Do you have acute or chronic back pain? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, back pain is the most common health complaint and reason for missed work in the United States. According to the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, almost 65 million have experienced recent back pain. Of those 65 million people, 16 million have chronic pain. The reason our backs are so easily injured is that they do a lot of bending and twisting. This puts pressure on the vertebrae and discs of the back as well as all the connecting tissues.
The good news is that it is treatable. Most types of back injuries heal on their own with minimal or no medical intervention. Now, let’s take a look at the differences between chronic and acute pain, and the potential treatment options.
What is Acute Back Pain?
According to the National Library of Medicine, 8 in 10 people, or 80 percent of the entire adult population of the United States will experience an episode of back pain at least once in their lives. The good news is that most back pain is considered acute. Acute back pain is typically put into two categories, including acute and subacute. If the pain in your back is acute, you’ve likely had it for a few days to four weeks. If your pain is subacute, it’ll usually last between 4 and 12 weeks.
Common Causes of Acute Back Pain
Oftentimes, acute back pain tends to heal on its own with a little ice and heat therapy, light stretching for tight muscles, and over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications. The most common causes of acute pain are:
- Sprains and Strains of the Back
- Lifting Heavy Objects
- Twisting Your Back
- Poor Posture
- General Muscle Spasms
What is Chronic Back Pain?
Chronic back pain is pain that you’ve experienced for longer than 3 months. However, in some instances, it can also be pain that you’ve experienced for longer than 6 months. It is estimated that there are 16 million people living with chronic pain in their backs.
Common Causes of Long-Term Back Pain
Chronic back pain can be caused by sudden injuries or a condition that worsens over time. While acute injuries to the back tend to heal on their own, it’s less likely that chronic back pain will resolve on its own. If you’ve been experiencing pain for longer than three months, it’s time to make an appointment with a medical care provider.
The most common causes of chronic back pain are:
- Arthritis and Osteoarthritis
- Compression Fractures
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Herniated or Bulging Discs
- Spinal Stenosis
How is Acute Back Pain Treated?
Acute back injuries typically resolve on their own. Suppose you’ve strained your back, overexerted your back playing sports, exercising, or twisted your back. In that case, our spine surgeon recommends resting, alternately applying heat and ice therapy, and performing a few gentle stretches. If the pain is problematic, you can help reduce it by taking over-the-counter pain medication. If the pain concerns you or doesn’t resolve in a few days, you should seek medical advice from your family doctor. Surgery is not typically recommended for acute back pain.
How is Chronic Back Pain Treated?
Back pain treatment for chronic injuries and conditions usually starts with exhausting conservative treatment options first and then discussing minimally invasive procedures if needed. Conservative treatment options include mindfulness and meditation to retrain your brain on how to deal with low levels of chronic pain. It can also include chiropractic treatment modalities to help realign the spine and deal with any underlying joint issues that may be contributing to your pain.
Lifestyle modifications are also beneficial. These include knowing your limitations on physical activity, taking frequent rest breaks while performing physical activities, and ensuring that you maintain proper posture while sitting and standing. It can even be as simple as buying a better mattress and pillows in order to help alleviate stress on your back while you sleep.
If lifestyle medications don’t provide enough relief, minimally invasive spine surgery may be the best option to alleviate your chronic back pain.
Treating Chronic Back Pain with Surgery
Back surgery is always considered a last resort, but if the above options haven’t reduced your pain enough and you are still having trouble completing your daily tasks, minimally invasive surgery may be an option. If you suspect your spinal injury or condition needs surgery, it’s best to speak with your family doctor or another medical professional.
Back Pain Treatment in Orange County
If you are experiencing acute or chronic back pain, our orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Gerald Alexander, can help. He specializes in treating patients who suffer from acute and chronic back pain. He can evaluate your back, the severity of your condition or injury, and determine if spinal surgery is right for you.
Take the first step to being pain-free. Schedule an appointment by calling 714-937-4859.