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Chronic Back Pain: Exploring Treatment Options in South Georgia

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Chronic Back Pain: Exploring Treatment Options in South Georgia

Chronic back pain is a pervasive and debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Unlike acute back pain, which often resolves on its own or with minimal intervention, the nagging, excruciating symptoms of chronic back pain persist for 12 weeks or more and, in some cases, may progress until you can hardly move at all. 

So, what causes chronic back pain, and how can you get relief? Thomasville-based neurosurgeon Dr. Sam Dayawansa has the answers to these questions and more below. 

Acute vs. Chronic Back Pain: What's The Difference? 

When it comes to an aching back, understanding the distinction between acute and chronic pain is important for effective treatment. 

"Acute back pain often arrives abruptly, typically resulting from a specific incident such as lifting a heavy object," says Dr. Dayawansa. "Acute back pain manifests as intense, sharp discomfort and may gradually subside with time, rest, and appropriate care." 

In contrast, chronic back pain persists for 12 weeks or more with symptoms characterized by a consistent, lingering ache that endures beyond the initial injury or trauma and impacts daily life over an extended period. 

"Chronic back pain often requires a more comprehensive approach to managing symptoms and improving the patient's quality of life," said Dr. Dayawansa. 

What Are Common Causes of Chronic Back Pain? 

Chronic back pain can be attributed to a variety of factors, both structural and lifestyle-related. Conditions such as degenerative disc disease, where spinal discs gradually wear down over time, and herniated discs, where the inner material protrudes and compresses nerves, contribute significantly to persistent chronic back pain. Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal, and osteoarthritis, the wear and tear of joints, are also common culprits. Beyond structural issues, lifestyle factors like poor posture, muscle imbalances, and obesity can exacerbate chronic back pain. 

Do Neurosurgeons Treat Chronic Back Pain? 

Neurosurgeons play a vital role in the treatment of chronic back pain, especially when structural issues require surgical intervention. Conditions like herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and certain spinal deformities may necessitate the expertise of a neurosurgeon to provide precise and targeted surgical solutions. 

"Consulting with a neurosurgeon for back pain is generally warranted when the pain is associated with specific neurological symptoms or when other treatments have proven ineffective," said Dr. Dayawansa. 

Here are some indications for seeking the expertise of a neurosurgeon:

  • Persistent Severe Pain: If you're experiencing persistent and severe back pain that doesn't respond to conservative treatments such as physical therapy, medications, or injections, it may be time to consult a neurosurgeon. 
  • Radiating Pain or Numbness: Pain that radiates down the legs, or numbness and weakness in the extremities, could indicate nerve compression. Neurosurgeons specialize in addressing issues related to the nervous system, and they can evaluate and treat conditions causing these symptoms.
  • Diagnostic Imaging Findings: If imaging studies, such as MRI or CT scans, reveal structural issues like herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or other abnormalities that may require surgical intervention, a neurosurgeon's expertise is often necessary. 
  • Loss of Bowel or Bladder Control: Any loss of bowel or bladder control along with back pain should be treated as a medical emergency. Consult a neurosurgeon immediately, as this could indicate a serious condition affecting the spinal cord. 
  • Failed Conservative Treatments: If conservative treatments have been exhausted without significant improvement, a neurosurgeon can provide a comprehensive evaluation and discuss surgical options that may be suitable for your specific condition. 

Non-Surgical and Surgical Treatments for Back Pain

When it comes to relieving chronic back pain, individuals have a range of non-surgical and surgical treatment options available. Non-surgical approaches often form the initial line of defense, aiming to manage pain, improve flexibility, and address underlying issues without resorting to surgery. In cases where non-surgical measures prove insufficient or when there are identifiable structural problems like herniated discs or spinal stenosis, surgical options may be considered. 

Non-surgical Treatment Options

  • Physical therapy
  • Medications (pain relievers, anti-inflammatories)
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Acupuncture

Surgical Treatment Options

  • Discectomy: Removal of a portion of a herniated disc. 
  • Laminectomy: Removal of part of the vertebral bone to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. 
  • Spinal Fusion: Joining two or more vertebrae to stabilize the spine. 
  • Artificial Disc Replacement: Replacement of a damaged disc with an artificial one. 
  • Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) Implant: A procedure during which a medical device is implanted in the body to treat severe back pain. 
  • Kyphoplasty: A minimally invasive procedure that is used to strengthen the bone, restore the height of damaged vertebrae, and relieve pain associated with vertebral compression fractures that are commonly associated with severe osteoporosis. 

"It's important to note that seeking the opinion of a neurosurgeon doesn't always mean surgery is the only option," said Dr. Dayawansa. "Neurosurgeons are trained to assess and manage a broad spectrum of neurological issues, and we can provide valuable insights into the most appropriate treatment for your back pain." 

The Relief You Need from Chronic Back Pain

In navigating the complexities of chronic back pain, it's important to recognize that no one-size-fits-all solution exists. The journey to relief often involves a combination of non-surgical interventions, lifestyle modifications, and, in some cases, surgical procedures tailored to the individual's unique circumstances. Consulting with healthcare professionals, including neurosurgeons, when necessary, provides a roadmap for understanding the intricacies of chronic back pain and crafting a tailored treatment plan that offers the best chance for long-term relief and improved quality of life. 

If you're suffering from chronic back pain, talk with your primary care provider about a referral to a neurosurgeon at Archbold Neurology/Neurosurgery located in Thomasville, Georgia.