Back pain is one of the leading causes of disability and one of the most common reasons for missed work in the United States. It’s one of the most pervasive medical ailments in our society: experts estimate that up to 80% of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives.
Back pain can be acute or chronic. Acute back pain resolves within a few days to three months, while chronic pain lasts three months or longer. While many people recover fully from back injuries and pain, some people experience severe and debilitating pain and can’t find pain relief from traditional treatments.
Keep reading to learn the top five causes of chronic low back pain and when it’s time to see a doctor.
Defining Chronic Back Pain
Chronic back pain is pain that lasts for three months or longer. In some cases, chronic pain develops from an underlying medical condition like arthritis. In other cases, acute pain develops into chronic pain from an injury that doesn’t heal completely. And in yet other cases, chronic pain develops from seemingly no apparent cause. Unfortunately, chronic back pain is a complex medical condition that can be extremely difficult to diagnose and manage correctly.
When we discuss chronic back pain, we’re usually talking about chronic low back pain. The lumbar spine is the most susceptible area for pain, injuries and damage because it bears a lot of weight (all the weight of your upper body) and is the most mobile region of the back. Mechanical injuries — injuries that result from placing abnormal stress and strain on the structures of the spine — are the most common injuries that lead to low back pain.
There is no one way to describe chronic low back pain, because it varies from person to person. Some people experience constant, achy pain and discomfort. Some people experience periods of intense pain followed by periods of less or no pain. Regardless, chronic back pain can have a significant effect on a person’s quality of life.
Pain affects every aspect of life. If you have persistent back pain and discomfort, you may find it difficult to sit comfortably at a desk and work. You may find it challenging to run multiple errands at a time or be out for several hours because severe pain could flare up at any time. You may not be able to fully focus on social outings with friends or quality time with the family because you’re in so much pain. Chronic back pain is a very pervasive disease and can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, social isolation, hopelessness, helplessness or anger.
Below, we examine five leading causes of back pain and discuss when it’s time to seek medical care for your pain.
5 Leading Causes of Chronic Low Back Pain
- Arthritis. Arthritis is pain, swelling and inflammation of one or more joints in the body. Wear and tear of the joints in the spine leads to degeneration that causes back pain, tenderness and stiffness. Advanced cases of spinal arthritis can cause pain and loss of movement that’s severe enough to make walking, climbing stairs, bending and twisting difficult. Unfortunately, spinal arthritis can’t be reversed or cured, so many people live with the condition in chronic pain.
- Spinal disc degeneration. The intervertebral discs that support vertebrae in the spine naturally degenerate with age. Weak discs are more vulnerable to collapsing, tearing, or bulging out of place. A herniated disc may occur when a spinal disc tears and the jelly-like center leaks into the spinal canal. Disc degeneration can lead to significant and persistent back pain. Additionally, a bulging or herniated disc that presses against spinal nerves can cause nerve pain that travels from the back down to the legs and feet. This type of pain is called sciatica.
- Spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis occurs when the spaces within the spine begin to narrow and tighten. Degenerative changes in the spine — from osteoarthritis, worn down spinal discs or thickened ligaments — can all contribute to spinal narrowing. The narrowing spaces often place pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots in the lumbar spine. Spinal stenosis can cause significant back pain, especially during long periods of standing or walking.
- Strains and Sprains. Muscle strains develop when muscle fibers are overstretched or torn. Sprains develop when ligaments are overstretched or torn. Strains and sprains are one of the most common lumbar spine injuries. They can happen from a sudden incident — like lifting something really heavy using the back muscles — or overuse over time. Strains and sprains cause back pain, stiffness and painful spasms. While many of these injuries are acute, chronic back strains or sprains can develop from continued repetitive use, improper lifting or exercise techniques, poor posture or weak core and back muscles.
- Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is an often misunderstood condition that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain. People with fibromyalgia experience achy pain and tenderness in multiple soft tissues and muscles, including the back. Paraspinal lumbar tenderness is an extremely common symptom of fibromyalgia. While the cause of fibromyalgia is still poorly understood, many researchers believe it stems from an abnormal nervous system response that causes a pain overreaction to things that aren’t normally painful. In some cases, fibromyalgia can be triggered by a traumatic accident, surgery or infection. In other cases, fibromyalgia can develop without an apparent cause.
When to See a Doctor
It’s time to see a doctor when you’ve been living with back pain for several weeks without relief. Additionally, it’s time to seek medical help if you’re experiencing:
- Significant pain that doesn’t improve with rest
- Pain accompanied by weakness, numbness or tingling down the legs
- Pain that’s affecting your ability to perform daily tasks
Diagnosing and treating chronic back pain can be incredibly complex. In some cases, your doctor may be able to identify the cause of your pain by performing a physical evaluation, taking a medical history and running diagnostic tests and imaging. In other cases, your doctor may not be able to determine the source of your pain.
Traditionally, chronic back pain is managed with non-surgical treatments that aim to reduce pain and help you have an active lifestyle. Non-surgical measures can include:
- Corticosteroid injections and nerve blocks
- Physical therapy
- Regular exercise
- Yoga and stretching
- Chiropractic care
- Weight management
Back surgery may be recommended if you have a known, identifiable cause — like a herniated disc or pinched nerve — that can be corrected with surgery.
Treating Persistent Chronic Back Pain
As we mentioned above, chronic low back pain is a very complex medical condition. Some people suffer from persistent, intense pain that isn’t relieved by the treatments listed above. What treatment options are available for people living with a reduced quality of life due to pain?
Scrambler therapy has proven to be very effective for improving chronic pain in cases where other treatment methods haven’t provided adequate pain relief. In essence, the procedure uses electrostimulation to “scramble” the brain’s pain signals and replaces them with artificial neurons that transmit non-pain signals to the brain. Your brain is neuroplastic, which means it has the ability to adapt and change to new circumstances. Over time, the brain will accept the synthetic non-pain signals as real. The procedure helps retrain the brain to restore a healthier, more normal perception of pain. On average, many people receive approximately 10 scrambler therapy sessions over the course of two weeks.
Scrambler therapy is non-invasive and very safe. At Radiant Pain Relief Centres, we exclusively perform scrambler therapy, and we’ve developed a level of expertise you won’t find in other clinics. Our techs have specialized training and education to safely and effectively operate the FDA-cleared device used to administer the therapy.
Radiant Pain Relief Centres Treats Chronic Back Pain
If you’re living with chronic low back pain that isn’t relieved with standard treatments, contact Radiant Pain Relief Centres to learn more about scrambler therapy. On average, our patients experience an 84% reduction in pain, and more than 90% of our patients conclude therapy with a pain score of zero or near zero.
We have a start-to-finish comprehensive care model and payment plans that make scrambler therapy accessible and affordable for everyone with chronic pain. We offer a free evaluation and free treatment session so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not this treatment is right for you before you invest.
It’s time to take the leap and find lasting relief for your chronic pain. Call us today or submit a contact form for more information.