Back pain is something everyone will experience at some point in their lives, and in many cases, it will be a passing problem. However, for some people, back pain can have a significant impact on their daily lives.
Following some simple guidelines can significantly reduce the symptoms and risks of suffering from lower back pain. For example, regularly exercising, being aware of your posture, and keeping active throughout the day can all help. However, in some cases, the problem might cause chronic pain and affect mobility or the ability to carry out everyday tasks. Initially, the doctor will try conservative treatments to relieve the symptoms, but if those don’t work, they will consider surgery for lower back pain.
Reasons for Back Pain
We lead increasingly busy lives, but we also spend a lot of time sitting at the office, in the car, or in front of the TV. This can lead to lower back problems, which will likely get worse if you don’t make changes to your lifestyle.
But our modern lives are not the only culprits for lower back pain, with the following reasons affecting numerous people:
- Poor posture
- Spinal injury
- Pinched nerves
- Back strains
- Work injuries: poor manual handling techniques and/or falls
- Accidents: trips and falls
In most cases, maintaining an active lifestyle will help alleviate the symptoms of lower back pain, with daily stretches and activities such as swimming, walking, and yoga being particularly helpful. Try to avoid long periods of sitting down. Consider doing some back stretching exercises at the office or get up and go for a walk several times during the day.
Conservative treatments are usually good enough for most people to recover from mild to moderate back pain, with a combination of anti-inflammatory drugs and compresses being the frontline treatments.
When To See a Professional
If the pain doesn’t get better after a few days—or the pain gets worse—then further investigation may be required. Consult your local doctor, who will conduct an initial assessment and possibly refer you to a specialist or physical therapist.
Even if assessments do not reveal any significant injuries, a round of physical therapy often helps relieve any symptoms. The physical therapists will be able to give you exercises for home and work to help strengthen and stretch the problem area. For some patients, the pain may be related to stress, in which case the doctor may refer them to a cognitive behavior therapist to address the source of the stress.
When Is Surgery Required?
The purpose of surgery is to improve the quality of life of the patient by eliminating or reducing pain and increasing range of motion. However, the decision to do back surgery is never taken lightly and will depend on the type of injury, age, and general health of the patient.
The majority of patients will have lower back surgery to relieve the symptoms of a pinched nerve, spinal stenosis, and osteoarthritis. Procedures in back surgery have improved dramatically in recent years and can be done less invasively than they were in the past. The three most common back surgeries are:
Laminectomy: This procedure is useful for patients suffering from sciatica caused by a pinched nerve. The surgeon will remove the back part of the bone covering the spine. This creates more space for the nerve and should help relieve leg pain.
Discectomy: In cases of bulging discs, this surgery can help to remove pressure on the nerve. The surgeon will remove part of a disc, which creates more space.
Spinal fusion: This surgery involves fusing two or more vertebrae together to relieve pressure on the spinal column and improve overall stability.
In all cases, the doctor or surgeon will discuss all the available options with you and will do all they can to avoid the need for surgery. However, in chronic cases, surgery can be a great option to get you back on your feet and pain-free.