At our pain management center, we provide you with access to a top back specialist in the area who can diagnose and treat a wide range of back pain issues. Contact our office today to learn more about how we can help you restore your quality of life and range of motion.
What is chronic back pain?
Most people experience some back pain in their lifetime, and the pain usually improves on its own within three months, depending on the cause. Chronic pain is characterized by pain that lasts longer than three months. There is nothing more discouraging than to realize you may be in pain for the rest of your life, relying on pain medications just to get through the day. Today, there are many treatment options available, but before proper treatment can be initiated, your back specialist must determine what is the source of your pain.
Chronic back pain can be constant, intermittent, or occur only when the body is in certain positions or during certain activities. It can be a dull or sharp pain that remains in one spot or radiates to other parts of the body, including the arms and legs. Other symptoms may include tingling, weakness, or numbness.
Who suffers from chronic back pain?
Anyone of any age can suffer from back pain. Typically, patients from 30 to 60 years of age are more likely to suffer from disc problems such as herniation or degenerative disc disease. However, patients over 60 years are more likely to suffer from joint degeneration caused by osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis.
What are the causes of chronic back pain?
The spine is an intricate combination of bone, cartilage, and nerves that fit together to form a tough, flexible column. It is composed of 33 vertebrae with soft discs of cartilage fitting between them. The discs have a hard outer ring and soft inner ring. Inside the vertebral column is a hollow space through which runs the spinal cord, a column of nerves extending from the brain down through the vertebral column. From the spinal cord, nerves extend throughout the body and its extremities.
Chronic back pain has many causes affecting other areas of the body such as the arms or legs causing pain, tingling, or numbness. The root cause, however, lies within the spine.
A disc protruding between the vertebrae is called a bulging disc and may not cause any pain. If the pressure increases on the bulging disc, it may rupture, or herniate, and the soft inner portion leaks out. Pain occurs when the damaged disc rubs against a nerve and irritates it. The pain may not be felt in the back but elsewhere in the body. An example of this is sciatica, or leg pain. The sciatic nerve is irritated causing pain in the leg.
In the aging process, the discs shrink, become thinner, or develop a small tear resulting in a weaker spine. Spinal stenosis is also part of the aging process and is the narrowing of the spinal column causing pressure on the spinal cord. Stenosis can affect any part of the spine but is more serious in the cervical region. It is very important to get a proper diagnosis from your back specialist.
How is a diagnosis made?
Your back specialist will perform certain tests before a treatment plan is initiated, possibly including spinal x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs. These tests will show the condition of the spine and whether any misalignment, arthritis, stenosis, sciatica, or other problems exist. Your doctor will then recommend a treatment plan for you.
What are some treatment options?
Depending on the condition of your spine, your back specialist may recommend pain medication. You may use over the counter medications including acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and aspirin. However, many of these cause stomach and digestive problems and other side effects if they are taken long term. Your doctor can prescribe other medications that do not affect the stomach as much.
Physical therapy is also an option that your back specialist may recommend. Your therapist will guide you in exercises to build muscle tone, mobility, and overall strength. He will also guide you in your home exercise program.
You and your pain management doctor may decide it is time for surgery if your quality of life is affected. For example, if your pain medication does not work as well or if you cannot perform routine tasks at home or work. In the past, back surgery was extremely serious with a long recuperation and rehabilitation. But, procedures have changed. You could be a candidate for a minimally invasive, out-patient procedure that corrects slipped discs, stenosis, spurs, arthritic problems, and many other spinal problems. It all depends on your condition and what you and your doctor decide is the best option for you.
What can be done to alleviate chronic back pain?
Although each patient is different, here are some common tips for relieving or reducing the back pain that you experience:
- Develop a regular exercise program. Since lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of developing back problems, regular exercise keeps muscles strong.
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Excessive weight puts more stress on all joints, particularly the vertebrae in your back and increases their wear and tear.
- Check your posture. Poor posture, whether walking or sitting at a desk for extended periods of time, causes greater stress on the back.
- Take necessary precautions. Certain occupational hazards such as repetitive bending, lifting, or standing for long periods of time increase the risk of developing back problems. Lifting or bending correctly will prevent many of them.
Don’t continue suffering with chronic back pain. Contact our office today to schedule your first appointment and consultation. You can also feel free to ask us any questions you may have about our diagnostic process or our treatment options. At your first consultation, we will learn about your medical history and current symptoms in order to provide you with a tailored treatment plan.