Chronic Back Pain
Chronic Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most common complaints affecting 80% of people at some point in their lives. In fact, the headache is the only neurological complaint more common than back pain. Back pain can be categorized according to duration and divided into 2 types, acute back pain and chronic back pain.
Acute back pain, also referred to as short term back pain, is back pain that lasts for a short time, usually not more than a few weeks. The most common cause of acute back pain is usually mechanical in nature, that is from causes such as trauma to the back from injury, fractures, disc degeneration, spondylolithesis or from a joint disorder such as arthritis. Acute back pain will resolve within 3 months because most connective tissues regain health within this time period. Acute back pain can be further sub-divided into sub-acute back pain and acute back pain. Sub-acute back pain is pain that lasts 1 to 3 months while acute pain will last less than a month.
Chronic back pain on the other hand is pain that lasts more than 3 months. Under most circumstances, this type of back pain is progressive and its underlying cause is usually difficult to determine. Doctors will use different methods and tests to come to a diagnosis of chronic back pain. Some of the diagnostic methods that may be employed include CT (Computerized Tomography) scans, X-rays, discographies, bone scans, MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), ultrasounds and other electrodiagnostic procedures.
The doctor will also carry out a thorough physical and medical exam in order to determine the exact cause of the chronic back pain. He will conduct an interview with the patient to determine the onset of the pain, area from which the pain is felt, severity of the pain, other symptoms being experienced, if there is any effect on movement and any other health conditions that may be correlated to the pain. He may also be interested in family history will possibly order blood tests.
Diagnosis of the cause of chronic back pain can be difficult because symptoms of the different potential causes are quite similar and therefore it can be tricky to differentiate the different causes. In some instances, a patient’s CT scans or MRIs may not pick up any abnormality in spite of the back pain. This type of pain is referred to as non-discogenic back pain.
Some of the potential causes of chronic back pain include disc herniation, disc degeneration, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, spondylitis, cancer and inflammatory conditions. The most common diagnosis is disc degeneration.
It is very important to manage chronic back pain, not only for physical well-being but for emotional well-being. Patients with this type of back pain are often found to suffer from depression because of the constant pain and debilitation.