When back pain lasts for more than three months, it is considered a chronic condition. This type of chronic discomfort targets the lumbar region, including the back and legs. Back pain can affect people from all stages of life and can severely impact daily activities and quality of life.
Chronic back pain is a condition that affects 8 out of 10 people in the U.S. It can lead to mobility problems, decreased productivity, and sometimes, disability.
Understanding how and why this condition develops, including the available treatments, can help those suffering from chronic back pain better handle their symptoms and seek appropriate professional help.
Treatment options to help alleviate the symptoms of back pain include a comprehensive approach, which may include lifestyle changes and physical therapy, and minimally invasive interventions.
These include treatments like MILD® or Vertifex that significantly reduce the symptoms of chronic back pain without the need for extended recovery periods.
Chronic lower back pain can be caused by multiple factors, including:
- Musculoskeletal issues: Muscle and ligament strains or imbalances could contribute to the development of chronic back pain.
- Nerve compression: When the spinal nerves do not have enough space, they become compressed, leading to pain and discomfort in the lumbar region.
- Disc degeneration: The intervertebral discs can wear down as the spine ages, causing back pain.
- Injuries: Trauma from the workplace or sports injuries could cause severe damage to the spine, leading to long-lasting back pain.
- Other medical conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis, or spinal stenosis could also be the underlying cause of chronic back pain.
Some of the most common symptoms related to chronic lower back pain include:
- Pain and discomfort in the lumbar region, with a persisting and throbbing sensation for over three months
- Stiffness and limited mobility in the spinal area: movements like bending, running, or jumping could cause pain or become impaired due to a reduced range of motion
- Numbness and tingling in the lower back area and legs
- Weakness in the legs can lead to imbalance and coordination problems when walking
To diagnose chronic lower back pain, your healthcare provider may follow these steps:
- Examine your family’s medical history for any signs of genetic predisposition to spinal issues.
- Perform a physical examination of your lower back area and legs.
- Perform imaging studies like X-rays, MRIs, and CTA scans.
- Perform additional diagnostic tests like blood tests or nerve conduction studies.
Some of the best treatments for chronic lower back pain include the following options:
Conservative treatments are non-invasive procedures that use physical therapy or exercises to alleviate pain symptoms. To help reduce discomfort in the lumbar area, your healthcare providers may initially recommend trying treatment options, such as massage therapy, acupuncture, or chiropractic care.
These can be used along with other minimally invasive intervention options or non-opioid medication. Also, various lifestyle changes may significantly reduce pain. This can include performing low-impact exercises, keeping a healthy weight, using ergonomic chairs, and having good posture when sitting down.
Non-opioid medications recommended by your health specialist can help reduce spinal swelling and nerve pressure. These may range from the following options:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Muscle relaxants
Unlike local anesthetics, injections offer longer-lasting relief for patients with chronic back pain. As the medication is injected into the epidural space, it will flow all around your spinal cord, allowing the anesthetic to block pain signals:
- Steroid injections help provide quick inflammation reduction and symptom relief. They target the nerves that send pain signals into the brain, blocking them almost instantly.
- Facet joint injections are targeted into the joints located on the vertebra, which could be causing nerve compression.
Pain management procedures target the nerves that send pain signals into the brain. When combined with physical therapy, this branch of medicine can significantly improve quality of life since no pain will be felt during recovery.
Using procedures that focus on stopping pain signals from reaching the brain, pain management procedures are fast and low-disruption procedures for back pain. These may include:
- Radio Waves usage use radiofrequency stimulation to disrupt the pain nerve signals sent into the brain
- Spinal cord stimulation uses electrical impulses to modify the nerve activity in the spine, stopping pain from being felt
Neuromodulation uses electrical nerve stimulation to help reduce the lumbar stress caused by lower back pain. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), for example, involves the usage of low-voltage electrical currents to disrupt the transmission of pain signals.
On the other hand, peripheral nerve stimulation uses electrical stimulation to target peripheral nerves around the spinal cord.
When patients undergo a minimally invasive intervention, there is no need for complete anesthesia or complex surgical processes, and their recovery process is a lot faster. Some of the best minimally invasive interventions to treat chronic lower back pain include:
- Microdiscectomy: This procedure involves removing a portion of the damaged disc that is causing pressure on the spinal nerves, relieving pressure and alleviating pain.
- Laminectomy: This procedure partially removes the lamina (the arch in the vertebra) to release pressure and reduce pain.
Spinal Diagnostics is proud to be involved in the RESTORE Clinical Trial, a new and ongoing clinical research sponsored by Mainstay Medical. The study aims to prove further the safety and benefit of this exciting new therapy for chronic back pain patients.
You may be a good candidate for this trial if you have chronic back pain without significant radiating leg pain and have never had surgery. Please contact us if you are interested in participating in the trial.