We have all experienced back pain at some point in our lives and the experience has been unpleasant to say the least. It is comparatively easy to treat acute pain as the treatment course is short and the cause is known. After some stretching, resting and pain relievers, in most cases, the pain will subside, and you will be fine. Occasionally, people experiencing back pain find themselves thinking, “I don't even remember why the pain started”. Pain that persists for more than 3 months or longer than the expected healing period is called chronic back pain. Chronic pain is more complex, involving psychosocial aspects along with the root cause, hence challenging to treat. Overall, chronic pain is a disease in itself, and specialized care is indeed the need of the hour.
When to see a spine specialist for chronic back pain?
Living with chronic back pain can severely impact your quality of life. This ongoing pain could also be an indicator of a larger issue. Don’t ignore severe back pain especially when the pain is constant, intense, or gets worse when you're resting or at night. Don't let back pain become so debilitating that it prevents you from enjoying your favorite activities.
Conventionally, non-prescription, over the counter (OTC) pain medications (eg acetaminophen) and prescription-based opioids are the most common approach to treating moderate-to-severe chronic pain. Additional techniques or alternative therapies such as acupuncture, relaxation, massage therapy, exercise therapy, physical therapy, chiropractic and herbal medicines, may be used for reducing chronic pain and improving quality of life.
There are some modern therapies like Spinal Cord Stimulation which can be helpful in relieving pain. Spinal cord stimulation can be used to treat patients with severe, chronic pain due to a variety of conditions, including failed back surgery, neuropathic pain, degenerative disk disease, and complex regional pain syndrome.
According to Dr. Sachin Kandhari, Sr. Consultant Neurosurgeon at Institute of Brain and Spine (IBS) Hospitals, Delhi “Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) is one of the most effective technologies which, unlike other interventional pain treatment methods, achieves long-term results in patients suffering from chronic neuropathic pain.1,.2 A spinal cord stimulator is an implanted device that sends low levels of electricity directly into the spinal cord to relieve pain. Spinal cord stimulation disrupts the pain signals traveling between the spinal cord and the brain, with the aim of giving you pain relief. The stimulation is delivered by a neurostimulator, a device implanted under the skin that sends mild electrical impulses to an area near your spine.”
How effective is Spinal Cord Stimulation?
The primary benefit of spinal Cord Stimulation is a reduction in chronic pain, which can improve your mobility, function, and quality of life. Spinal Cord Stimulation is a proven, long-term therapy for managing chronic pain. People have experienced several benefits, including improved ability to participate in day-to-day activities, more ability to function, and the ability to manage their own pain therapy by adjusting their stimulation within pre-set limits.
What if Spinal Cord Stimulation doesn’t work for me?
A key benefit of Spinal Cord Stimulation is that you can “test drive” the therapy first, to help you and your doctor decide if it’s right for you. A temporary lead placement procedure is performed in a clinic, day surgery center, or hospital. These temporary leads are placed in the area near the spine. Leads are connected to an external neurostimulator that is secured to your back during the trial. Trial period lasts 3–10 days. After the trial, you and your doctor will decide whether spinal cord stimulation will help you manage your chronic pain and if you should proceed with a permanent device implant.
“On the occasion of pain awareness month, more patients should learn about effective ways to manage their chronic back pain. Many people experience considerably less pain after the SCS procedure than before, which allows them to enjoy a higher quality of life and more mobility. Some patients receiving spinal cord stimulation might be able to reduce or eliminate their pain medications after consulting their doctor. All patients should follow the advice of their pain specialist about medications, exercise, and other treatments that might reduce their pain further,” added Dr. Sachin Kandhari
Tips to manage back pain through lifestyle management
• Healthy eating patterns play a crucial role in not only reducing lower back pain but also reducing excess body weight, which is one of the risk factors for developing back pain.
• Sleep with a pillow under your knees
• Conventional exercises that include aerobic, strength, flexibility, and balance training can help reduce your risk of back-related injuries, such as strains and muscle spasms.
• Mind-body or integrative movements may be another form of exercise or physical activity. This type of exercise combines specialized movements, controlled breathing, and mental focus to improve overall health, balance, flexibility, and strength.
• Quit smoking, limit alcohol consumption
• Relieve the strain of the day whenever you can by getting up, walking around, and doing some simple stretches.
Disclaimer: “Any and all the Information provided in the article are independent views expressed by Dr. Sachin Kandhari, Sr. Consultant Neurosurgeon at Institute of Brain and Spine (IBS) Hospitals, Delhi are intended for general overview and educational purposes only. This article is not to be treated as a medical advice. You are required to consult your registered medical practitioner for any clarification around this article”
1. Kumar K, Taylor RS, Jacques L, et al. The effects of spinal cord stimulation in neuropathic pain are sustained: a 24-month follow-up of the prospective randomized controlled multicentre trial of the effectiveness of spinal cord stimulation. Neurosurgery. 2008; 63(4):762-770. Discussion: 770.
2. Kemler MA, de Vet HC, Barendse GA, van den Wildenberg FA, van Kleef M. Effect of spinal cord stimulation for chronic complex regional pain syndrome type 1: five-year final follow-up of patients in a randomized controlled trial. J Neurosurg. 2008; 108(2):292-298.