Identifying and Eliminating Chronic Back Pain
The statistics are staggering. About 80–90% of us experience lower back pain at some point in our lives. Many people with chronic lower back pain are working, and lose productivity on the job as a direct result. In fact, it is estimated by national statistics that back pain costs in the USA roughly $100 billion $ a year in lost earnings. Lower back pain is the number one cause of visits to physicians.
Types of Back Pain
The most common types of back pain are:
Lumbar, or lower back pain, is typically located at and above the waist in the middle of the back or spine. The pain can be directly linked to prolonged
stretches or sitting, standing, or lifting.
Sciatica is a sharp, stabbing pain that starts in the buttock and goes down the leg. It can often include numbness, a sensations of “pins and needles”, and/or weakness of the leg. Sciatica is known to be one of the most common forms of pain caused by compression of the spinal nerves. The leg pain often feels much worse than the back pain. It is important to note that sciatica is actually a symptom and not a diagnosis. While the most common cause of sciatica is a herniated (or “slipped”) disc, many other conditions can cause this kind of pain.
Relieving the Pain
If you or a loved one suffers chronic back pain, there are options to relieve the pain in the form of:
- New technology
- Surgical options
The first and best step for anyone with back pain is to establish an accurate medical history and determine what factors may have been, or still are, contributing to the pain. If you have experienced persistent back pain for more than two months, ask your primary care physician if it’s time for you to see a spine specialist.
When Should I See a Doctor for Pain?
Most of the time it is not necessary to see a doctor if you have back pain because the pain in most cases goes away with or even without treatment. However, seeing your doctor is probably a good idea if you have numbness or tingling, if your pain is severe and doesn’t improve with medications and rest. You should definitely visit your doctor when you have pain after a fall or an injury. It is also important to see your doctor if you have pain along and one of the following problems: weakness, pain, or numbness in your legs; trouble urinating, fever or unintentional weight loss. These symptoms can signal a serious problem that needs treatment as soon as possible.
Visiting a Spine Specialist
Through careful evaluation and diagnostic tests, a spine specialist can determine the correct method of treatment including:
- Pain management
- Physical rehabilitation
- Surgical options:
- Implanting hardware
- Bone graft
- Removing herniated discs
- Relieving compression on spinal nerves
Today, many surgical spine procedures can be performed as a minimally invasive surgery, resulting in reduced pain and a quicker recovery. These procedures allow the surgeon to accomplish the same goals but are done through very small cuts in the skin, sometimes as small as ¾ of an inch, and cause much less injury to the back muscles. Many of these surgeries can now be done as outpatients, allowing the patient to return home the same day as their operation.
Don’t Delay Treatment
Regardless of what type of back pain you suffer from, one aspect remains constant: If untreated, chronic aches and back pain can continue to follow you throughout your life. If mundane household chores or tasks at work lead to recurring pain on a daily basis, it’s important for you to know that options are available.
The vast majority of lower back pain conditions will get better with time and can be addressed with conservative treatments. However, it is important to note that there are some diagnoses that indicate the need for surgery to enable relief from pain and better enjoyment of day-to-day activities.
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