Strategies for Managing Chronic Neck and Back Pain

Living with chronic pain can affect every aspect of your life. Chronic pain can keep you from participating in your favorite activities, socializing with friends or traveling. Chronic pain also can severely affect your mood. Many people living with chronic pain experience anxiety, depression, loneliness and a feeling of hopelessness.

A good coping strategy is essential for people living with chronic pain. Since pain is completely internal and subjective, only the person experiencing it can determine its severity. Conversely, only that person can work to control their pain. The good news is that if you have chronic neck and back pain due to pinched nerves, ruptured discs, sciatica, foraminal stenosis or another spinal condition, there are a number of nonsurgical pain management strategies available to help.

Pain control techniques

Some techniques available to help control chronic back pain are:

  • Drug therapy is often the first method of pain management prescribed. Drug therapy may incorporate anti-depressant medications, anti-inflammatory medications, steroid shots into the spine and other medications.
  • Physical therapy seeks to address body mechanics to alleviate pain. Physical therapy can incorporate activities such as posture analysis and correction, traction, aquatic therapy and exercises designed to strengthen muscles and increase mobility.
  • Massage therapy is a hands-on mode of treatment, using coordinated stimulation of muscles and joints by a trained therapist. Massage therapy is used throughout the world to relieve pain, improve circulation and improve mood.
  • Other alternative therapies have been developed outside of traditional Western medicine. Alternative therapies may have their roots in folk medicine, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), or experimental medicine. Some examples of alternative therapies are acupuncture, biofeedback, herbal medicine, hypnosis and meditation.

Other components of pain management

Obviously, most pain management techniques involve acting on the physical body itself to try to relax muscles, desensitize nerves and stop the pain. However, mental processes and emotions play an important role in pain management as well.

A primary mental strategy for coping with chronic pain is distraction. When you focus on pain, your perception of the pain’s severity tends to be magnified. People with chronic pain are often encouraged to focus on activities, people and other external stimuli as much as possible.

Dissociation is an emotional tool to combat chronic pain. Patients may be encouraged to try to separate themselves from the pain as much as possible by imagining that it belongs to someone else, or that the pain is unimportant.

Chronic pain can be extremely taxing. Mental and emotional coping strategies are important to keep depression at bay and give the patient the will to continue with their treatment plan.

If you have chronic neck or back pain resulting from prolapsed discs, spinal stenosis, failed back surgery syndrome or another spinal condition, contact Laser Spine Institute for information on how our minimally invasive procedures may help you recover your health without undergoing open spinal surgery.