FAQ’s on Chronic Back Pain
One of the most frequent complaints of the musculoskeletal system is back pain, particularly that of the lower back. Symptoms of pain may resolve within a short time, approximately one month depending on the nature of the injury, some conditions may become chronic. A growing number of people experience a chronic condition that requires back pain treatment and pain management.
There are three categories of back pain conditions, based on the anatomy and physiological function.
These categories include:
- Bony structures
- Vertebral discs (vertebrae)
- Spinal muscles and ligaments
A fourth category may be referred pain that is caused by another area of the body, specifically the organs such as kidneys, spleen or liver. Inflammation, for example, of one of these organs may cause nerves to be activated and pain to travel into the spinal column causing pain in other regions of the back. The person may experience pain in various areas of the back as opposed to the organ itself.
What Causes Chronic Back Pain?
Chronic back pain is defined as pain in the back that has lasted three to six months with little to no relief from symptoms. The pain may be gradual, progressing over time, or become exacerbated with activity and remain for several months. For patients with low back pain, symptoms of pain that travels down one leg – known as sciatica – may also be present.
- Spinal stenosis
- Nerve root compression or irritation
- Poor posture
- Fractures of the vertebrae
- Disc degenerations or disease
- Herniated disc
These are just some of the common causes of chronic back pain, however, there may be other causes that result in back pain that lasts for prolonged periods of time. If you experience chronic back pain or pain that lasts for more than four weeks, it is recommended that you see a medical doctor or pain specialist right away to determine the cause of the pain. If you are having trouble carrying out your normal activities due to back pain, it is recommended that you seek treatment right away. There is no need to wait and suffer through the pain.
How is Chronic Back Pain Diagnosed?
Diagnosing the condition can be challenging and require a variety of examinations and diagnostic testing. Your doctor or pain specialist will conduct a thorough physical examination after acquiring a complete medical history. The physical exam will reveal areas of tenderness with mobility, movement and posture changes.
Radiological imaging may be required to offer a clear view of the spine and determine what is causing the pain. These imaging tests may include x-rays of the spine, CT scan, MRI, or bone scan. In some cases, examination and imaging do not reveal the cause of the pain and it is up to the specialist to design an effective treatment plan based on the symptoms that the patient experiences.
What is the Best Back Pain Treatment?
Back pain treatment depends on a wide variety of factors, such as the nature of the injury, if the pain is acute or chronic, and what is causing the pain. Pain relief may include a variety of treatments that work together to provide favorable results. Some of the most common treatments offered to relieve pain include:
- Pharmacotherapy – the use of medication, such as muscle relaxants and pain relievers to reduce symptoms.
- Steroidal injections – epidural pain injections are used to relieve pain most often associated with degenerative disc disease.
- Physical therapy – helps relieve pain and improve activity levels and mobility
- Acupuncture – used to help release natural hormones in the body that act as pain relievers. Also helps to relieve tension and decrease stress and muscular spasms.
- Massage therapy – helps to relieve muscle spasms and provide pain relief in areas that are affected.
- Chiropractic – targeted adjustments help provide relief and reduce pain in the back.
The treatment depends on the cause of the condition. For chronic pain the above options work in combination with one another to provide relief and allow the patient to carry out a normal quality of life. There is no reason to continue living with chronic back pain when treatment is available.
In the most severe cases of back pain and when conservative treatment has failed, surgical procedures may be conducted. Serious compressions or disc problems may result in the need for surgery. Invasive surgical procedures may include:
Surgery comes with a variety of risks, including the likelihood that pain may not subside. Prolonged recovery periods where pain is present may still require management and treatment for the symptoms.
Early intervention is best and offers a more favorable outcome than allowing the symptoms of pain to carry on for a long duration of time. If you experience chronic back pain or pain that is acute in nature, seek medical attention right away.