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.
Every day we witness the impact pain has on our forum members and social media visitors. To help you better understand how pain works, and treatment approaches, here are a few pointers.
All pain is real
People with chronic back pain or neck pain are often treated as if their pain is actually made up or greatly exaggerated. Friends, family, and co-workers may have a hard time believing you are in pain, since you look fine on the outside.
Even doctors may make patients feel that the pain is all in their head, since they can’t find an anatomical reason for the pain.
Fortunately, the medical community is now starting to establish and accept that pain is a personal experience and cannot be diagnosed like other medical problems (such as a broken bone that can be diagnosed by an X-ray).
Pain needs to be treated
Many patients with no apparent anatomical reason for their back pain have been told there are no more treatment options. 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 injury or disease, then the pain itself is the primary pathology.
Pain is a unique, 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 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, 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.
- See also Understanding Low Back Pain.
Multiple treatment options are available for spine pain
The first step to treating your pain is to find a great physician. Talk to your family and friends, and conduct research on the internet to find a doctor who has helped other people in a similar situation to yours. The great news is 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 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 people who know what you are going through, such as on our forums. Finding relief from back pain is often a process of trial and error, and it may take an enduring effort to find the best approach to adequately manage your pain so you can get back to enjoying life.