When the Pain Won't Stop

If your back pain or neck pain has persisted despite a variety of treatments, and maybe even after spine surgery, you may feel frustrated and miserable. Pain can be exhausting and cruel, making it hard for you to function or enjoy even the simplest of life's offerings.

Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection Video Chronic benign pain has several treatment options, including injections, such as steroid epidurals.
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This post is about chronic benign pain, which must be distinguished from chronic pain due to other, clearly identifiable physical pathologies (e.g. cancer, severe degenerative diseases, etc.). To help you better understand how chronic benign pain works, and the available treatment approaches, here are a several important pointers.

All pain is real

People with chronic back pain or neck pain are often treated as if their pain is either completely fabricated or greatly exaggerated. Friends, family, and co-workers may have a hard time believing you are in pain, since to them you look fine on the outside. Even doctors may make patients feel that the pain is all in their head. This is due to the fact that, in many cases, the physician cannot find an anatomical reason that explains this type of chronic pain. Ironically, chronic benign pain is probably among the most common of the chronic pain types.

Fortunately, the medical community is now starting to establish and accept that pain is a personal experience and cannot be always be diagnosed like other medical problems (such as a broken bone that can be diagnosed by an X-ray).

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The pain itself needs to be treated

Many patients with no clear anatomical reason for their back pain have been told that there are no more treatment options and they need to "live with it." Other patients find that even after the original injury is treated, they are still in pain.

Fortunately, there is an emerging acceptance among the medical community that if pain is not stemming from an clearly established injury or disease, then the pain itself is the primary pathology and deserves to be the focus of treatment.

Pain is a unique and personal experience

Everyone experiences and expresses pain differently. Two people with the exact same injury will feel and show their back pain in unique ways depending on a number of factors. The newest theories of pain can now explain, on a physiological level, how and why people experience pain differently.

Chronic pain is different than acute pain

Chronic non-cancer pain does not serve a biologic or protective function like acute pain does.

With acute pain, the severity of pain directly correlates to the amount of damage, thus providing you with a protective reflex (e.g. to immediately remove your hand if you touch a hot iron). Acute pain is a symptom of injured or diseased tissue, and after the underlying injury is healed then your pain goes away.

With chronic pain (also called "chronic benign pain" or "chronic non-cancer pain" as mentioned previously), the pain does not serve a protective or other biological function. Instead, even though there is no tissue damage, the nerves just continue to send pain signals to your brain.

As back pain or neck pain moves from the acute phase to the chronic stage, factors other than tissue damage and injury come more into play. These include such things as ongoing pain signals in the nervous system even though there is no tissue damage, as well as thoughts and emotions related to the pain.

Multiple treatment options are available for spine pain

The first step to treating your chronic non-cancer pain is to find a great physician with special skill in this area. Talk to your family and friends, and conduct research on the Internet to find a doctor who has helped other people in a situation similar to yours. The great news is that there are many treatment options to help you with your pain. As you search for what works for you, keep in mind that you may have to try several different treatments. The frustrating fact with chronic back and neck pain is that what works for some people won’t work for others.

We’ve covered almost every treatment option available in our site to treat acute or ongoing back pain or neck pain. Take the time to research all your options:

And don’t forget to find support from other people who know what you are going through, such as on our Spine-health forums. Finding relief from chronic back pain is often a process of trial and error, and it may take an enduring effort to find the best approach or approaches to adequately manage your pain so you can get back to enjoying life.

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Dr. Wiliam Deardorff, Psychologist, Beverly Hills, CA, 90212