More than half of all adults in the United States will experience back pain at one time or another. Oftentimes it’s nothing more than a temporary inconvenience, while other times the only way to find relief for the pain is by having spine surgery. Los Angeles surgeons understand that back pain is a persistent and frustrating annoyance for some people. If you’re in this group, here are some little-known insights that may help you manage your back pain.
1. Your Pain Doesn’t Necessarily Indicate the Extent of the Problem
The level of discomfort you have from back pain isn’t a reliable indicator of the problem that’s actually causing the pain. Back pain is highly subjective. For instance, you may feel excruciating pain from muscle spasms within your lower back while someone else with a herniated disc may be experiencing little or no pain. Chronic pain tends to have inconsistent patterns.
2. If Image Testing Doesn’t Confirm a Pain Source, It Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Real
There’s no denying the importance of image testing for identifying the location of mechanical issues with the spine such as herniated discs and fractures. However, some sources of back pain may not show up on X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs. Even without visual confirmation, the discomfort you feel is still very real. This is especially true for non-specific low back pain.
3. Exercise Can Actually Minimize Your Back Pain
While there is a natural tendency to refrain from physical activity when you’re living with persistent back pain, doing so may worsen your discomfort. Regular exercise strengthens muscles that support your spine. If your regular routine is too difficult, consider gentler forms of exercise like yoga, casual walking, and water aerobics.
4. Disc Degeneration Is Normal and Not Always Painful
Everybody experiences some degree of disc degeneration over time. It’s a normal part of the aging process, but it’s only painful when the disc damage results in pressure on nerve roots adjacent to the spine. Even when some discomfort is experienced, it usually gets better or more manageable and not worse.
5. MRIs Are Informative but Not Always Necessary
MRI scans can provide valuable information about soft tissue damage and other possible sources of back pain. Even so, it’s possible for a doctor to make an accurate diagnosis based on a patient’s medical and family history and an assessment of presented symptoms.
6. Temperature-Based Therapies Are Simple and Effective
Treatments for back pain don’t have to be expensive and complicated. In many cases, occasional flare-ups will go away with the periodic application of heat or ice with a heating pad, ice pack, or gel pack. Tense or sore muscles may also be relaxed with a warm bath.
7. Your Spine Can Benefit from a Focus on Overall Health
Taking care of your body also means taking care of your spine. It’s a process that can encompass just about everything you do throughout your day, including what you eat, how much exercise you get, how much sleep you get, and your overall posture while sitting and standing.
8. How You Think About Back Pain Determines How You Perceive It
The way pain is experienced is a combination of what’s physically causing it and how your mind is interpreting it. It’s not that the pain is all in your head. However, focusing exclusively on the pain can make it seem worse. Mindful meditation, deep breathing, rhythmic exercises, and the controlled movements of yoga and Pilates are some of the techniques that may help you take your mind off your discomfort.
If you’re experiencing back pain, don’t despair. The trusted surgeons at The Spine Institute can help, whether you need spinal fusion surgery or an alternative to spinal fusion like a Coflex implant. Los Angeles patients can rely on Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of surgeons to diagnose the source of their pain and help them start living a pain-free life. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation.