If you're suffering from chronic pain, it's likely that you've tried quite a variety of treatment options in search of pain relief. To help you achieve a more manageable pain level, this blog explores a number of options that might apply to your unique back pain experience.
Sleep Problems Can Worsen Pain
The majority of patients with chronic back pain also experience sleep disturbances, which include problems falling asleep and staying asleep. This disrupted sleep or poor quality sleep further exacerbates the pain problem, creating a vicious cycle of sleeping disorders and worsening pain.
As with any symptom of a chronic pain problem, sleep disruptions should be treated in conjunction with the underlying cause of the back pain -- not in isolation from it. There are many behavioral techniques that are quite effective in treating both sleeping problems and chronic back pain.
Depression Often Goes Hand-in-Hand with Chronic Pain
Depending on an individual's chronic pain experience (severity, length of time, functional disruption, etc.), he/she may also experience stress and depression. An emotional reaction to chronic pain, like depression, is not uncommon, but many patients just assume the depression will subside once the pain goes away. The pain may or may not improve as hoped, and other losses like the inability to do favorite activities or financial distress can aggravate depression further.
It is extremely important to talk about depression with your physician, as untreated depression can worsen the pain and slow the healing rate. Learn more about depression and chronic back pain.
Discomfort on the Job Shouldn't Be Ignored
Given the amount of time people spend at work, workplace ergonomics (or lack of) can play a large role in a person's daily pain experience. Those who spend most of their day sitting, especially office workers, can damage spinal structures and develop/worsen an existing back or neck pain problem. Sitting adds pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs, and those who sit for long periods tend to slouch - which overstretches spinal ligaments and further strains the discs. Learn about setting up an office chair and workstation to help prevent back strain.
If your job involves heavy labor or manual material handling (which includes lifting, climbing, pushing, pulling and pivoting), learn about manual material handling techniques that you can use to prevent/reduce pain and injury.
Injections Can Provide Longer-Lasting Pain Relief
Chronic pain patients may shy away from injections as a treatment option due to a fear of needles. However, for patients with pain that is caused by arthritis, stress or injury to a joint, injections may be quite effective in reducing pain - in as little as 10 days - and may only require three procedures a year (in combination with physical therapy).
- For patients with leg, hip, buttock or lower back pain due to the hip joint, a hip joint injection may be appropriate.
- For patients with pain caused by the facet joints in the spine, a facet joint injection in the neck, upper back or lower back may help reduce pain.
You May Be a Candidate for Newer Surgical Techniques
Patients suffering from chronic lower back pain due to disc degeneration (a condition called "degenerative disc disease") may be candidates for newer spinal fusion surgery methods or artificial disc replacement. Modern lumbar fusions can be done from the front (anterior) or using an anterior/posterior approach, rather than from the back, to achieve greater stability than older fusion methods.
In addition, bone graft substitutes are being developed that may cause less trauma to the patient than harvesting bone from the patient's own pelvis to stimulate the fusion site. Read more about lumbar fusion surgery techniques.
A smaller subset of patients may be appropriate for artificial disc replacement, a fairly recently FDA-approved procedure designed to preserve more natural spinal motion than fusion procedures. For more information about this possible treatment for chronic back pain, see lumbar artificial disc surgery.
Chronic pain often severely impacts a patient's quality of life. And that impact isn't just from the pain itself, as aspects like sleep and mental health can also be affected.
All aspects of the chronic pain problem need to be treated in order to most effectively reduce a patient's pain experience. Patients should work in conjunction with their physicians to ensure their chronic pain is treated comprehensively and with the most appropriate current techniques available.
If you're unsure whether your pain is technically "chronic pain", learn about different types of back pain: acute pain, chronic pain, and neuropathic pain.