If you are dealing with chronic lower back pain, it is likely that you never imagined your life would end up like this. Pain can be a constant battle. Back pain in particular can be a setback in life. It can make it challenging for you to complete everyday activities or simply enjoy yourself. No doubt, you long for the days of yesteryear when chronic pain did not define who you were or what you were able to do. Finding relief for chronic lower back pain can change you as a person. It can affect you physically, emotionally, and mentally.
A major part of treating pain in the lower back is understanding what causes it. From there, it’s important to examine some of the different treatment options that might be available for you. This is exactly what we are going to do when you visit our office.
What is Chronic Pain?
Before we delve into reasons why you might be experiencing pain in your lower back, we think it’s good to define what chronic pain is. Chronic pain is different from acute pain. Acute pain is the pain that you feel when you cut your finger or pull a muscle. The injury that you’re experiencing is what’s producing the pain. Your body is trying to tell you that something is wrong so that you can take corrective measures.
It is very different when a person has chronic pain. When a person experiences chronic pain, the pain can last for months or years, even after the injury that caused the initial pain is gone. The medical community defines chronic pain as pain that lasts for at least three months. As you may know all too well, chronic pain takes a toll on a person’s mental health and day-to-day life.
There are a couple of reasons why a person may be experiencing chronic pain. One could be that they have a chronic injury that they have not been able to correct. Once a trained doctor is able to correct the injury, then it’s likely that the pain will subside. However, other individuals have experienced an injury in the lower back and the injury has healed itself, but their nerve signals are still firing after the condition has healed.
Some people experience chronic pain with no trigger whatsoever. However, most people who have chronic pain in their lower back have it as the result of an injury.
What Conditions Can Cause Lower Back Pain?
There are a number of conditions that may be behind your pain. There is not enough time to discuss them all, but we will briefly review some of the more prominent ones.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease is a disease that affects the reproductive organs in women. This condition affects approximately one million women in the United States every single year. There are a number of bacteria that can cause this disease. With time, the bacteria can create infections in the pelvic organs. One of the common symptoms of this disease is persistent pain in the lower back.
A Herniated Disc
A herniated disc is another common reason for lower back pain. To understand how this condition occurs, you first need to visualize the construction of your spinal column. Your spinal column is constructed with a series of bones, or vertebrae. These bones are stacked one on top of the other. They form sections in your spine. The top seven are your cervical spine. Then, there are 12 in the middle that are your thoracic spine, or the spine that covers the area where your rib cage and chest are located. Finally, you have five on the bottom. These comprise your lumbar spine, or your lower back.
In between your vertebrae are cushioning discs. These discs have been designed to serve as shock absorbers. So when you run, walk, lift, or twist, they take some of the shock. Your discs are made up of two parts. You can almost imagine them being like a jelly filled doughnut. On the outside of your disc, there is a hard surface. On the inside, there is a soft, jelly-like inner portion.
When the outer portion of the disc is damaged, some of the inner portion is able to protrude out into the outer ring. This is a slipped disc or a herniated disc. This condition can cause some serious pain or discomfort. This is especially true if the herniated material puts pressure on the nerves in your spine. Not only will you experience pain in the location of the slipped disc, but it is also possible for you to experience pain all the way down the path of the nerve. This could include severe pain in the buttocks, down the leg, and in the foot.
You know that you might be battling with a slipped disc if you feel muscle weakness, a burning sensation, or pain that gets worse as you sit or stand. The type of pain you experience with a slipped disc is going to vary, but for many, this is the cause of their chronic lower back pain.
Sciatica is a condition that may be linked to a herniated disc. Your sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body. It starts at your spinal cord and goes down to your buttocks and then legs. Your sciatic nerve is one of the most important nerves that you have as it is responsible for your ability to control as well as feel your legs. When this nerve is irritated, it produces sciatica.
Sciatica may be a moderate pain, or it could be a severe and excruciating pain in your lower back, buttocks, and legs. Sciatica is a condition that is often caused by a herniated disc, but it can also be caused by issues with the muscles in your buttocks. Other conditions that might cause sciatica include:
- Spinal Stenosis
- Piriformis Syndrome
As the name implies, kidney stones are a solid, stone-like material that typically originates in your kidneys. That being said, kidney stones may originate from another part of your urinary tract, including:
Kidney stones can be unbelievably painful. The material that they are made up of varies, depending on the condition that led to their creation.
Your spine is made up of a number of bones called vertebrae that not only give you stability but also make it possible for you to twist and turn. In the center of your vertebra, there is an opening where nerves are able to run from your brain down your spine. These are the nerves that send signals to your entire body. They determine how your limbs function, they determine the sensations you feel, and they determine how well you are able to maintain balance.
Spinal stenosis is a condition where your spinal column gets narrow and starts to put pressure on your spinal cord. This is a gradual process, but it can leave you with debilitating pain.
We have discussed just a handful of the more common reasons why you may be experiencing chronic lower back pain. Now let’s switch our focus and discuss some of the treatment options that are available.
Treating Chronic Pain in the Lower Back
At times, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why a person has chronic lower back pain. This is why most medical professionals are not in a rush to diagnose the source of back pain if the cause is not readily identifiable. If the source of the pain cannot be identified or if the source of the pain cannot be treated, the goal becomes minimizing flare-ups as well as making the pain manageable using conservative treatments.
Exercise is key when treating most back pain. One of the first treatment options that is usually offered is physical therapy. That being said, physical therapy should not be seen as a one-size-fits-all thing. A physical therapist is going to need to tailor the exercises they offer you to your specific symptoms. In-office physical therapy is just part of what’s needed. In order for there to be long-term improvement, you would also need to do your exercise routine at home.
Some of the goals of physical therapy for an individual with lower back pain may include:
- Exercises to improve flexibility
- Aerobic exercises
- Core strengthening
- Improving posture
- Improving limits of pain tolerance
Modifying Your Lifestyle
There are a number of foods that lead to inflammation. These include foods that have a lot of refined sugar or trans fats. During your medical consultation, your diet may be examined to see if there are certain foods that are making your condition worse.
One of the hardest things for an individual with chronic pain is to make changes to their lifestyle. It may be necessary for a person to accept the fact that their body has changed and that they now have new limitations. If they want to heal and if they want to get the most out of life, they are going to have to listen to what their body is telling them. This includes being conscious of activities that make the pain worse as well as activities that make the pain better. If there is an underlying condition causing the pain, being mindful of what your body is telling you may help you prevent the condition from getting worse.
Finding an Emotional Balance
Chronic pain can take a toll on you physically, but it is also be emotionally straining. Frustration, depression, and irritability may make your chronic lower back pain worse. There are a number of relaxation strategies and techniques that can be used as part of pain management to help prevent your mind from focusing on the pain.
Epidural steroid injections, nerve blocks, nerve ablations, as well as other types of injectables have been used to help individuals dealing with chronic pain in their lower back. They can be used in circumstances where the source of the pain is not easily identifiable. At times, injections are used as a diagnostic tool. The doctor may have an idea of where the pain is coming from and so they will treat that area with the injectable. If pain relief is experienced, then it is likely that the injected area is the cause of discomfort. If it’s not, then the doctor knows that they need to try a different option.
Surgery is typically seen as a last resort. This option may be used when there is an identifiable cause for the pain and more conservative treatments do not produce the desired results.
Take Back Your Life
Have you been dealing with chronic lower back pain for some time? If so, you know firsthand how this pain can rob your life of joy and make you into someone you do not want to be. Are you interested in learning about the different treatment options that are available for addressing chronic pain? If so, talk to our team at Subach Spinal Solutions in Arlington. Contact us today to book your consultation and get started.