Managing Chronic Low Back Pain
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
Most people suffer from low back pain at some point. It is one of the most common reason for visits to the doctor, pain medicine, and surgery. Most people will get better on their own in a few days or weeks. However, others may have chronic pain (longer than 12 weeks). And this pain can have a big impact on their day to day life.
How Back Pain Happens
The back is a strong column of bones, nerves, ligaments, and muscles. Gel like discs sit between the bones to provide a cushion to the bones and nerves. The back lets you do a wide range of movements and keep you upright. Unfortunately, if any part of this system is damaged it can make even basic movements very painful. Strains and sprains to the muscles or ligaments can lead to muscle spasms. The nerves can become pinched or irritated and cause shooting, burning, or tingling pain.
Chronic back pain is often due to a gradual wear and tear on the back. Some of these changes are due to aging. Other are created or made worse by repeated stress or strain on the back. Excess strain can be caused by:
Medical conditions that may lead to chronic back pain include:
Many times, there is no clear cause of low back pain.
Pain can be very limiting. To help manage pain your doctor may recommend:
Back pain can make day to day life difficult. The following may help you develop skills to help you manage the changes:
The following may also help prevent or slow future damage:
These therapies may give you some relief. They should be used along with standard medical treatment.
Here are some alternative therapies that may treat chronic low back pain:
Steps to Manage Chronic Pain
If you have chronic pain, keep in mind:
Think about going to a doctor who specializes in physical medicine or chronic low back pain. These doctors may have more options for you.
American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
American Society of Exercise Physiologists
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology
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Last reviewed August 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardMichael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 4/20/2018
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