Mild to moderate back pain caused by an injury or overexertion is one of the most common physical ailments affecting virtually all adults at some point in their lives. It occurs and then dissipates over time, either with rest or treatment, and one’s life goes on.
It’s chronic back pain – the kind that lasts for months or longer – that’s a real problem. Not only is it frustrating to deal with persistent discomfort, but it can also make it difficult to perform the simplest daily activities or simply enjoy your life.
Usually age-related, chronic back pain can also be the result of a prior injury. Common causes include:
- Arthritis of the spine –the gradual weakening of the cartilage inside the spine
- Spinal stenosis –the narrowing of the spinal canal resulting in nerve pain
- A herniated or bulging disc– a problem with one of the rubbery cushions that sit between the bones (vertebrae) that make up the spine
- Myofascial pain syndrome–pressure on sensitive points in muscles
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent, relieve, and/or treat back pain depending on the severity of your condition with the help of a qualified specialist.
Preventing Back Pain
Most often, back pain is the result of improper posture or doing an everyday activity incorrectly. A few examples include twisting to reach for something, lifting a heavy object without bending your knees, and sitting at a desk in the same position for hours. If that’s the cause of your back pain, you just need to make a few adjustments to help prevent injury.
Effective back pain prevention tips include the following:
- Exercise regularly to stretch, loosen, and strengthen your back muscles.
- Eat well. Maintaining a healthy weight puts less stress on the body. Sticking to a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, dairy products, and whole grains will also benefit your digestive tract, preventing irritable bowel syndrome that often contributes to low back pain.
- Sleep sideways to reduce stress on your back.
- Maintain proper posture. Refrain from slouching when sitting and make use of an ergonomically correct workstation, especially when spending prolonged periods of time in front of a computer.
- Reduce stress. Anxiety causes you to tense your muscles, which can lead to back pain. Try stress reduction activities such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or tai chi.
- Stop smoking. Not only can smoking lead to heart disease and cancer, but it can also cause persistent back pain by narrowing your blood vessels, which then allows less oxygen and nutrients to reach your spine, making it more susceptible to injury.
Nonsurgical Treatments for Chronic Back Pain
Many of the above methods – such as diet and exercise, stress reduction, and lifestyle modifications – are helpful in preventing and treating existing chronic back pain. Other, more aggressive nonsurgical treatments include:
- Physical therapy under the guidance of your physician and a physical therapist with exercises tailored to your specific symptoms and condition. These may include stretching and flexibility exercises, aerobic exercises, and core strengthening.
- Injection-based treatments include nerve blocks, epidural steroid injections, nerve ablations, and other types of procedures designed to stop or lessen pain for a certain period of time.
- Pharmacologic treatments. These include analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, and other medications that help control chronic back pain. However, they are not intended for long-term use as many of these pharmaceuticals come with unwanted side effects and can be addictive.
- Alternative treatments. These include acupuncture, biofeedback therapy, electric nerve stimulation, laser therapy, massage, and other nonsurgical spine treatments for chronic back pain. Speak with your spine specialist about any alternative treatments that might benefit you.
Back Pain Doctor in Watertown, New York
If you are suffering from back pain, the board-certified orthopedic surgeons at North Country Orthopaedic Group in Watertown, New York, can provide you with a thorough evaluation and an effective custom treatment plan. Ours is a multi-specialty practice devoted to improving musculoskeletal health and offering the most advanced non-surgical and surgical services to provide comprehensive orthopedic care.