Options for managing chronic back pain

Chronic back pain is a common issue that affects more than 30 million Americans. It is one of the most frequently cited excuses for missing work, not to mention the second most common reason for doctors’ visits.

Some people can attribute their chronic back pain to a specific cause, such as a car accident or sports injury. Other times, however, the pain is a result of nothing more than the natural aging process. The spine naturally becomes weaker over time. Plus, the cumulative effects of wear-and-tear can make the spine more prone to injury. Herniated discs, arthritis, spinal narrowing and other conditions can develop, sometimes leading to significant discomfort.

How to treat chronic back pain

Many people are able to manage their back pain with physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and hot/cold therapy. When appropriate, lifestyle modifications, such as weight loss and smoking cessation, can produce meaningful improvements as well.

For some patients, physicians also recommend therapeutic injections. Some options include:

  • Facet joint injections
  • Trigger point injections
  • Nerve block injections
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Sacroiliac (SI) joint injections

Additionally, while alternative therapies are generally not recommended as a replacement for traditional treatments, they can provide additional pain-relief benefits as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Examples include chiropractic care, yoga, therapeutic massage, acupuncture and aromatherapy.

Tips for creating a back pain treatment plan

When dealing with chronic back pain — i.e., pain that doesn’t go away on its own after a week or two — it’s best to work with a physician. On the other hand, short-term discomfort caused by straining a muscle or sleeping in an unusual position can usually be managed at home. To pinpoint the cause of persistent pain, a physician can recommend any necessary diagnostic injections and imaging tests and then make individualized treatment recommendations to help you get back to your daily life. Because it may take a bit of trial and error to find a treatment plan that works for you, finding an experienced medical professional to turn to for advice and guidance is likely your best course of action.