Low back pain is one of those physical problems that almost everyone seems to encounter at some point. In fact, your likelihood of experiencing it at least once in your life is up to 80%, which means if you’ve dealt with it in the past or have it now, you’re actually part of the majority. Though back pain can affect any region of the spine, in most cases the lower back is the area that tends to hurt the most. To complicate matters further, this type of back pain is usually considered nonspecific, meaning there is no cause identified that’s responsible for originally causing the pain.
Low back pain can develop over time in a gradual manner or it may come about suddenly. For some, this leads to symptoms on a nearly constant basis, while for others, they only arise intermittently. These symptoms vary in each individual, but typically include the following: pain, tenderness and/or stiffness, difficulty with bending, lifting or twisting, weak or tired legs, discomfort in the back while sitting, difficulty standing or standing for extended periods, and pain that spreads to the buttocks or legs.
Low back pain is most prevalent in people between the ages of 30-60, which is mainly a result of the aging process. In addition, there are a number of risk factors that can increase the chances of developing low back pain, such as being overweight, not getting enough exercise, a sedentary lifestyle, other diseases like arthritis and cancer, risky occupations that may strain the back, smoking and depression/anxiety.
Short-lived, or acute low back pain, is more common, while pain that lasts for more than three months is considered chronic and only occurs in about 10% of patients. Chronic low back pain is a more serious concern that can cause additional, long-term complications, and for that reason it requires additional care.
Any amount of back pain can make it difficult to perform many of the daily tasks in our lives that we may take for granted, but the persisting pain felt in chronic back pain patients can make things even more frustrating. In some cases, these patients have attempted numerous different types of treatment, and their pain still continues to be a problem. This extended period of disability can turn out to be a major burden on life for those suffering from it, preventing patients from enjoying the things they love, adding to stress levels and even causing depression and anxiety for some people.
To make matters worse, chronic back pain patients may be treated as if their pain either doesn’t exist or is greatly exaggerated by their peers and possibly even their physicians. This is often due to the fact that in chronic situations, it’s difficult for doctors to identify a specific anatomical reason responsible for explaining the pain that is present. For those who may not understand how chronic pain works like friends, family members or co-workers, you may look fine on the outside even though you’re clearly dealing with regular pain on the inside. This can increase frustration even more for patients.
Fortunately, the medical community is now beginning to establish and accept that pain is a personal experience that cannot always be diagnosed like other medical problems. In addition, there is an emerging acceptance that if the back pain doesn’t appear to stem from an injury or disease, then the pain itself should be considered the primary problem and deserves to be focused on and treated independently.
What medical professionals are beginning to see is that when back pain moves from the acute to the chronic stage, there are factors other than tissue damage and injury—which are usually responsible for causing pain in the first place—that come into play. Ongoing pain signals, as well as thoughts and emotions related to the pain may be responsible for sending messages to the brain that suggest pain, even if the initial problem causing it is no longer present.
With this developing understanding of chronic pain, all patients dealing with chronic back pain are encouraged to not give up on their condition and seek out treatment, even if some attempts have failed in the past. At Raleigh Neurosurgical Clinic in Raleigh, NC, we are experts at diagnosing any type of back problem and prescribing the most effective treatments for your condition. Keep in mind that with this new view on chronic pain, what works for some people may not necessarily work for others, and in some cases a few treatments may be needed before determining what’s best for you.
Contact us at 919-785-3400 for more information or to schedule an appointment.