Back pain is considered chronic if it lasts three months or longer.
It can come and go, often bringing temporary relief, followed by frustration.
Dealing with chronic back pain can be especially trying if you don’t know the cause.
Common Causes of Chronic Back Pain
Chronic back pain is usually age-related, but can also result from a prior injury. The most common causes include:
1. Arthritis of the spine —the gradual thinning of the cartilage inside the spine
2. Spinal stenosis —narrowing of the spinal canal that may lead to nerve pain
3. Disc problems, such as a herniated or bulging disc
4. Myofascial pain syndrome—unexplained muscle pain and tenderness
In some cases, it’s difficult to pinpoint the cause of chronic back pain.
Seek second opinion
If your doctor has exhausted all diagnostic options, it’s time to seek a second opinion from a back pain specialist.
It’s important not to make rushed decisions or undergo extensive medical procedures until the origin of the pain is found.
Not only may they not help; they could make the pain worse.
If the source of the pain is not known or can’t be treated, your best option may be to work with your doctor on reducing the flare-ups and making the pain manageable with nonsurgical treatments.
Here are 5 nonsurgical treatments to relief chronic back pain.
1. Physical Therapy
Exercise is the foundation of chronic back pain treatment. It’s one of the first treatments you should try under the guidance of your physician and spine physical therapist.
However, the same set of exercises doesn’t work for everyone.
The exercises have to be tailored to your specific symptoms and condition. Maintaining the exercise routine at home is also a big part of success.
Physical therapy for chronic back pain may include:
- Retraining your posture
- Testing the limits of pain tolerance
- Stretching and flexibility exercises
- Aerobic exercises
- Core strengthening
2. Mindfulness and Meditation
Chronic back pain is straining both physically and emotionally.
To manage the frustration, irritability, depression and other psychological aspects of dealing with chronic pain, you may get referred to a rehabilitation psychologist.
This specialist may recommend meditation, yoga, tai chi and other cognitive and relaxation strategies to keep your mind from focusing on pain.
Some diets are highly inflammatory, especially those high in trans fats, refined sugars and processed foods.
Consult with your doctor to see if your diet could be contributing to your chronic back pain and how you could change it.
Maintaining a healthy weight could also help lessen your back pain by reducing the pressure on your spine.
4. Modify Your Lifestyle
When you have chronic pain, it’s important to accept your limitations and adapt.
Listen to your body and learn to pace yourself. Take a break when mowing the lawn, or make several trips when carrying groceries.
Take note of the activities that worsen your pain and avoid them if possible. Not only could this help your back feel better, it could also prevent the underlying condition from advancing.
Another important lifestyle change to try is giving up smoking. Nicotine is scientifically known to accentuate pain and delay healing.
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