Back Pain

Common Questions & Answers About Chronic Back Pain

Common Questions & Answers About Chronic Back Pain

When you suffer from chronic back pain, unfortunately it generally means that you have more questions than answers. That can be awful frustrating if you’re suffering and would give anything for relief. We’ve listened to your concerns and want to help supply you the information you want and, quite frankly, deserve.

Therefore, we’ve put together some of the most common questions that people have when it comes to chronic back pain. In addition, we’ve researched the answers with reputable organizations and agencies so that you don’t have to search all over the internet to find advice or comments that may or may not be correct. You can rest assured that the information you get here comes from the best sources – with the best solutions.

Enough talk, let’s get to your all important questions and get you some answers…

What factors put me at risk of having back pain?

It is estimated that 80-85% of the population will deal with some sort of back pain at some point in their lives. Therefore, there is a great likelihood that you’ll encounter a pain issue near your spine somewhere in your future, if you haven’t already.

And, there are some factors that you have no control over (such as your age, race, and heredity) that may contribute to whether or not you have a higher risk of enduring back pain. You can also face back issues if you have other medical conditions that may aggravate that area of your body, like osteoporosis or even pregnancy.

However, there are some factors that you have complete and absolute control over that will contribute to your risk of back pain issues. They are:

  • Improperly picking up heavy objects
  • Poor fitness level; being obese or overweight
  • Poor or improper posture
  • A diet that is lacking nutritionally
  • Smoking cigarettes

If you engage in these types of behaviors or activities, then you are increasing your chances of joining the 80-85% of the population who is or will suffer with pain and inflammation. But, if you avoid them, you may just find yourself in the 15-20% that lives pain free.

What can I do to avoid back pain?

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In other words, it’s easier to prevent a problem than it is to create one and then try to fix it.

In this day and age, there are a lot of treatment options, but why endure the pain and suffering (not to mention the financial burden) of an injury that was completely preventable? A lot of back pain issues can be avoided if you engage in a few regular behaviors or activities such as:

  • Light exercise like walking, swimming or bicycling on a daily basis
  • Daily stretching exercises to keep flexible and limber
  • Keeping proper posture whether you’re sitting, standing or walking
  • Don’t attempt to lift something that is too heavy; ask for help
  • Lift things properly by relying on your upper legs for strength versus using your back
  • Quit smoking
  • Eat a nutritious diet

What foods can I eat that will lower my risk of back issues?

When you’re trying to protect your back from any possible pain issues down the road, your key nutrients are going to be calcium and vitamin D. Both of these are powerful for your bones as they keep them strong and increase their density.

According to WebMD, the best calcium rich foods include leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens. You’ll also find this nutrient in soy and white beans, certain fish (think salmon, perch and trout), and any food that is “calcium fortified” (like cereals, orange juice, and some types of oatmeal). Ideally, you’ll want to aim for 1,000-1,200 mg per day depending on your age and gender (although children 1-3 years old only need 700 mg per day to enjoy calcium’s major benefits).

Foods high in vitamin D include egg yolks, cheese, beef liver, fatty fish (salmon again, as well as tuna and mackerel), and fortified foods like cereal, milk, and orange juice. You also get vitamin D from the sun, so try to spend 15 minutes a day soaking up some of the rays and the vitamins you get from them. If you’re under 71 years old, you’ll want 600 international units (IU) daily, but anyone over 71 needs slightly more (800 IU’s).

Don’t think that more is better either and try to take in high amounts of these nutrients via supplements. You can actually harm your kidney by doing so, which will only hurt your health as opposed to helping it.

How can I effectively heal my lower back pain without a doctor’s intervention?

If you’re already plagued with back pain, there area couple of things you can do to get you some much needed relief. These include over the counter medications that are anti-inflammatory (like aspirin and ibuprofen), as well as resting the affected area as much as possible. Certainly you don’t want to nix physical activity altogether if you can avoid it as you may stiffen up and do more damage than good, but you also don’t want to overdo it and aggravate the area either. Use common sense and let your body heal.

Which is better for back pain – ice or heat?

The general rule is to use ice if the area is freshly injured or swollen and you should use heat if it is a chronic pain that you’re experiencing. Keep each hot or cold session to no longer than 20 minutes and make sure that there is a barrier between the compress and your skin so you don’t burn or frostbite yourself in the process.

Also, if it is heat you need, you want the heat to be moist. So, a damp cloth that has been thrown in the microwave or clothes dryer for a short period makes a great heating pad. You can also put some uncooked rice (preferably not instant), in a sock and tie it off at the end to keep it from falling out. Place it in the microwave for 22-25 seconds and then apply it to your back. It has a moist feel to it and holds the heat for quite some time. You can even add some lavender scent for some stress relief in addition to helping your back pain.

At what point should I see a doctor for my back pain?

Luckily, most back irritation will go away on its own. However, there may come a time when you need to make an appointment with a medical professional as your issue may need medical intervention.

Some symptoms that should prompt you to schedule a doctor’s visit include:

  • Numbness or tingling in any of your extremities
  • Pain that you cannot control or manage on your own
  • Back pain in conjunction with urination or bowel issues, fever and/or unexplained loss of weight

The key is to follow your instincts as you know your body better than anyone else. If you feel that something is wrong or out of place, then make the appointment. Don’t try to endure the pain just because you think you have to. In some cases, the sooner you get medical treatment, the easier it is to treat the problem.

What types of tests will I undergo if I go to the doctor with back pain?

There are several different testing options that your doctor may utilize in an effort to determine the cause of your pain. It all depends on what he or she feels is the root cause of the pain as to which one is ordered.

For example, if it suspected that your pain is a result of a disease or injury, then you’ll likely undergo either an X-ray or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). However, if the cause of the pain may be a tumor or infection, you may be subject to a CT scan or bone scan. And, if there is question as to whether your nerves are creating the problem, you may be asked to get an electromyogram.

Which back issues may require surgery?

Sometimes there is nothing you can do on your own to give you relief from your discomfort or outright pain, and the only solution is surgery. Some of the most common back issues that may require medical attention from a surgeon include:

  • Disk degeneration
  • Herniated or bulging discs
  • Fractures
  • Tumors
  • Infections
  • Sciatica or pinched nerves
  • Other spinal issues, whether born with them or they were created by injury or illness

Now, that’s not to say that these issues always result in surgery, it’s just that an operation may be the only viable solution for these types of conditions. Generally, surgery doesn’t become an option unless the pain is chronic, long lasting (6 months or more), and it doesn’t respond to any other treatment method.

What types of back surgery are there?

Integrated Pain Solutions of South Florida points to the five most common back surgeries conducted. They are:

  1. Discectomy This back surgery alleviates pain by removing the problem area of a herniated disc which is putting pressure on nerves and causing the pain.
  2. Foraminotomy If you have tissues that are compressing the nerves (as opposed to a disc) then this is the type of surgery you may undergo.
  3. Laminectomy This type of surgery involves removing bone that is compressing the nerves.
  4. Spinal fusion If your spine is deemed unstable, your surgeon may perform this type of surgery and fuse two of your vertebrae together for added stability.
  5. Spinal disc replacement Just as it sounds, this surgery involves removing a disc and replacing it in an effort to ease the pain.

Is diazepam good for muscle spasms?

According to the NHS in England, diazepam (which is a benzodiazepine) can actually help with muscle spasms; however it is only a short term solution as it has a high risk of the user becoming addicted to it. Also, it does negatively affect a multitude of other issues (such as asthma, liver problems, and depression), so this particular medication is not suitable for a lot of people.

In addition, diazepam does not interact well with caffeine or grapefruit juice and you should not operate heavy machinery or drive when taking it. Alcohol intensifies its sedative effect and pregnant women should avoid it completely. Finally, there are a ton of other medications that it interacts with so this one medication comes with a lot of asterisks and should be handled with caution and care if it is part of your treatment plan.

Can a Brazilian butt lift cause back pain?

A Brazilian butt lift involves the taking of fat, generally from other areas in your own body, and reinserting it into your buttocks area in an effort to lift and enlarge your backside. It’s done under general anesthesia and only keeps you down for a week or so. But, does this particular procedure cause back pain?

According to RealSelf, which highlights opinions of plastic surgeons across the world, getting a Brazilian butt lift does not help or cause back pain in any way. It is simply a cosmetic procedure that you can have to change your body shape to one you find more appealing.

That being said, if the fat that they transplant comes from your back, you’ll certainly have some soreness in that area. But as far as lifetime chronic pain is concerned, a Brazilian butt lift should have no effect on your back one way or the other.

How do you deal with back pain that radiates into the upper buttocks?

It’s not uncommon to have lower back pain that radiates down into your buttocks, thighs, or even your lower legs. And, for the most part, you can deal with the pain via standard treatment options such as anti-inflammatory medications, heat and/or ice, stretching, and light exercise.

However, you can also purchase a lumbar support or brace for additional relief. Some doctors will prescribe these products so that your insurance will pick up some or even all of the cost.

What actually causes the numbness or tingling that I get in my hands and feet?

If one of the nerves that run along your spine gets compressed or irritated, such as with a bulging or herniated disc, it causes numbness or tingling in whichever extremity that particular nerve leads to. Although it may be scary or anxiety provoking to feel this prickly or dead type of feeling, there are a lot of treatment options that will effectively reduce or eliminate these feelings once the nerve is no longer pinched or stopped from doing its job.

Is there ever a time when back pain is life threatening?

Luckily the answer is: Not often. According to information provided on Aetna’s website, back pain that is life threatening only represents less than 1% of the reported cases. The main causes for back pain that is technically considered a life or death issue involves cases where the pain is caused by infection and cancer. So, if you have other issues such as unexplained weight loss, fever, and/or bladder or bowel issues in conjunction with the back pain, seek medical help immediately to receive a proper diagnosis and hopefully rule out any other life threatening condition.

Why do doctors prescribe steroids with a lot of back pain issues?

Steroids are used in an effort to reduce inflammation and swelling in the areas that are causing you the most pain. While they’re not a long term solution due to their side effects that may occur with repeated use, but they can help give you some short term relief while you’re trying to figure out a detailed long term plan.

What is the difference between a herniated disc and a bulging disc?

Your discs in your back are comprised of an inner ring (called the nucleus) and an outer ring (called the annulus). If you herniate a disc, your outer ring, or annulus, is torn which permits the nucleus to leak out. However, if you have a disc that is bulging, the annulus does not tear, but it does protrude.

One final thought on chronic back pain questions and answers…

Keep in mind that just because something is out on the internet, it doesn’t make it true. So, if your question wasn’t listed here and you try to find your answers on your own, remember to try to stick to reputable sites that you trust. These may include government run or university owned sites that provide research to back up whatever they’re saying.

If you live with chronic back pain, then you likely have a lot of additional questions that are related more to your specific needs and conditions. These should be addressed with your own doctor as he or she is more in tune with your body and can answer the questions with more certainty than any internet site that is going to provide you general information that may or may not be suitable for your circumstances.

And, don’t stop until you get answers. You deserve them.

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