Contributed by The Pain Management Center
Dr. Laxmaiah Manchikanti, Medical Director for The Pain Management Center in Paducah, gestures to a model of the spinal column. According to Manchikanti, long-lasting back pain is a common ailment in today's population.
It’s one of the most frequently voiced concerns among patients in clinics across the nation and physicians believe it could be on the rise, as an estimated 8 of 10 people will endure some degree of lower back pain in their lifetime.
Containing the largest and strongest vertebrae, the lumbar region of the back bears most of the body’s weight, but when strained or overused, pain can manifest itself for varying degrees of time, even without a prior injury.
Dr. Laxmaiah Manchikanti, medical director of The Pain Management Center of Paducah, stated only about 5 to 10 percent of back pain results in chronic, long-lasting pain, while typically, 80 to 90 percent of back pain is resolved in about six weeks. Even then, pain can often return throughout patients’ lives, making for a dismal experience.
“The biggest problem is thinking it will go away, thinking it’s just back pain,” said Dr. Rodney Sparks, a chiropractor at Paducah Chiropractic Center.
“Just simple back pain isn’t so simple sometimes. Leave it there for years and you’re looking at major problems down the road.”
The first step in treating intense back pain is an accurate diagnosis of the cause of the pain through imaging, said Dr. Allan Gocio, a neurosurgeon at Lourdes hospital. Determining where the pain is radiating from — be it a disc, joint or nerve — helps physicians specialize their treatment options, as opposed to a broad diagnosis of nonspecific pain.
Once the area of pain is located, Sparks said in many cases he would perform a spinal adjustment to realign the spine before physical therapy reinforces the surrounding muscles.
According to Manchikanti, chronic back pain should not be treated the same as acute pain with opioids and bed rest, but instead the patient should immediately begin a structured exercise program.
“Get up and move, and learn to strengthen those postural muscles that usually don’t get used,” Sparks said. “Usually there are very simple exercises people really don’t know that can strengthen those proper muscles.”
Though most patients will not require surgery for their pain, Gocio said in those few cases, a lumbar laminectomy remains the most common procedure. The decompressive surgery opens channels for compressed spinal nerves, such as in a herniated disc.
“Within two to three weeks, if onset of back pain is not improving, seek medical evaluation of some type,” Gocio said. “Diagnostic studies are good enough that they can really pin down that surgical option or not.”
Call Will Pinkston, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.