageable and I wish you all the best.

Hope your week's good too.


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 07, 2019:

Hi Ann, I am glad to hear you take calcium and vitamin D. I think the stretches really according to people I know and my research. I wish I had realized the seriousness of my osteoporosis. The neurosurgeon never mentioned it.

I appreciate your comments. Have a great week Ann.

Ann Carr from SW England on October 07, 2019:

Thank you for this interesting and useful article, Pamela.

I have early stage osteoporosis and have medication for it, including calcium and VitD tablets, but I shall try some of these exercises like the morning ones you suggest. My neck and back sometimes hurt, like a nagging ache or occasionally a stab, so I'll see if they alleviate this.

I've been thinking about Yoga for a while now, so I might investigate attending a local session.

Sorry to hear your surgery didn't make a difference. That must be disheartening.

Thanks again for the education.


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 23, 2019:

Dear Maria, I'm sorry to hear you and your husband both have back issues. In Florida you see a pain doctor for this type of procedure. It sure beats surgery! Thank you for dropping by and commenting. Hugs for you Maria, Pam

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on September 22, 2019:

Dear Pam,

My husband and I have both had our share of neck and back pain - mine is osteoarthritis and his is spinal stenosis.

I will be discussing radiofrequency neurotomy with our MD - it sounds promising.

Hope you are having a peaceful weekend.



Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 19, 2019:

Hi Alysysa, I am sorry to hear you through your back out so young, but on the plus side yu are doing very positive things to prevent any damage or surgury. I appreciate your very helpful comments.

Alyssa from Ohio on September 19, 2019:

This article speaks to my heart! At the ripe old age of 26, I threw my back out for the first time, just cleaning a chair. I was so upset! Icy Hot patches were my saving grace, as we were in the midst of moving, and I had a lot of work to do (painting, moving stuff, etc) in our new house. Since then, I've thrown it out one other time. My daily yoga practice has made all the difference! I also discovered the Feldenkrais Method which has been incredibly helpful in managing flair ups. I'm trying my best to take preventative measures so that surgery never becomes a necessity. The radio frequency neurotomy procedure sounds like a good alternative to surgery. Great article!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 19, 2019:

Hi Patricia, I sure hope some of the suggestions will releave your back pain. It is no fun to live with chronic pain. I have missed you Patricia and I am glad to see you back. Be well! Angels will be sent back to you too.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on September 19, 2019:

Thank you for all of this information, Pam. I had two major injuries to my back ---one when I was 11 and one when I was 34. I was told for the second injury that I could have surgery but the doctor could not assure me that I would not be paralyzed. So obviously I live with the pain and try anything that helps to relieve the pain. No medication is used as it just has never done any good. Now I have a new set of suggestions to try and am thankful. Angels once again are headed your way ps

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 18, 2019:

Hi Linda, I hope your husband can avoid surgery. The stretching might help him. I am glad to hear you are doing well. Protect your bones with the right vitamins and foods with calcium. Thank you for commenting.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on September 17, 2019:

So much information here. Thankfully I've never been plagued with back pain (other than some tightness for a few hours after doing too much in the garden), but my husband is another story. Always having to be careful about turning the wrong way or even sneezing.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 13, 2019:

Hi Liz, I know the exercises are good, and I am glad you found the article helpful. I appreciate your very kind comments.

Liz Westwood from UK on September 13, 2019:

This is a helpful and detailed guide for anyone suffering with back pain. I was recommended a book by my doctor many years ago with exercises in it. If I ever have a problem I quickly search it out to do the exercises.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 13, 2019:

Hi Linda, I am glad you found something new to you in this article. I appreciate your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 13, 2019:

Hi Vivian, That joke is funny but it sure makes a good point. It sounds like you are doing the right thing.

Thank you for your comments Vivian.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 13, 2019:

Hi RTalloni, I am sorry to hear about you recovery room experience. I am glad the kyphoplasty is intact. If I am right I think that procedure is to fix a fracture, so I am sure you had a lot of pain. I think you should be very careful during your PT also.

I wish you a compete recovery, and I appreciate your comments.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 12, 2019:

Radiofrequency neurotomy sounds very interesting. I've never heard of it before and was glad to learn about it. Thanks for sharing the exercises, too.

Vivian Coblentz on September 12, 2019:

Exercising definitely helps. I tend to get an ache in my lower back, but after I walk, it feels better! I always joke that you have to keep moving so rigamortis doesn't set it, LOL!

RTalloni on September 12, 2019:

Thanks for this look at chronic back pain and treatments. After a kyphoplasty last month my lower back was damaged as a result of a nightmare recovery room experience. Tests show the kyphoplasty is intact and no new fractures so I understand it is damaged ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Am hoping to benefit from PT over the next few weeks and then be very careful to continue with regular back exercises.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 12, 2019:

Hi Doris, I an sorry to hear you in such a bad accident. A pain management doctor could do this procedure and maybe some othe specialists as well. I would Google the procedure along with your location and I believe you would find a specialist to do this procedure.

This was new to me as well, but I am going to make an appointment with the doctor my friend went to for this procedure. I wish you the best and I appreciate your comments.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on September 12, 2019:

I'm glad to read about radiofrequency neurotomy and would like to find out more about it. What kind of doctor should one see, a physiatrist or orthopedic specialist, or somebody else? A whiplash injury in 1967 and a spinal injury from a bus rollover I was in in 2006 make my life miserable. Yoga helped me a lot, but I had to stop it because I can't do inversions anymore. Right now swimming is my best option because even walking gives me a headache or backache, or both. Thank you for this informative article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 12, 2019:

Hi Flourish, I hope the stretches and exercise will help you. It is very difficult when the pain gets severe to do anything, but working through the pain is better than opting for surgery.

I trusted the neurosurgeon to tell me the truth as I my back pain had gone on for years before I had surgery, but I don't think he was completely forthright with me. He sure did not tell me I was at a higher risk since I was being treated for osteoporosis.

I wish you the best health Flourish, and your comments are always appreciated.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 12, 2019:

Hi Shaloo, I agree that trainers help teach the yoga moves properly. I hope your back pain stops as it sounds like you may have pulled a muscle. I have found neck stretches to help me and the neck pain has subsided. I appreciate your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 12, 2019:

Hi Linda, I hope the stretches and exercises will work for you. Thank you for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 12, 2019:

Hi Ruby, Your story is so similar to what other people have told me. I am glad that you can maintain without back surgery and I am sorry to hear about your son. Your comments are much appreciated.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 12, 2019:

I used to do workers comp as a part of HR and have seen my share of back cases. Everyone is all too quick to do back surgery or to want back surgery but I would not want someone cutting on that vulnerable part of me unless I had tried everything else first. I’m glad you present alternatives for people to avoid going down that road. I’ve been having trouble with my back lately and will try these.

Shaloo Walia from India on September 12, 2019:

I have been suffering from acute backache since a week. Incidentally it started after my yoga class. Perhaps I pulled a muscle or something while practicing yoga. I suffer from neck pain also from time to time but regular yoga practice has been helpful in reducing neck pain.Yoga can be very helpful but must be done under supervision of trainers.

Linda Chechar from Arizona on September 12, 2019:

Thanks for sharing your informational article. These various stretches and exercises will hopefully reduce my back and hip pain.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on September 12, 2019:

Your article will help many I'm sure. I have had back pain for years, but I've learned how to take of it without surgery. I do the stretches daily. BTW the video was very good, it's important to do the side stretch, that's what helps me the most. My son Jackie had two back surgeries and still had pain. Great info. and well written. Thank you.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 12, 2019:

Hi Chitrangada, You make an excellent point. I think in this age of social media popularity children do not even play outside when they are young. I am glad you are choosing a healthier lifestyle. I always appreciate your kind comments.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 12, 2019:

Great article about back pain and it’s prevention, by means of regular exercises.

As we age, such problems may arise. But, sadly these problems can be seen in much younger people. Bad posture and sedentary lifestyle can lead to such painful conditions and sometimes, due to poor diet or hereditary factors.

I try to keep myself flexible by means of yoga and regular walks.

Your article is full of helpful suggestions and valuable information.

Thanks for sharing and would share with others, who may need it. Thank you.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 12, 2019:

Hi Eric, You are so active and I think it is great that you have no back pain. The fact that you are active probably strengthens your back. I appreciate your comments Eric.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 12, 2019:

Hi Lorna, I am glad to hear you are doing some very positive things to handle your back pain. We just bought a new very good mattress a few months ago and we sure sleep better. I wish you and your family healthy backs! Thanks so much for commenting.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 12, 2019:

Hi Bill, I am glad to hear of a successful back surgery. My father had a successful back surgery also, but I have heard many more bad accounts than positive ones. I was glad to hear from two friends that they had avoided surgery so far using radiofrequency ablation. Thanks for stopping by and commenting my friend.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 12, 2019:

Very interesting. You are full of great information. Just point blank, stretching and no pain. Exercise without and pain.

My modified yoga is a kick.

Lorna Lamon on September 12, 2019:

This is an excellent article Pamela and being tall I have always had back issues. Practicing Yoga for many years has certainly helped to stretch out my muscles and I walk every day. I also invested in a really good mattress which was well worth the money. My sister and brother also suffer back pain so I will pass on this informative article.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 12, 2019:

I had a back operation back in 1989 for a bulging disc....I'm one of the lucky ones, I guess. No problems since then, and the operation ended the worst pain I have ever experienced. It would be interesting if that same thing happened today, if the operation would be necessary. Maybe not!

Related Articles