Why Low Back Pain Keeps Coming Back

Pain in the low back affects millions of people each year. Those with minor pain often don't seek treatment, especially if the pain goes away for a while or is only there during certain activities. People with low-level dull pain may learn to tolerate it rather than get help.

The spine needs a lot of support from the surrounding muscles. When that support isn't working right because of an injury or imbalance, aches, pains, deterioration, and displacement can happen. When it does, it's common sense to refrain from activities that aggravate back pain. This can allow inflammation to subside and along with it, the pain. Taking safe doses of anti-inflammatory medications and using a cold pack can also help. But too often the pain comes back either during a different activity or because the original activity can't be avoided. What's the best way to address the pain when it recurs?

Starting with the right diagnosis from an orthopedic doctor specializing in the spine is the best first step for effective treatment. He or she can help pinpoint the source of the pain and determine whether there's actual damage to structures, inflammation, or even muscle spasms. The doctor will want to know how bad it hurts, what triggered it, and what causes it to hurt now. A health history is also helpful so that the doctor knows about any special limitations they need to consider while treating you. The doctor will also want to know about your goals and lifestyle for returning to health. This can affect decisions about the speed and type of treatment that's best for you.

Less severe back problems, especially those that recur, often respond very well to physical therapy and a regular exercise program designed to strengthen the muscles around the affected area. Injections, medications, activity changes, ice, and rest may also be helpful. More severe back problems are sometimes but not always treated with surgery. Many surgeries can be done with newer, minimally invasive techniques that lessen recovery time and post-operative pain.