Back pain is a very common condition, especially among the elderly group. It can vary from a dull constant back pain to a very sharp pain, which may disrupt your daily routine. Back pain can be either acute or chronic. This classification of back pain is essential especially when it comes to treatment aspects.
What is an acute back pain?
If your back pain was of sudden onset for instance pain after falling from a height or by lifting dome heavy weights is acute back pain. Acute pain is the most common type of back pain and for the pain to be classified as acute onset; it should not last for more than six weeks. Usually acute pain sets in quickly and leaves quickly as well.
Acute onset back pain usually does not need any treatment as it goes away spontaneously. If the pain is too severe, then you can consider pain killers such as acetaminophen or aspirin to ease you with the pain. Usually your doctor will advise you to carry on with the day to day activities as the pain will resolve on its own. Moving around and carrying out your daily activities itself will reduce the back pain. Exercises and surgery is not recommended for acute onset back pain.
What is chronic back pain?
Chronic pain usually sets in quickly or begins slowly and tends to remain for a long time. If your back pain has been persisting for more than three months, then it is considered as a chronic back pain. However, it is much less common than acute pain.
Treatment for chronic back pain can be non-surgical and surgical. Doctors will always try to cure the back pain with non-surgical ailments before deciding on surgical options.
In a minority of cases where the back pain is due to an infection, tumour or a condition known as the cauda equine syndrome, surgery is always recommended to prevent further development of deadly complications.
- Hot or cold packs – These help to loosen up the tensed muscles in your back. Heat packs help by dilating the blood vessels on your back. This results in an increased supply of blood that has more oxygen, and will be delivered to the tissue in that area. Heat also helps to reduce the muscle spasms and reduce the pain. On the other hand, cold packs help to reduce the inflammation in that area by constricting the blood vessels and reducing the blood supply to that area. In addition to this, cold packs also help to numb that area of the body so that you will not feel much pain. Even though heat and cold packs help to reduce the pain, this is temporary and it does not cure the cause of the back pain.
- Exercise for the back – Flexion, extension, stretching and aerobic exercises help to reduce the back pain and also prevent the pain from returning back.
- Medications – Over the counter pain killers such as Acetaminophen and aspirin can be purchased by anyone if the back pain is so severe. These simple analgesics do not require any prescription. However, the strong analgesics such as narcotics need a prescription by a doctor. These strong analgesics are usually recommended to be used for sever pain and pain after surgery. They are only used for a short period of time.
Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) not only relieve the pain, it also reduces the inflammation.
Other drugs such as muscle relaxants are also help to ease down the pain.
- Traction – One common cause of back pain is herniation or bulging of the intervertebral disc compressing the nerve roots and causing pain. Traction uses weights to stretch your vertebrae apart and help the bulging disc to get back into place. Thus removing the nerve compression and therefore relieving the pain.
Despite trying all the non-surgical options, if the pain still persists or comes back frequently then surgery may be considered. If you are in chronic pain and if it disturbs your sleep or affects your daily activities at home or work place, you may be a candidate for surgery. Conditions like herniated discs, spinal stenosis, vertebral fractures and spondylolisthesis require surgery.