Dealing With Chronic Back Pain
Most people will experience back pain at some point in life. A patient is diagnosed with chronic back pain when the pain is continuous for 12 weeks or more. Depending on the cause of the pain and the severity, chronic back pain can be managed with conservative or surgical treatment.
Why is my back hurting?
Chronic back pain is usually either due to an old injury or age-related. Some age-related disorders include arthritis, herniated disc, and spinal stenosis. Understanding the root cause of the pain is important so that the proper treatment can be pursued. If back pain does not resolve, a healthcare provider can perform a physical examination and order tests, such as x-rays, to make a diagnosis.
Managing pain conservatively
Chronic back pain can be treated with various non-surgical options such as physical therapy (PT) and laser therapy. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, massage, and acupuncture can also help lessen pain. Not every treatment will work the same way for each patient. Some patients may require combined therapies for better results, while others may not see much pain reduction at all.
A prescription for pain
Medications commonly used to treat chronic back pain include anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics, and muscle relaxants. Some medications are available over-the-counter (OTC), while others require a prescription from a doctor. Steroid injections are another option that can help with pain, but often only provide temporary relief.
Adding lifestyle changes
Stretching exercises and low-impact aerobics can improve chronic back pain for some patients. Making dietary changes such as cutting down on sugary and fatty foods and including healthy nutrients can make a difference. Aiming for a healthy weight is important to prevent unnecessary pressure or stress on the spine. Pay attention to the body and any triggers causing pain, and rest when needed.
When is surgery necessary?
If conservative treatments are unsuccessful, or if the pain is affecting a person’s ability to function on a daily basis, surgery may be necessary. Surgery may also be advised if back pain radiates to the lower limb. Pain traveling to the leg is often due to a pinched nerve related to a herniated disc or osteoarthritis. Some types of back surgery include discectomy, fusion, and laminectomy. The risks and benefits of any procedure and overall outlook should always be discussed with a healthcare provider before scheduling.
Deciding on the right treatment
Many people can manage back pain without surgery. However, in some cases, more invasive techniques may be needed to fix a chronic problem. The healthcare provider will determine if surgery is required based on the patient’s symptoms, physical examination, tests, and response to previous treatments.
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