During the past four years I have worn a flexible back brace for long periods of time. Bracing can be very helpful for acute and chronic conditions to allow the injured tissue to heal and carry less of a weight load. It is also helpful to constrain the joint or tissue to prevent it from doing a motion that would irritate it.
Bracing also helps give a little bit of extra protection for my back to minimize something that would aggravate it. The concept of knee, hip, SI and other joint braces is similar: they provide extra support in hopes of relieving the force on the joint and minimizing the pain emitted by the joint.
One of the major downsides of bracing is it has the potential to weaken the muscles in the area if it is worn for prolonged periods of time. The weakening of muscles can cause a dependence on the brace, which could potentially worsen your condition and symptoms.
The TENS (transmutations electrical nerve stimulation) unit has helped me significantly in the past year with dealing with the pain. TENS units are thought to work by sending electrical stimulating pulses across the surface of the skin and along the nerve strands. These pulses scatter the body’s signal of pain and helps prevent pain signals from reaching the brain.
TENS devices are also thought to stimulate your body to produce higher levels of its own natural painkillers, called endorphins. Although it is a weird concept to “shock” the pain away from our body, it is relatively simple to use.
I personally love the TENS unit because it has no major side effects, can run for hours, is rechargeable, and is very portable. One of the few downsides of TENS units is it can be a little bit expensive, ranging from $100 to $300. I have also heard on occasion that people develop tolerance to the effects of the TENS unit over time.
The idea behind massage is that the rubbing motion helps accelerate healing by bringing nutrients and oxygen to the tissues being massaged. I prefer massage machines, like the shiatsu massage chair for my back, which are an expensive but worthwhile investment.
They are amazing for muscular problems, can run for hours while you sit at a desk, and some come with extra heat as an option. The few downsides of massage machines are that they can run your skin raw if used for too long and they have limited efficacy for deep joint issues.
These are all some of the non-pill helpful products I have learned about and used over the years. One of the valuable lessons I have also learned when it comes to using these products is that what may work for someone might not work for another person. The only way to truly know is by trial and error.
For some people, these remedies are good enough to keep the nagging pain of OA manageable. For others, like me, stronger alternative therapies are needed to keep the pain away.