Back pain is like the common cold – nearly all of us will have to deal with it at some point. 

The good news is that most back pain will go away with minimal treatment. This type of pain is typically “acute,” meaning it comes on suddenly and lasts no more than a few weeks. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and topical analgesics often provide relief.

However, if your pain lasts more than 12 weeks, it is characterized as “chronic.” 

If you are experiencing persistent back pain, don’t ignore the problem. Chronic back pain can take a toll on your overall physical and emotional health, so it’s crucial that you seek professional care.

The first step will be for your provider to determine exactly what is causing your pain. I encourage people to pay attention to warning signs and what hurts, as it helps me diagnose the cause. 

For example, if you’re experiencing leg pain in addition to low back pain, it could be a sign of a herniated disk. If you notice numbness in your arms or legs, it could be caused by spinal stenosis or a side effect of arthritis. 

If you have persistent pain that is accompanied by fever or unexplained weight loss, follows an accident or blow to the back, or impacts bladder or bowel function, you should see a doctor immediately. While most chronic back pain is due to spinal issues, it’s always good to make sure it’s not due to anything else.

When it comes to chronic back pain, a healthy lifestyle can make a big difference. 

First, address the things you can change, such as losing weight, quitting smoking or making your work area more ergonomically correct. Most importantly, maintain a low-impact exercise routine and strengthen your core, giving your body the tools it needs to take the stress off your back. 

Talk to your doctor about treatments that can help you move past the pain. There are many options, including pain medication, physical therapy, and injections to nerve ablation.

What about surgery? With proper diagnosis and treatment, most back pain will improve without surgery. However, if you’ve gone through conservative treatments and still have no relief for your back pain, surgery can be an effective option to relieve back pain, neck pain, deformities and disk problems.

And while “spine surgery” may sound daunting, the good news is that many of today’s state-of-the-art spinal surgeries are minimally invasive and designed to spare healthy muscle tissue, speed recovery and cause less postsurgical pain.

 

Dr. Castro to host “Talk with the Doc”

If back pain has become an issue for you, join Dr. B. Andrew Castro for a special “Talk with the Doc” at 2 p.m. Feb. 2 at Okatie Pines, where he will discuss caring for your back and solutions for back pain. A board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopaedic spine specialist, Dr. Castro is on the medical staff at Beaufort Memorial and practices with BOSS Orthopaedics in Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head Island.

Okatie Pines is located at 142 Okatie Blvd. North. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. RSVP to BOSS@bossortho.com.