Back pain is incredibly common for adults – in fact, nearly 65 million Americans suffer from some sort of back pain. Back pain can range in severity, from a minor discomfort to a debilitating ache; regardless of its intensity, it can take a toll on your quality of life.
If you or a loved one have been experiencing back pain for a long period of time, you may have chronic back pain. Get answers to common questions about chronic back pain so that you can find relief.
What Is Chronic Back Pain?
If you’ve experienced back pain that persists for more than 12 weeks, then you may have chronic back pain. This is different from acute back pain, which is short-term and usually resolves itself with at-home treatments such as rest or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, like ibuprofen.
Chronic back pain can occur in any part of the back, including the neck. This pain can be concentrated in one spot or spread out over several areas.
What Causes Chronic Back Pain?
There are many different reasons you may be experiencing chronic back pain, but it’s typically caused by a combination of factors over time.
- Aging of bones and muscles
- Bad posture
- Previous back injuries, compression fractures or surgery
- Excessive stress to the back, neck and shoulders from high-impact exercise, sports or your job
- Health conditions such as osteoporosis, degenerative disc disease and arthritis
- Injuries from a traumatic incident, like a fall or car accident
Discuss your general health status and history with your healthcare provider in order to pinpoint the cause of your chronic back pain.
What Are the Symptoms of Chronic Back Pain?
The symptoms and severity of chronic back pain can be different for everyone. It might feel mild, like a dull ache, an intense, stabbing pain or somewhere in between. Your pain may occur in the upper, middle or lower back, or in some cases, multiple areas.
Other common chronic back pain symptoms include:
- Stiffness in the back, neck or shoulders
- Soreness of the spine or surrounding muscles
- Decreased movement
- Inability to stand straight
- Weakness or pain in the hips, legs or feet
There are some symptoms of back pain, such as tingling, numbness, incontinence or fever, that may indicate a more serious health problem. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
How Do You Treat Chronic Back Pain?
There are many ways to relieve chronic back pain, and these treatments depend on your health status and the severity of your pain. Some of these treatments can be done in the comfort of your home, and others with the help of a specialist.
Before resorting to surgery or prescribed treatments, your doctor will likely recommend at-home treatments for your chronic back, such as:
- Using hot and cold therapy with ice packs, heating pads or a combination of both to soothe the pain, increase blood flow and promote healing
- Stress reduction through mindfulness and meditation
- Dietary changes
- Posture modifications, especially when looking at your phone or computer
- Decreasing high-impact activities that put a strain on your back
- Certain types of physical activity
- Getting enough sleep
If mild, at-home treatments don’t help you find relief, your doctor may recommend other medical interventions. Here are some treatments that you can discuss with your doctor:
- Chiropractic care
- Epidural steroid injections
- Prescription pain medication, anti-inflammatory drugs or muscle relaxants
- Physical therapy
- Massage therapy
- Different spinal surgeries, which will vary depending on the cause of your chronic back pain
Living With Chronic Back Pain
While you are living with chronic back pain and exploring your treatment options, consider making some lifestyle changes to find relief.
If you have chronic back pain you may notice that it’s negatively impacted your sleep. Your nights may be full of tossing, turning and struggling to fall asleep. You may have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning because of the pain.
Consider modifying your sleeping position to help relieve your pain so that you can get a good night’s sleep. You also want to invest in a firm, supportive pillow to promote proper spinal alignment. Read our article about sleeping with lower back pain to learn more about optimal sleeping posture.
What to Avoid
It’s also important to know what not to do with chronic back pain and adjust your lifestyle accordingly. Avoid intense work or exercise that involves bending, weightlifting or squatting. On the opposite end of the spectrum, don’t sit for long periods of time, as this can cause tension and tightness in your spine and back muscles. Finally, refrain from smoking, as it has been linked to increased back pain in several studies.
When To Seek Medical Help for Chronic Back Pain
It’s time to put your health and well-being first. If you’re living with chronic back pain, consult with a spinal specialist. They will help you find solutions tailored to your unique needs that can help reduce your symptoms and, in turn, improve your quality of life.
At Citrus Spine Institute, we want to help you find the best treatment for your chronic back pain. Our experts are committed to helping you receive high-quality, personalized care in a comfortable environment.
To schedule a consultation at our office in Crystal River, contact us today.