Final Notes on Chronic Back Pain

Your brain is your best asset to combating chronic back pain

If you understand what medicine can and cannot do, you will soon realize that doctors have little control over or the ability to cure chronic back pain. Think about your back pain as coming from microscopic nerves or sensors that are stimulated when muscles become too stiff, weak, or unable to function, and attached to an amplifier magnifying the intensity of such an alarm. We cannot block all of these sensors and we don’t know how to stop the amplifier from working. Your best asset is to use your brain to try to turn down the amplifier and understand that the loudness of the signal is not a reflection of the severity of the pain.

Your health-care provider is there to help you manage your chronic back pain

Health-care providers must clarify misperceptions about back pain and guide patients toward effective active management of their symptoms. Educating patients and their families about back pain is not easy, but we feel it is our duty to

  • Improve our health as a nation
  • Decrease health-care costs due to unnecessary surgery
  • Restore patients' ability to go back to work
  • Restore individual self-esteem

A mass-media campaign in the 1990s in Australia was successful in changing public attitudes and beliefs about back pain. Benefits included changing the behavior of Australian health-care providers and reducing workers’ compensation claims related to back pain. These are outcomes that would be helpful to our local and national economy.

We understand that much of this information may be confusing or contradictory to what you have been told by other respected health-care professionals. This revelation might also be upsetting. We understand this and treat all patients with respect while having this conversation. We assume you are here for our professional advice and are open to considering our treatment recommendations. We understand that some patients may not believe this approach will work for them. For those patients who continue to fail to understand or hold unrealistic beliefs or expectations of their pain, unfortunately we may not have any further treatment recommendations. As far as we know, chronic pain does not lead to a shorter life expectancy.

There are many chronic conditions associated with chronic pain that are linked to reduced life expectancy including obesity, long-term unemployment, and untreated mental health conditions. If you have any of these conditions, you should view this as a call to become better engaged in your own health by seeking and following through with the recommendations of your health-care providers.

We hope to give you the confidence to take control of your back pain

We hope that by reading, studying, and understanding this material, you will become more empowered and educated. This will help you ask questions of your health-care providers and challenge them to explain to you what they are going to do to help you. Be sure to remember how important your role is in controlling your muscles, responding to your pain receptors, and deciding how you can help yourself. We believe that patients are best served when they and their health-care team share in the decision-making process and agree upon treating pain in a collaborative manner.

There is no perfect way for you to manage your chronic pain. At UI Health Care, we have developed this guide to present a clear explanation for chronic back pain and show how you can use scientifically proven, safe advice to manage this frustrating condition.