The goal of chronic back pain management is reduction of symptoms to the level at which they no longer interfere with a patient’s age-appropriate activity level. From a patient’s perspective, learning about and then selecting the proper course of treatment is a difficult task usually requiring the assistance of a medical professional.
In the information culture of today, wise patients educate themselves through Internet searches and talking with others with similar circumstances. If the pain has been ongoing, make a journal detailing the pain. Next, consult a physician. The physician will ask you to describe the nature of your back pain. Use the journal you have created to accurately relate information about your condition. Have you experienced back pain symptoms for more than three bamonths? If so, then you suffer from chronic back pain. Is your pain in the lower (lumbar), middle (thoracic) or upper (cervical) spinal region? Does the pain feel sharp and radiating? Do you experience loss of feeling or loss of motor functions? Which daily activities are hardest for you to perform?
After gathering your history, a physician should perform a thorough examination. You may be sent for imaging tests such as X-rays, a CT scan or an MRI which may reveal the exact location of a herniated disc, bone spur, spinal stenosis or other condition causing the pain. A correct diagnosis is crucial to prescribing an effective treatment.
Once your physician has arrived at a firm diagnosis, he or she can begin discussing treatment options for chronic back pain management. Primary care physicians often refer chronic pain patients to a physician specializing in chronic pain management. Pain management is a relatively new area of medicine that offers patients specialized ways to reduce their discomfort — especially discomfort that has lasted more than a few weeks. Pain management techniques often begin with drug-free, noninvasive techniques, and if those fail to provide relief, patients may progress to more involved back pain treatments like acupuncture, medication, injections and surgery.
Conservative, noninvasive treatment may prove effective. Chronic back pain management may begin in this manner:
- Physical therapy and exercise – mild stretching and muscle-building exercises are aimed at increased mobility and endurance. This often reduces stress in painful spinal regions.
- Spinal adjustments and massage therapy – manipulating painful areas of the spine may help adjust spinal components (vertebrae, discs, muscles, etc.), improve mobility, separate the vertebrae, increase blood flow and reduce pressure on nerves.
- Behavior modification – teaching the patient proper posture, lifting techniques and body mechanics can reduce pain. Patients may also benefit from learning relaxation techniques, meditation, ways to cope, etc.
- Pain and anti-inflammatory medications – over-the-counter or prescription. Possible options include muscle relaxants, narcotic pain medications, oral steroids or acetaminophen.
- Steroid injections – commonly known as an “epidural” because the injection is delivered in the epidural space, a steroid injection can help to temporarily relieve inflammation in the spine. Various steroid preparations are administered.
Finally, after all other treatments have failed, surgery may be suggested. Surgery is the last option because it is the most invasive and carries the most risk. Since the advent of minimally invasive surgical techniques, however, surgery need not be as invasive or risky as the open back surgery of the past. Laser Spine Institute is a leader in minimally invasive endoscopic spinal procedures. Advantages of the procedures at Laser Spine Institute include no hospitalization, reduced anesthesia requirements, minimal scar tissue and expedited recuperation time.
For more information about how our award-winning team of surgeons can help you recover your spinal health, contact us today. Our experts are waiting to talk to you about chronic back pain management. We offer a free review of your MRI or CT scan to determine whether you are a candidate for minimally invasive spinal surgery.