If you’re suffering from lower back pain, you may take some small comfort in knowing you’re not alone.
In fact, four in five people in the U.S. will be affected by lower back pain at some point in their lives.
Start with basic self-care
Fortunately, most back pain does ease with rest and over-the-counter pain relievers. Some people can benefit from applying cold compresses or ice for 20 minutes, several times a day. Use a pad of some kind, though, between the cold source and your skin.
If these basic self-care tips don’t help, it’s probably time to talk to your doctor. He or she will ask you questions and order diagnostic exams, then may refer you to a specialist, like Dr. David Junker, a Marshfield Clinic pain management specialist in Eau Claire.
“Our spine management program is truly comprehensive,” he said. “We focus on not just giving pills and injections but treating the whole person. There is a psychological component, as well, because of stress that goes along with pain. We’re one of the rare programs integrating that issue.”
Marshfield Clinic’s pain management program:
- Starts with conservative treatments such as medications, rest, rehab and/or therapy.
- Moves on if necessary to interventional procedures, such as steroid injections into the spine; radiofrequency ablation using radio waves to “ablate,” or destroy nerves that sense pain in joints, neck and back; and spinal cord stimulator therapy. That therapy sends an electrical signal to the spinal cord blocking pain signals from reaching the brain; and is especially useful to treat nerve pain from the neck or low back that radiates into arms or legs.
- Includes neurolytic blocks, often used to treat cancer pain for people who are in their end stage of life.
- Diagnostic injections of nerves to pinpoint where pain is coming from.
“By far our most common procedure is the epidural steroid injection,” Junker said. “We use it for pain from the sciatic nerve running through the low back and legs. It is useful to decrease pain from swelling and inflammation.”
Chronic pain cannot always be cured but it can be managed to significantly improve patients’ quality of life, he said.
How much do you know about your back?
Test your knowledge by taking this short quiz.