Back pain can be termed as a chronic condition if it persists for more than three months. The pain and discomfort can be recurring, often with intervals of temporary relief, bringing frustration with the return of the ache. Living with chronic back pain can be very challenging if the cause is undetected and not the result of an apparent injury.
Most of the time, an average human experiences back pain due to sleeping or sitting in a bad posture for a prolonged time, a sudden jerk to the spine while playing a sport or lifting heavy objects, and even due to unexpected shock to the nerves along the spine. The pain caused can vary in intensity, from a dull persistent ache to a very debilitating condition where movement is hindered. These are usually treated easily, but sometimes, people suffer from constant backache that lasts for more than three months, where it can come and go in waves. This article is focused on getting a better understanding of the cause of back pain, the treatments available for you to alleviate such discomfort without surgery, and conditions when surgery becomes necessary to function normally.
What are the Common Reasons for a Chronic Back Pain
Chronic back pain can be related to someone’s age. Still, plenty of youngsters today suffer from it and the result of hectic and sedentary lifestyles, hypermobility, or a prior injury. The most common reasons are:
- Spinal Arthritis, where the cartilage inside the spine thins gradually over time.
- Spinal stenosis, which narrows the spinal canal, leading to nerve pain.
- Problems in the spinal disc such as a bulging or herniated disc.
- Myofascial pain syndrome, where the patient suffers from muscular pain and tenderness without any proper explanation.
In some instances, it’s not easy to find the cause of a person’s chronic back pain. Diagnosis can be a tiresome process where the doctor exhausts all their diagnostic possibilities. If this has happened to you, a visit to a back pain specialist will give you greater clarity into the situation. If you’re intimidated by the prospect of surgery or extensive medical procedures, don’t worry, as these are not required until the root cause of your back pain is detected. Making rushed decisions of surgeries can make the pain worse instead of healing it instead.
Instead, you can try to reduce the occurrence of flare-ups and pain management without surgical treatment.
Non-invasive Treatment Options for Chronic Back Pain
Mobility exercises are the cornerstone of healing chronic back pain. It is one of the first alternatives a patient needs to try under the supervision of a physician and physical therapist. Getting expert help is necessary because the same exercises don’t work for all back pain patients. Depending upon which part of your back hurts, the intensity of your pain, your current strength and mobility and your age, exercises may differ.
Physical therapy for chronic back pain may consist of the following practices:
- Improving your posture (sometimes using a back brace)
- Testing your pain threshold
- Stretching and mobility exercises
- Aerobic exercises
- Core strength improvement
PRacticing Meditation and Mindfulness
Chronic back pain is both physically and emotionally draining. It can be easy to be demotivated, irritated and frustrated, making you prone to depression, anxiety or low self esteem. To help address the psychological side of dealing with chronic pain, getting a rehabilitation psychologist’s appointment would also help, who then may recommend practicing meditation, tai chi, yoga and various relaxation practices to take your focus away from the pain.
Some foods are highly inflammatory in nature, such as trans fats, refined sugar, and processed items. Maintaining a healthy weight can also help alleviate back aches by lessening the pressure on the spine.
When you have chronic pain, it’s essential to come to terms with the limitations and adapt to them accordingly. Listening to your body and taking regular breaks to rest your back between chores is necessary. When pushing your limits can worsen the condition, respecting your boundaries can help reduce the pain. Another significant lifestyle change to try quitting smoking because nicotine is scientifically proven to worsen pain and delay healing.
Injection-based Treatment Options
Epidural steroids, Nerve blocks or ablations and other kinds of injection-based treatments can be administered to reduce chronic back pain. They are prescribed when the origin of the pain is identified and sometimes can assist in ruling out particular causes if the injections don’t work. Injections are temporary relief and not long-term solutions, hence they shouldn’t be depended on.
Other non-surgical treatments like acupuncture, electrical nerve stimulation, biofeedback therapy, back massage, and laser therapy can be of help to reduce chronic back pain.
Anti-inflammatory medicines, analgesics, muscle relaxants and other drugs can assist in controlling chronic back pain. However, they have adverse side effects upon prolonged use. Opioids are highly addictive and must be administered under licensed practitioners, and hence are not the first choice of treatment for chronic pain. Addiction to opioids is a very prominent tragedy experienced by chronic pain patients, as the dose of the medication increases with increasing resistance to the pain. Weaning off such drugs is a challenge and needs to be administered by an expert, hence this course of treatment is temporary and not always advised.
When is Surgery an Available Option for Back Pain?
- Experiencing the following symptoms can be red flags that need surgery if they are affecting your spine condition:
- New or advancing bowel and bladder issues
- Weakness in the limbs
- Gait and balance difficulties
- Evidence of brisk reflexes
Back pain can be a life-altering condition when chronic, which is why it is essential to get the help you need from the right specialists and treatment. Consulting at least two surgeons before opting for surgery is necessary to avoid invasive treatment. However, surgery for chronic back pain is a viable alternative if the cause is confirmed by imaging and ruling out treatments that didn’t help.
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