If you've suffered from back pain for three months or longer, your condition could be chronic. Chronic, or long-term, back pain doesn't respond well to over-the-counter medications. If the pain does go away, it returns later on. In many cases, long-term back pain can become worse over time, especially if you have an injury or condition that affects the bones, discs, and muscles in your back. Here are some possible causes and treatments for your chronic back pain.
What Causes Chronic Back Pain?
There are different types of back pain, including acute and chronic. Acute pain occurs suddenly or without notice. The pain usually goes away with OTC pain medication, muscle rub, and some bedrest. However, chronic back pain lasts several months and usually takes longer to self-treat. Long-term pain can also be debilitating to those it affects.
A number of things trigger chronic back pain, including repetitive movements, heavy lifting, and soft-tissue trauma. Osteoarthritis, bulging discs, bone fractures, and other conditions that affect your spine may also cause long-term back pain. Problems of the spine aren't easily treated at home with traditional medications. If the problems persist, they can spread to your buttocks, hips, thighs, and knees over time.
Chronic back pain can make it difficult to sleep comfortably at night. If you lose too much sleep from your pain, it can carry over into your waking hours. A lack of rest can be dangerous if you work with complex machines, drive on the road for long hours, or care for small children.
Your back pain won't subside without the appropriate diagnosis and medical attention.
How Do You Treat Long-Term Back Pain?
To diagnose your condition properly, see a chiropractor or another medical professional for an exam. A professional will generally take X-rays or CT scans of your back to help diagnose the cause of your pain. The diagnostic scans can reveal areas of inflammation in your back as well as bone fractures and torn tissues.
A specialist may use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) during your exam. This type of diagnostic testing may reveal hidden problems in your spine, including infection and nerve damage. If the nerves in your spine are infected or damaged, they can eventually interfere with your ability to walk or move. If you do need a MRI, a doctor will discuss what you might expect to undergo during the test in greater detail during your initial exam.
Your treatment may depend on the cause of your back pain. For instance, if you have a bulging disc in your spine, you may need surgery to repair it. Surgery may also be used to treat compressed nerves and fractured bones. However, the treatment for torn and inflamed muscles may be less evasive. These types of problems may require physical therapy, cold therapy, or another therapeutic treatment that relieves inflammation in the soft and hard tissues.
Once you complete your exams and begin treatment, you can protect your back by getting sufficient sleep at night. If your mattress doesn't support your body frame, protect your spine, or keep your properly aligned at night, replace it. It's important to shop around for the right mattress before you purchase a replacement.
Also, ask a doctor about exercising to strengthen your back. Yoga and other passive exercises may be less stressful on your back than aerobics and lifting weights. If exercise will benefit you or help you recover from your ordeal, a doctor will devise a plan for you.
If you're ready to treat your chronic back pain, contact a chiropractor, back pain specialist, or doctor for an appointment right away.