If you’re going away on a vacation this month or even just staying close to home and relaxing, the change in routine might make you more aware of that back pain that’s been bothering you for a while. But you’ll learn soon enough that you can’t ignore the problem until it goes away.
Chronic back pain lasts three months or longer. It doesn’t have to be consistent discomfort, so if you have pain that comes and goes, it might be a result of the same problem. It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact source of your issues, but chronic back pain is usually related to age or a prior injury.
You want to be careful not to make any decisions on treatment until you have clearly identified the origin of your pain. Treating the wrong problem can make the pain the worse. Back surgery, especially, should only be your last resort. It is an extremely serious procedure that can cause more harm than good. Luckily, there are effective nonsurgical treatments for chronic back pain:
Exercise is one of the first treatments you should try under the guidance of your doctor, who will help you develop a tailored regimen to your specific symptoms. Through aerobic and flexibility exercise, you will focus on retraining your posture and strengthening your core. Usually, physical therapy will test the limits of your pain tolerance so that you can make incremental improvement.
To manage the frustration, depression, and other psychological aspects of dealing with chronic pain, your doctor might refer you to a specialist who will recommend relaxation strategies to keep your mind from focusing on the issue. These include meditation, yoga, and tai chi.
Some diets are highly inflammatory—especially those high in trans fats, refined sugars, and processed foods. Consult with your doctor to see if your diet could be contributing to your chronic back pain and how you could change it. Maintaining a healthy weight could also help you feel relief by reducing the pressure on your spine.
Listen to your body and learn to adapt to your circumstances. Take a break when doing yard work or make several trips when carrying groceries. Pay attention to the movements that increase your pain and avoid them if possible. Not only could this help your back feel better, it could also prevent the underlying condition from advancing. If you are a smoker, you have another reason to kick the habit. Nicotine can magnify pain and delay healing.
Interventional Pain Management Techniques
Nerve blocks, epidural steroid injections, nerve ablations, and other types of injection-based procedures provide relief directly to the source of the pain. Since they are usually localized to a specific area of the body, your doctor can also use these treatments to isolate the cause of your discomfort. Depending on the severity of the pain, one injection might be all you need to feel relief, but if necessary, you can repeat treatment every few months. Injections take place around important structures such as nerves, blood vessels, and spinal fluid, so you want to make sure that you work with a trained interventional pain doctor.
Nearly 50 million adults suffer from chronic pain, but you don’t need to give up hope. With the right treatment, you will be able to manage your pain and go back to focusing on the things that make you happy.