According to statistics, eight out of ten adults experience back pain at least once in their lives. It can be anything from sharp pain to lingering muscle pain. In other words, it’s common among the older population. Most people recover from back pain, but a small percentage will suffer from chronic back pain, reports the American Chiropractic Association.
Treatments for recurring back pain range from over-the-counter medication to surgery. But do you wonder how exactly medical professionals determine which treatment fits your needs?
MJA HealthCare Network agrees that proper pain management is key. Here are why it’s important and how it’s done:
Identify the source of pain
Determining the cause of chronic back pain requires different tests. The most common ones are X-ray, bone scan, MRI or CT scan, nerve study, and blood test.
A doctor may order bone X-ray to see the alignment of your bones. This procedure helps determine if you have broken bones or inflamed joints. A bone X-ray is not enough to check your muscles, nerves, or disks. So, if the doctor does not see any bone problem, he or she may order another test, usually an MRI or CT scan, as these exams provide more detailed imaging of the human body.
A bone scan, on the other hand, is done if the doctor suspects a bone tumor or compression fracture. A compression fracture means a bone in your spine has decreased in height. One of the reasons for this fracture is osteoporosis.
A blood test is done to determine if you have an infection that may be causing pain. A nerve study checks the electrical impulses of the nerves to see if your nerves are compressed due to spinal problems.
Provide an alternative to surgery
Perhaps no one enjoys surgery even if it is already the last resort. Although it is one of the best ways to lengthen one’s life, the downsides of it are hard to ignore. First, the procedure is expensive. Second, it’s painful, more so when the anesthesia has waned off. Lastly, recovery may take some time. For these reasons, some people put surgery last on their list.
Pain management addresses this by offering as many options as possible. Typically, these are categorized into three: noninvasive, pharmacologic pain management; noninvasive, non-drug pain management; and invasive pain management.
The pharmacologic category deals with pain using drugs, such as analgesics, relaxants, and narcotics. The non-drug approach uses physical and behavioral therapies. The invasive type involves injections.
Determine if surgery is necessary
If the nonsurgical options listed above do not work, surgery is recommended. However, if your doctor says your back pain is due to mechanical problems and your pain is chronic and intolerable, he or she may suggest that you undergo surgery right away. In addition, if the pain is persistent and disabling, such as your nerves not functioning correctly, your surgeon may do either discectomy, laminectomy, fusion, or artificial disk implant.
Nonetheless, keep in mind that back surgery is rarely necessary. Your pain management specialist will help you decide. If, for example, you already went under the knife, you may still resort to pain management to recover faster. This program enables you to rehabilitate and cope with residual pain.