What is Chronic Back Pain?
Chronic back pain is back pain that has persisted for at least twelve weeks. While acute pain usually occurs suddenly and is caused by a specific event, chronic back pain is usually linked to an underlying condition. This type of back pain can have many causes, ranging from improper healing following an injury to an inflammatory disease. Most commonly, chronic back pain is pain located in the lower back, or the “lumbar” region. Older patients are more susceptible to degenerative diseases, such as Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease, Lumbar Spinal Spinal Stenosis, and Lumbar Spondylosis. These conditions are often the culprit behind chronic back pain.
While there are many causes for chronic back pain, the good news is that modern, interventional pain management offers a variety of back pain treatment options.
How is Chronic Back Pain Treated?
Non-Surgical Back Pain Treatment Options
Many patients begin treating their back pain through self-management techniques, such as physical therapy or prescription medication. However, for more severe pain, patients may respond well to injections to alleviate pain associated with a chronic back condition.
Steroid injections are a common type of non-invasive back pain treatment that involve the treatment of pain with an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid. Unlike systemic oral medications, injections can treat pain directly at the source. For instance, Facet Joint Injections are used to treat the joints on either side of the spinal column, while Lumbar Transforaminal Steroid Injections are used in the epidural region to treat pain radiating from the lower back to the legs. However, it is important to remember that treatment with injections is often temporary in nature, and may need to be repeated for lasting results.
Medial Branch Blocks involve the injection of an anaesthetic solution to “block” pain signals from travelling to the brain. These numbing injections not only provide temporary relief, they can also help pinpoint the source of back pain when used diagnostically. Non-invasive back pain treatment options bring relief to a majority of those suffering from chronic back pain.
Surgical Back Pain Treatment Options
If non-surgical methods of treatment are not enough to resolve your back pain, a surgical option may be necessary. However, many of the newly-developed surgical techniques are designed to make the surgical treatment of back pain easy and minimally-invasive.
Spinal Cord Stimulators are similar to pacemakers and work by delivering small electric pulses that masks pain signals before they reach the brain. These devices are controlled wirelessly via a remote control, allowing the patient to control their level of pain relief as needed.
The Vertiflex Superion Implant is another minimally-invasive treatment for chronic back pain. This implant treats lumbar spinal stenosis by acting as a spacer between vertebrae, relieving pressure on inflamed nerves. The Superion implant is a great alternative to more invasive surgeries, like spinal fusion.
Pain Pumps are a good option for patients who have responded well to pain medications, but require more direct long-term treatment. Pain pumps can constantly deliver medication directly to the source of pain. The pump itself is programmed by the doctor to deliver a set amount of medication based on the patient's specific condition and level of pain.
Radiofrequency Ablation involves the use of heat to disable nerve endings. Hindering the function of the nerve endings is another way of blocking pain signals from reaching the brain. In this procedure, an electrical current is used to burn problematic nerves, preventing them from sending pain signals.
Misconceptions About Back Pain Management
Explore Your Back Pain Treatment Options
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