A pain in your back? Back pain is considered chronic if it continues for 12 weeks or more after the initial injury or cause is treated. About 20% of people affected by acute (short-term) back pain develop chronic back pain.
Chronic back pain is not always caused by an easily identified underlying cause and it can continue despite treatment. So, if you have chronic back pain, here are some things you need to know:
What Causes Back Pain?
Back pain can be caused by a variety of factors. These include congenital issues, injuries such as sprains and strains, degenerative problems including spondylosis and arthritis, or a variety of nerve problems.
You are more likely to experience back pain as you get older, and it is also more common if you are unfit, overweight, or work a job that requires a lot of lifting, pushing, or pulling. Back pain can also be genetic. Finally, back pain is sometimes caused by stress, anxiety, and depression.
Acute back pain usually gets better on its own with mild treatments that might include heat and ice, stretching, etc. Chronic back pain is harder to treat.
Do You Need Medication for Back Pain?
Medication is generally of limited use for chronic back pain, although it may sometimes be recommended for the underlying cause. Medication, on the whole, masks symptoms without addressing what is going on with your spine. Pain medication can also cause addiction and withdrawal problems.
What About Bed Rest?
Years ago, doctors did prescribe bed rest for back pain. However, it’s been demonstrated through a variety of studies and the experience of doctors that while vigorous exercise can make back pain worse, so can total rest. Instead, doctors now recommend that you go about your day as close to normal as the pain allows and engage in gentle stretching.
If you have difficulty sleeping, try sleeping on your side with a thicker pillow and a second pillow between your knees. This keeps your spine in a better position and can help reduce back pain.
So, What Should You Do for Back Pain?
If medication and bed rest are less than helpful, what should you do? Here are some things your doctor might recommend:
- Physical therapy to help improve your posture and strengthen your core strength and flexibility. Not only does this relieve back pain, but it helps keep it from coming back. A good physical therapist can also give you tips on how to move without aggravating your symptoms.
- Massage therapy and spinal manipulation can both help ease pain. The latter can also help restore your range of motion by addressing structural problems with your spine.
- Nerve stimulation. This generally takes two forms. Acupuncture is a form of nerve stimulation and has been demonstrated to work for back pain. A more high tech option is the use of a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit, which blocks incoming pain signals. This helps relieve pain without the side effects of medication.
- Therapy. As one of the common causes of chronic back pain is anxiety and depression, talk therapy can help. A good therapist can also help you deal with issues related to the pain or help you stop avoiding exercise.
- Yoga. Yoga can help with core strength and stretches. However, tell your instructor about your back pain so that she can adjust and modify poses if they start to make things worse.
If you have chronic back pain you don’t have to load up on pills or take to your bed. We can help you manage your back pain with hands on therapy and physical therapy to keep it from coming back in the future.