Severe chronic back pain is a serious, recurring condition that threatens to affect or inhibit daily activities; back pain lasting more than three months is considered chronic and may mean that conservative treatment methods have not provided enough pain relief. The spine is an integral part of the body, and it is often forgotten how much overall health depends upon spine health. Severe chronic back pain may be the spine’s way of telling the body that all is not well.
The spine is composed of bony vertebrae, soft intervertebral discs, facet joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. Within the bony vertebral canal lies the spinal cord, the fragile but powerful nerve trunk of the body’s central nervous system. After years and years of activity, however, all parts of the spine can degenerate and become prone to damage. Consider several common conditions that can lead to severe chronic back pain:
- Degenerative disc disease – intervertebral discs disintegrate due to aging
- Spinal arthritis – disease of the joints of the spine, either through inflammation (rheumatoid spinal arthritis) or through degeneration (osteoarthritis)
- Spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal canal resulting in constriction of nerves
These conditions can be linked to the following types of damage:
- Herniated disc – inner-disc substance ruptures into the vertebral canal, leading to impingement of nerves
- Bulging disc – an enlarged, flattened disc impinges on spinal nerves
- Bone spurs – extra bone growths, also called osteophytes, can impinge on nerve tissue
When you talk to your physician, try to describe your back pain symptoms honestly and accurately. Remember to relate the frequency of your pain, its location, what activities make it worse, and what activities you are prevented from doing because of the back pain. Also tell your physician what treatment options you have already tried, such as over-the-counter pain medication, hot and cold packs, or mild massage.
Your physician will likely send you for an MRI or CT scan in order to confirm a diagnosis, and may recommend an amplified treatment routine that involves physical therapy, prescription medications and steroid injections. Unfortunately, these therapies are directed at symptoms rather than the cause of back pain. Therefore, they are often temporary and are not effective for all patients.
Surgery may be necessary to correct the cause of the pain but there is an alternative to open spinal surgery: If your chronic back pain symptoms persist, the award-winning surgeons at Laser Spine Institute may be able to help. Our minimally invasive, endoscopic procedures offer lower risk than open spinal surgery, a shorter convalescent period and high success rates. Contact us today for a free review of your MRI or CT scan.