When back pain lasts for 12 weeks or more, even after the initial acute pain was treated, it is referred to as chronic back pain. Roughly 20 percent of patients who experience acute back pain are still dealing with chronic back pain symptoms a year later. Chronic back pain isn’t something you should just have to learn to live with. Treatment is available. NYC Spine Surgeon Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City is here to help you manage your symptoms so that you can return to your normal activities.
What is pain management?
This is an all-encompassing term that includes various disciplines to study, prevent, evaluate, diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate painful conditions. Pain management techniques can be used to:
- Identify the source of back pain
- Treat pain using methods that avoid surgical intervention
- Rehabilitate patients after treatment
- Provide coping methods for residual pain
Many techniques may be used to manage chronic back pain. Research is ongoing to identify the most effective pain management therapies for chronic discomfort. NYC Spine Surgeon Dr. Fischer is experienced in offering the most up-to-date remedies to give patients relief.
Can medications help manage my chronic pain?
Pain medications and related drugs are used at all stages in medically treating chronic back pain. Some of the most common medications for managing pain are:
- Analgesics – medications like acetaminophen, although long-term use is cautioned to avoid liver or kidney damage risks
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents – aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and COX-2 inhibitors are in this category. Long-term use is cautioned due to the risks of ulcers or heart attack.
- Muscle relaxants – helpful for treating muscle spasms
- Narcotics – most used for acute or post-surgical pain instead of chronic conditions, due to the increased risk of addiction
- Antidepressants or anticonvulsants – used to treat nerve pain
- Neuromodulating medications – used to treat neuropathic or muscular pain
Are there ways to manage pain without medication?
Yes, there are a variety of non-invasive, non-drug methods for chronic back pain management. Some of the most popular for helping patients include:
- Exercise – physical exercise to increase flexibility, strength, and range of motion. Aerobics, water therapy, and stretching routines are just a few options.
- Heating or cooling of skin – ice packs or heating pads used alternatively to provide pain relief. These methods are usually used in conjunction with exercise.
- Behavioral modification – behavioral methods may be employed to help patients learn to handle chronic pain symptoms. Cognitive therapy teaches patients relaxation and coping techniques, while biofeedback teaches how to help control blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension.
- Manual techniques – manipulating affected regions of the back by applying force to muscles, ligaments and joints.
- Electrotherapy – the most popular form of electrotherapy is called TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). The goal is to reduce back pain using a low-voltage electric stimulator that interacts with the sensory nervous system.
What if I need more invasive treatments?
If more conservative methods aren’t effective, many options for invasive pain management therapies are possible. Some common alternatives are:
- Injections (or blocks) – delivering steroids or anesthetic into joints, muscles, nerves, or ligaments. Useful in relieving pain at least temporarily, this method can also help confirm if the injected area is the source of pain.
- Radiofrequency radioablation – deadening painful nerves by administering heat through a small needle. This treatment has proven to be highly effective and can last for months to years.
- Prolotherapy – injecting an irritant to stimulate blood circulation and promote ligament healing in the affected area.
- Surgically implanted electrotherapy devices – implanting spinal cord stimulators or peripheral nerve stimulators into the area, a treatment which has shown to be more effective in leg and arm pain over localized spinal pain.
- Implantable opioid infusion pumps – surgically implanting pumps that send opioid medications directly to the spinal cord.
If you still experience chronic back pain after you and NYC Spine Surgeon Dr. Fischer have attempted the methods advisable for your condition, it may be time to consider surgery. You can trust that NYC Spine Surgeon Dr. Fischer has your best interest in mind and will only do what you agree to be the best course of action for your overall health and lifestyle.
Contact Dr. Fischer today to schedule your appointment.