Back pain accounts for thousands of trips to doctors, pain clinics and specialists every year. Spinal symptoms vary and many different conditions potentially account for spinal pain. Before you can address such conditions, you first must learn more about pain that affects the spine, and then determine how to manage and treat that pain.
What is the difference between acute and chronic pain?
Acute pain is short term, typically caused by an injury, strain or other condition that potentially causes spinal pain. An individual with acute pain often benefits from ice, rest and perhaps a course of physical therapy. However, if the pain persists or seems to get worse, a doctor usually will run tests before making a recommendation for treatment.
Chronic pain, on the other hand, is intense pain that persists, potentially getting worse with time. Many different conditions can account for chronic spinal pain, and a doctor will order specific tests to help dictate the treatment plan.
Evaluating spinal pain
The first contact in diagnosing and treating pain of the spine is with a primary care physician. However, the American Family Physician points out that “in primary care practice, the specific anatomic cause of back pain is often impossible to define.” For these reasons, the primary care physician often makes a referral to a specialist.
A specialist has the training, experience, and expertise to properly diagnose your back pain and to recommend an approach to treatment. The specialist gathers information such as your medical history and details of your back pain and then conducts a physical examination. They likely will order a series of tests to further evaluate your pain, ruling out or confirming any suspicion of conditions such as arthritis, narrowing of the spinal canal, disc herniation, malignancies or other suspected conditions.
Treating your spinal pain
Once the physician receives your test results, he or she reviews them with you and explains the diagnosis or perhaps the need for further testing. The specialist answers your questions, helping to alleviate some of your concerns over the ongoing pain that you experience.
The treatment for your spinal pain is not necessarily going to be the same as prescribed to another person who also experiences back pain. Each case of chronic spinal pain is different and requires a comprehensive evaluation process and individualized treatment plan.
Whatever course of treatment the specialist recommends, it is crucial that you fully comply with all aspects of treatment. If you fail to do so, you cannot expect optimal recovery. If you have questions after starting treatment, never hesitate to ask. With a proper evaluation and treatment plan, you can potentially live with less spinal pain.