Back pain is more than a minor inconvenience – it’s a medical concern that can disrupt every aspect of your life. When you are walking around with a sore back, you likely find it difficult to participate in some of your normal activities such as sports, work, and household responsibilities. Sometimes, serious back pain can even make it hard to sleep at night.
If your back pain lasts for three months or longer, then it falls in the category of “chronic” pain. Some people have pain that seems to never stop. Other people have flare-ups followed by temporary relief… before the pain sets in again. Even if you notice the pain coming and going, it’s important to talk to a specialist about potential treatment options.
Identifying the Cause of Your Back Pain
The most important thing you can do is identify a specific diagnosis, then the root problem can be corrected.
Some of the most common causes of back pain include:
- Age: Many people find that they experience back pain more frequently when they get older.
- Stenosis: If the spinal canal narrows, then it can increase the risk of nerve pain.
- Cartilage: Arthritis of the spine can cause the cartilage inside the spine to thin gradually.
- Injury: A recent injury can cause immediate, intense pain. Or, you might have chronic pain from an old injury.
- Discs: When a disc is bulging or herniated, it can cause pressure that leads to pain.
- Myofascial Pain: A condition known as “myofascial pain syndrome” can result in unexplained tenderness and muscle pain.
Even when you are working with an experienced back pain specialist, sometimes it can be a challenge to find a specific diagnosis. Pinpointing the cause of the pain can be a complicated process.
When the source of the pain can’t be identified, then your doctor will work with you on making the situation more manageable by reducing your pain and reducing the flareups as much as possible.
Before rushing into a treatment or surgery, it’s important to explore your options and try non-surgical recommendations to see if you can alleviate the pain.
Non Surgical Back Pain Treatments
Here is an overview of the most common non-surgical treatments for chronic back pain:
- Physical Therapy: Exercising and stretching can be helpful for back pain treatment – but only if you are consistent with these practices. Maintaining your recommended exercises at home will determine whether the treatment is successful. Physical therapy can help by strengthening the muscles, improving flexibility, strengthening the core, and retraining your posture.
- Ice and Heat: You might experience immediate relief by applying ice or heat to the affected area of the back. Ice reduces inflammation caused by an injury. Heat can help to relax the muscles and increase blood flow. Start with ice for a few days, then switch to heat.
- Lifestyle: What are the activities in your lifestyle that are contributing to your back pain flare ups? For example, if you find that your back pain is worse after sitting at the computer for work, then you might need to reconsider your ergonomics. Or, take a break when vacuuming or mowing the lawn if you notice that your pain flares during these activities. Pay attention to the activities that happen before your back pain flares, so you can change your habits.
- Sleeping: Did you know that your sleeping position plays a big role in the development of back pain? Sometimes the solution can be as simple as upgrading your old mattress. Also, try sleeping in a different position, with pillows to support the knees so your spine stays in a neutral position.
- Injections: Certain types of medications can be injected into the injured area for treatment. For example, steroid injections or nerve blocks can be used for chronic back pain. They help for a short amount of time but don’t offer a long-term solution.
- Medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription medications can be helpful for pain management. Examples include muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs, or analgesics. Since medications might cause side effects or addiction, it’s not recommended that they are used for an extended period of time.
Should You Talk to a Spine Surgeon about Back Pain?
If you’ve tried the non-invasive treatments listed above without success, then it might be time to talk to a spine surgeon about your treatment options.
Surgery isn’t always the right option for every patient. But you should be open to exploring your options if the pain doesn’t go away.
A spine surgeon will assess your condition, determine the potential cause of the pain, then offer recommendations based on whether you are a good candidate for surgery.
Often, other symptoms corresponding to the back pain could indicate that you need surgery such as:
- Bladder or bowel issues
- Limb weakness
- Balance and gait problems
- Weakening muscles
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities (arms or legs)
- A herniated disc that isn’t improving
Most spine surgeries are treatments for chronic pain issues. But there are circumstances when emergency surgeries are needed because of injury or a sudden onset of symptoms.
Full-Service Back Pain Clinic with Locations in Flower Mound and Denton
Just because you have serious, chronic back pain doesn’t mean that surgery will be required. Surgery is never the only option for treating pain. When you talk to a spine surgeon, the doctor will first talk to you about other less-invasive treatment options before discussing the possibility of back surgery.
When surgery is being considered, you need to evaluate the potential benefits with the possible risks of the treatment. Often, these surgical methods can be helpful in managing chronic pain. But, as with any type of surgery, there are always risks associated with the treatment. Your surgeon will take the time to discuss your individual circumstances and identify the best treatment plan going forward.
If you have back pain that won’t go away, then we invite you to talk to our experienced team for information about treatment options. Orthopedic Associates is here to assist, with a full range of treatment options available through our clinic. Contact us to schedule an exam with a back pain specialist.