How to Handle Chronic Back Pain

man sitting in chair and holding lower back while in pain

According to a recent study, as much as 8 percent of the adult population in the U.S. currently lives with chronic back pain. That’s over 16 million people that wake up each day and have to face the challenge of managing pain. Sadly, almost nothing is more debilitating than living in constant pain.

When pain lasts for longer than a three-month period, it becomes a chronic issue. While pain levels may peak and dip over time, living with a constant form of pain will wear down even the strongest person.

If you’re experiencing chronic back pain, you don’t have to just ”suck it up” and live with it. Here are a few solutions that could help.

What Causes Chronic Back Pain?

Contrary to what most people think, long-term back pain doesn’t automatically come with age. While it’s quite common to develop back pain as you grow older, even the young and fit among us live with chronic back pain.

Some of the most common causes across all age groups include:

  • Spinal disc issues — usually a bulging or herniated disc caused by back injury or strain
  • Narrowing of the spinal canal, known as spinal stenosis
  • Arthritis that develops inside the spine, causing the cartilage to thin and become brittle
  • Unexplained pain in the muscles around the spine, known as myofascial pain syndrome
  • Tumors that grow on and around the spine

The longer you leave an issue of the spine unattended, the more likely you are to develop a chronic pain problem. Your first step in banishing long-term pain is seeing the right specialist who can correctly diagnose your issue.

Here are some of the best ways to handle and manage chronic back pain until you find a long-term solution that works for you:

1. Regular Physical Therapy

If there is one thing that your spine needs in order to function at its best, it’s regular movement. When you have chronic back pain, you may notice that it becomes worse when you sit or lie still for too long. This is your spine crying out for blood flow.

Regular physical therapy, coupled with specific exercises you can do at home, is key to managing and healing back injuries. It’s actually considered the foundation of treating chronic back pain and is the first form of treatment to prioritize over anything else.

Your physical therapist will brief you on the best stretches, flexibility exercises, core, and aerobic exercises to do in order to strengthen your back. They will also focus on correcting your posture while testing your pain limits during your therapy sessions. All of which helps to heal the issue causing your back pain.

2. Regular Chiropractic Adjustments

If physical therapy is just not cutting it in terms of pain relief, you could also add regular chiropractic treatment to your schedule. Most of the time, chiropractic adjustments focus on correcting misalignment and postural issues, which can exacerbate your pain over time if not attended to.

Chiropractic adjustments also offer instant pain relief once the spine is re-aligned. Overall, this helps to restore your range of motion, which allows you to exercise and practice stretching and flexibility of the spine.

Acupuncture

While receiving chiropractic adjustments, you could also opt for acupuncture treatments. This form of treatment is especially useful in minimizing acute instances of pain. So, if you’re having a day where your back is sore, the relief offered by acupuncture can help you manage.

Regular acupuncture treatments can also help to keep tension at bay, which ultimately reduces your pain levels over the long term.

3. Injection Treatment

When you have identified the source of what’s causing your pain, injection treatment is a very efficient option for pain management. Sometimes, injection treatment can even help you locate the source of the issue by ruling out certain causes if the injections don’t work for you.

Injection treatments range from epidural steroid injections, nerve ablations, and nerve blocks (as the most common options). It’s worth mentioning, however, that injection treatment is not a long-term solution to chronic pain. It’s an effective form of pain relief that’s a temporary solution.

4. Lifestyle Improvements and Modifications

Long-term back pain is a draining condition to live with. That’s why it’s important to adapt your lifestyle and know your limitations while you’re trying to find the best solution to your specific issue.

This means listening to your body carefully and knowing when you cannot do certain activities. This is the best way to safeguard your spine until you find a long-lasting solution and prevent further damage, too.

It also means noting the type of activities and movements that exacerbate your pain and avoiding those where you can. Again, this will help to protect your spine.

Other important lifestyle changes also include cutting back on smoking and alcohol consumption or giving up altogether. Nicotine and alcohol are key catalysts in delaying healing and worsening instances of pain. You might also need to look at your diet and the inflammatory foods that you consume.

Inflammation is an unnecessary evil inside your body which can worsen your pain or even contribute to it. Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle can also help you maintain a healthy weight, which is always good for your spine.

5. Medication Treatment

There is, of course, the pharmaceutical option with the management of chronic back pain. However, this is not a long-term solution. This includes a range of medications, such as analgesics, muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory medication, and opioids.

However, opioids are never the best option for pain management, especially as a first option or long-term solution. This is because of the highly addictive nature of opioid-based painkillers. Sometimes opioids can be useful when dealing with extreme pain. But they’re only prescribed as a temporary form of relief, for a short period, after an extensive examination of your condition.

When Is Surgery for Back Pain Necessary?

Sometimes, surgery might become a necessity in order to find a long-term solution. However, an orthopedic specialist is likely to try all the above options first.

Surgery becomes necessary when any of these red flags present themselves:

  • Muscle weakness or numbness in your limbs
  • Issues with balance and gait
  • Bladder or bowel issues that are new or progressive

If you’ve tried all the above options to help solve your back injury and you still have chronic pain, it’s time to speak with a spine surgeon. They can do all the imaging to help you find the root of the issue and suggest the best and most non-invasive surgical option for you.

Say Goodbye to Your Chronic Back Pain

If you’re tired of living with chronic back pain, New York City Spine is here to help you find the permanent solution you need.

Whether you’re looking for non-invasive treatment options or specialist spine surgery, we are here to help you find the relief you deserve. Get in touch with our team and we’ll put together the right treatment plan to suit you.

At New York City Spine Surgery, our standard for excellent care means treating you as a whole person, and not just another spine disorder on a chart.

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