When we’re in pain, we want relief. Isn’t it interesting, then, that chronic back pain is such a prevalent condition? Over time, we can get used to low-grade pain, allowing it to worsen gradually and without our awareness. One of the reasons patients often procrastinate in getting help for chronic back or neck pain is that they fear the very idea of surgery. Here, we want to explain why that fear should not drive the decision to see a doctor.
The Stages Of Spine Pain Relief
There is no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to treating spinal pain. Some people may completely skip over some of the benchmarks of treatment. Nearly all patients go through them at their own pace.
To adequately address back or neck pain, we’ve got to understand its origin. It is a simple pinched nerve, a sprain, or signs of a herniated disc? A thorough consultation helps us determine the cause of pain. In addition to taking a medical history, the doctor performs a physical examination and may also order x-rays. Patients typically know what is causing their pain either the day of their appointment or a short time after, when the doctor has received imaging results.
It is rare for a spinal specialist to recommend surgery as the first treatment option. For the vast majority of patients, more conservative methods are advised first. Examples include anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, short-term rest, posture improvements, lifestyle changes, and weight loss. Often, the doctor recommends a combination of a few of these approaches.
Many patients treated for back or neck pain never reach this stage of care. Conservative methods can often address pain successfully. Surgery may be considered if little to no improvement occurs after six or more weeks of nonsurgical care. When surgery is recommended, it is usually done so in the most conservative manner. Many spinal surgeons perform minimally-invasive surgeries to correct structural problems that cause pain. As a result, spine surgery has become gentler and safer over the years.
Patients who do have spinal surgery need to follow up with a formal rehabilitation program. This stage of the journey is of the utmost importance to optimal and sustained physical comfort and mobility. The rehabilitation stage may include some of the same modalities involved in nonsurgical care, such as physical therapy, short-term rest, and medication to reduce inflammation and improve comfort.
The final stage of the back pain journey is ongoing. Whether improvement has been achieved nonsurgically or through a surgical procedure, patients usually need to make adjustments to how they live and work in order to reduce the risk of recurrence. The good news is that the measures they take may also reduce the risk of other spinal problems. Ways to care for the spine throughout life include exercising safely and regularly reducing excess pressure on the spine through mindful posture and weight management, and performing stretches to maintain flexibility.