Back pain is a common ailment and is often the underlying cause of long-term disability. When you start experiencing chronic back pain, finding the true cause and trying different treatment options can help you have a better outcome.
Rule Out Chronic Diseases
Back pain is a vague problem and can be musculoskeletal, neurogenic or referred pain from other organs. Starting with your primary care physician, make sure they have ruled out chronic diseases as the cause of back pain, especially if you have other symptoms. For example, ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of inflammatory arthritis primarily affecting the spine and pelvis.
Since AS is not a well-known medical condition, it is easy to overlook. Make sure your doctor does blood work to check for inflammation. Some blood tests, such as the erythrocyte sedimentation rate or c-reactive protein, can indicate systemic inflammation. Although a positive blood test can occur in many medical conditions, these tests are helpful diagnostic tools.
Try Chiropractic Medicine
A chiropractor can help you uncover the cause of your back pain or find alignment problems that can exacerbate other back ailments. The chiropractor will observe how you walk to find any obvious signs of misalignment. Alignment problems from you neck down to your legs can all have a cascading effect of creating or exacerbating back pain. Chiropractic adjustments typically consist of quick, pushing motions which are used to manipulate the spine into proper alignment.
Some chiropractors also use an adjusting instrument to assist with manipulation. The device creates targeted impulses to specific areas. Use of an adjusting instrument can be helpful if you experience muscle tension during your adjustment, which can impede manipulation. Many chiropractors also include nutritional support and help you develop a dietary plan to improve pain.
Incorporate Physical Therapy
Another non-invasive option to help alleviate back pain is physical therapy (PT). Although PT is often thought of as an option after an injury or surgery, your doctor might prescribe PT for some back-related conditions. The goal is to decrease pain and help improve daily functioning, without exacerbating pain or causing further injury. Your physical therapist will design a program specifically for your needs and capabilities. Many of the exercises will help you improve strength in your muscles, ligaments and tendons, which support your back.
Additionally, your physical therapist may instruct you on ergonomic and daily living tips to improve back pain. For example, if you work in a physically demanding job, your physical therapist may teach you correct movements for lifting and bending. They may also suggest supportive devices, which can offer you more back support and/or prevent certain movements.
Seek A Second Option
You should seek a consultation from both an orthopedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon for severe and/or chronic back pain, since some conditions causing back pain often overlap between the specialties. For example, sacroiliac joint dysfunction is often described as low back or buttocks pain. However, it is often misdiagnosed as a spinal problem and many people have undergone spinal fusion surgery, only to remain in pain. If surgery becomes the only option, look for surgeons who use minimally invasive techniques.
Many surgeons are steering away from traditional surgical techniques in favor of minimally invasive spinal surgeries (MISS) to minimize recovery time and reduce the risk of spinal injury during surgery. Some back pain surgeries, such as spinal fusions and discectomies, can now be performed with smaller incisions. In some instances, lasers are used as part of MISS. The adjunctive use of lasers can reduce bleeding and soft tissue trauma during surgery.
Over-the-counter medications and home care are rarely adequate to manage chronic back pain. Due to the complex nature of back pain, it can take many attempts to find the right underlying cause and establish an effective treatment plan.