Back Pain

Chronic back pain

What are the types of back pain?

Back pain, especially in the lower back, is one of the most common reasons why people visit their doctors. At some point in their lives, about 80 percent of all Americans will experience this type of pain, which can be debilitating and is a common reason for missed work. Typically, it is classified in two general categories:

  • Acute: This is temporary, lasting less than three months. For example, pain that is caused by improper lifting or a sudden twisting of the body, resulting in a light muscle strain or sprain.
  • Chronic: This type of pain lasts longer than three months. Due to its complex nature, this condition often requires more intensive treatment from a back pain specialist.

What causes this chronic pain?

Every day, we rely on our spines to support us through walking, running, lifting and other activities. Over time, these repetitive motions can wear on our vertebrae and the associated muscles, ligaments, tendons and other structures that support the spine. While this is a normal process of aging, certain lifestyle factors can increase the risk of developing chronic pain, including:

  • Poor posture
  • Weakened muscles from a sedentary lifestyle
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Experiencing a traumatic injury

In addition, pain may result from spinal conditions such as a herniated disc, degenerative disk disease or spinal stenosis, all of which can result in painful pinched nerves. Other causes include age-related conditions such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, and pain-related disorders such as fibromyalgia.

How do you treat chronic back pain?

Given that pain can result from a number of different factors, an accurate diagnosis is required to determine the causes and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Depending on your individual history and symptoms, diagnostic tests may include X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans or blood tests. Once the cause of the pain has been determined, possible treatments may include:

  • Pain medications to control pain or reduce inflammation
  • Nerve blocks and injections
  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • Surgical procedures
  • Physical therapy

In addition to pain, stiffness and other discomfort, many sufferers experience associated symptoms that can affect their quality of life. These include sleeplessness, fatigue and changes in mood, including depression or anxiety. A comprehensive treatment plan should address these symptoms, and your back pain specialist may recommend several lifestyle changes to combat these associated issues as well as help prevent future episodes. These changes may include increasing your level of exercise, stretching, reducing stress and making changes in your diet.

The Henry Ford Pain Center approach

At the Henry Ford Pain Center, pain treatment begins with a thorough medical history and physical exam. All patients are evaluated by board-certified pain medicine physicians, physician assistants and certified nurse practitioners to identify the cause of their pain. Following initial assessment, we work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that may include interventional pain procedures, medication therapy, physical therapy, massage and other complementary options.

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