Mrs. Smith has suffered from low back pain for the past five years. Her pain intensifies when bending backwards. She had many tests, including an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), x-rays and nerve studies, all of which proved normal. She tried many medications for pain, with only temporary relief. Even many weeks of physical therapy provided her with only minimal relief from her pain.
Mrs. Smith was not the only one suffering because of her pain. She was not able to perform daily chores and to enjoy her life. She had to cut her work hours and her husband had to drive her to work every day. She became severely depressed.
Mrs. Smith’s story is quite familiar. Many of us have experienced low back pain. Often, the pain is more than physical; the emotional suffering from low back pain can be substantial. Pain can limit our daily activities, from managing household chores to fulfilling obligations at work. If the pain is present for longer periods of time, it can seriously affect our ability to maintain meaningful relationships with our family members, friends and loved ones. It can cause depression and anxiety. There is no test for pain and the fact that other people cannot perceive our pain makes things even more difficult.
There are, in fact, many different causes of low back pain. Also, the same person can have several disorders causing such pain at the same time. Some of the causes can be easily found through x-rays or MRI and treated; others may require a comprehensive trial-and-error approach until adequate treatment is found. Each person is different and requires careful evaluation and the development of an individualized treatment plan, particularly if pain has been present for a long time.
If you just started experiencing low back pain, do not panic! Most types of low back pain resolve in about six weeks with or without treatment. If the pain just started, is minor and confined only to your lower back area, chances are it will go away soon. If the pain is already present for several weeks or longer and is severe, you might need to contact a physician.
What if your pain has been present for several years? What if the pain has already caused you much suffering, even after seeing many health professionals? I believe that, in most cases, hope lies in accurate diagnosis and the selection of adequate treatment options.
Fortunately, many pain management centers can help people with severe low back pain. There are new treatment options available that can potentially cure or diminish many forms of low back pain. These may involve medications, selective nerve blocks and, in some cases, complex techniques or devices that can diminish or eradicate pain. Many people benefit from a team approach, incorporating health professionals from different backgrounds.
Mrs. Smith finally decided to visit a pain management clinic. Physicians diagnosed her with “facet joint disease.” She underwent a series of facet joint blocks that resulted in 90 percent pain relief. A psychologist in the pain clinic helped her to manage her remaining pain and return to daily activities. Although she still had minor pain, she was able to enjoy life again.
Even if your pain has caused you much suffering, there is always hope. Treatment technologies are constantly improving, and new pain management strategies are promising.