Managing Back Pain

Millions of Americans experience excruciating and possibly debilitating back pain every day, which makes the condition one of the most prevalent and vexing. If your back aches, no one realizes or suffers like you do. People may look fine, but inside they are hurting, and hurting badly. It is unfortunate, but many people experiencing back pain simply acquiesce and become accustomed to living with the pain because they are not informed of their options.

Back pain can manifest itself in myriad and insidious ways. It can be as simple as a nagging tightness or as serious as forcing the sufferer to walk bent over, unable to engage is normal functions like being able to tie shoelaces.

No one should have to endure such pain. But what are the causes of back pain and what treatment options are available?

Back pain can result from several causes. Mechanical problems arise, usually with age, when the disks that form cushions between the vertebrae in the spine wear down over time, deteriorate and basically rub against each other causing pain. Injuries from ill-advised or sudden twisting or the improper lifting of heavy objects can cause painful sprains and even fractures. A number of diseases, such as arthritis, scoliosis, kidney stones and others, as well as pregnancy, also can contribute to and cause painful episodes. Infections, tumors and excessive weight gain have also been known to cause back discomfort.

In addition, it is important to realize that emotional stress can cause back muscles to become tense and painful. Other non-medical contributing factors include depression, anxiety and insomnia. What’s more, discomfort from back pain can impede the rehabilitation process when sufferers are emotionally distracted, and/or unable to exercise.

Some treatments or pain medications are capable of alleviating back pain without further intervention. At times, doctors will employ other treatments to address the underlying source of the pain. A good pain management specialist is capable or relieving or reducing a patient’s level of pain and assisting the patient to deal with the primary cause.

Pain management relies on several techniques. These include physical therapy and exercise, with an emphasis on stretching and increasing a patient’s flexibility, and pain medications. It also utilizes other therapies, including ice and heat application and massage.

Bracing is another technique that can help those who suffer from chronic back pain. A lumbar brace addresses low back pain and instability of the lumbar spine; a lumbar corset or brace compresses the abdominal cavity, which can offer some pain relief; rigid braces relieve pain and compensate for muscle weakness. This allows for healing.

If pain medication, physical therapy and other treatments fail to alleviate back pain, or as an adjunct, patients and their doctors are likely to then consider other options, like a epidural injection of steroids.

Any approach to the treatment for back pain should be highly individualized because every patient’s background, health and level of activity is different.

Contact the Center for Musculoskeletal Disorders for an appointment. Our expert, Dr. Steven Horowitz, is available to help solve your back problems.

The final option, surgery, should only be considered in consultation with your physician if more conservative approaches fail to relieve back pain. It can make sense to consider back surgery if your pain is not relieved by non-surgical treatment and fails to respond to medication. Some forms of surgery are minimally invasive (like treatment for a herniated disk) and enable relatively quick recoveries. Other types of surgery (like a spinal fusion) are more complex and still hold out the prospect, in the end, of not relieving your pain.