A symptom from a variety of spinal conditions, chronic pain is a range of debilitating symptoms that lasts longer than three to six months.
What is Chronic Pain?
- Chronic pain, by definition, is pain that doesn't go away within 3 to 6 months and is present after diagnosis and treatment. Acute pain is sudden, is normally easy to detect what caused it, and is usually a warning sign for disease. However, chronic pain stays, can be difficult to diagnose, and is no longer a warning sign but is the disease.
- Chronic pain can take on many different forms and has a variety of symptoms. It may also be a symptom of various spinal conditions. Sometimes chronic pain is present after one condition is treated, indicating that more than one spinal condition may have been present and all causing pain.
- Treatment is a two-step process. First, conservative methods are used extensively to treat pain and as an attempt to diagnose the cause of pain. If conservative treatment methods are exhausted, then surgical procedures may be performed.
- Chronic pain is a serious problem that can be debilitating and disable a patient's quality of life. It may also cause emotional disabilities that may be present after chronic pain is treated.
What are the symptoms of chronic back or neck pain?
- Pain that does not go away after 3 to 6 months, whether mild or severe
- Pain that may be sharp, shooting, radiating, electrical, aching, burning, dull, or throbbing
- Feeling discomfort, tightness, stiffness, or soreness in the muscles around the source of pain
- Radicular pain that is felt in areas outside of the main source of pain
- Sciatica, or pain that shoots down the buttocks, legs, calves, feet, or toes
- Pain that is felt in the shoulders or neck areas, that may shoot down to the arms, hands, or fingers
- Numbness or weakness in extremities
- Fatigue or lack of sleep from discomfort
- Inability to perform everyday activities, withdrawal from social activity, and increased need to rest
- Mood and behavior changes like anxiety, irritability, and/or depression
- Disability from the pain
What causes chronic back and neck pain?
Chronic pain may be caused by something identifiable or unidentifiable. For identifiable pain, an ongoing spinal condition may be the cause. Such conditions may include spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, spondylosis, spondylolisthesis, a herniated or bulging disc, foraminal stenosis, sciatica, arthritis of the spine, or a pinched nerve.
For unidentifiable chronic pain, symptoms may occur after the known condition has been treated. Failed back surgery syndrome is one of the causes for unidentifiable chronic pain.
How do you treat it?
Patients with chronic back or neck pain may be recommended conservative methods of treatment early on by their doctor. Some of these treatments commonly include rest, massages, relaxation, physical therapy, visual or mental distraction, pain and/or anti-inflammatory medications, hot and cold compresses, and steroidal medication. Surgery is recommended once these methods of treatment are unsuccessful in treating pain, or if nerve damage is suspected to occur.
Procedures to treat chronic back or neck pain depend on the identifiable or unidentifiable cause of the pain. Discectomy or microdiscectomy may treat a herniated or bulging disc. Foraminotomy may treat foraminal stenosis. Laminotomy may treat spinal stenosis or arthritis of the spine. Or, spinal cord stimulation using dorsal column simulators may treat failed back surgery syndrome.
If you would like more information, and you feel you may be a candidate for a spine procedure, please send us your MRI scan here and we will review it for free.