You Should Accept and Take Control of Your Back Pain

Be open-minded about treating back pain

Be open toward reshaping how you view your chronic back pain. Our goal is to give all patients an adequate explanation for their pain so they understand what medical care can and cannot do. This will allow them to focus on starting rehabilitation. A key focus of this guide and many of the international medical treatment guidelines for chronic back pain is helping people self-manage their condition by reducing pain and its impact on their day-to-day life even if the pain cannot be cured completely.

We encourage people to stay physically active and continue with normal activities as much as possible. We provide information about the expected course of their pain and effective self-care options. Treatment should take into account:

  • Your needs as a patient
  • Your preferences as a patient
  • Your informed decisions
  • Involve good patient-physician communication

Studies have shown that patients who do not receive an adequate explanation for their pain frequently want more diagnostic tests, were less satisfied with their visit, or are less likely to want the same doctor again.

Factors you can change that influence your back pain

Your physical fitness

Take a look at what reversible factors, including your weight, exercise, or activity level, you could change with help from your doctor. You can even look at your mental approach or understanding of chronic pain. The average weight of a person in America has been increasing. You may recall that just a few years ago that you could burn off those extra five pounds through increased activity in the summers. As we approach our thirties and forties, it is not uncommon for our metabolism to change and we become entrenched in our typical activity and dietary habits. Aging is an example of an irreversible risk factor, but diet and exercise habits are certainly reversible.

Your job

People who have physically demanding work activities and need to be able to constantly perform at such a high level are especially at risk of developing chronic pain. For these people, even a simple injury or incident may have the effect of becoming a career-ending injury. In these cases, we suggest that they view their back pain as a realistic calling to consider less physically demanding or alternative work options. While Olympic athletes sometimes have sponsorships that they can rely upon when they end their sports careers, it’s not the same for the average person. The reality is that most of us don’t have that safety net and vocational counseling or retraining services are not as glamorous.

Positive thinking

Even with UI Health Care’s advice, many still consider their back pain must be coming from a dangerous or subtle process that eludes medical treatment. Unfortunately, those people who catastrophize their back pain rarely see any improvement. Those who tend to assign blame for developing chronic back pain to a particular incident also tend to do poorly.

Don’t view chronic back pain as something that will ruin your life or that only doctors can free you from. People who understand that they need to take an active role in treating their back pain by doing physical exercises and even learning some simple cognitive-behavioral exercises, can lead fulfilling lives by engaging in most of their preferred recreational physical activities and managing intermittent episodes of chronic back pain.

Outside factors that influence back pain

We frequently like to believe that back pain comes from injuries to the spine such as an accident, arthritis, or even old age. It may be more helpful for people to understand that we are all susceptible to chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Many of these conditions strike adults in the prime of their working years. No one wants to develop a chronic disease, but the reality is that much of medical treatment already focuses on the management of chronic conditions. We would all love to be able to be as physically active or disease-free as we were when we were younger. Unfortunately, our development of these chronic conditions is usually not dependent on only one specific injury, incident, or accident. Instead, this development comes from a host of reversible factors and some non-reversible or genetic factors.

We are not certain why some people are at risk of developing these conditions. It may be a matter of their genetic makeup, but the best explanation is probably that much like other chronic medical conditions, there are some genetic factors that cannot be changed, some environmental factors that may or may not be easily changed, and some personal factors or behaviors that definitely can be changed. Some researchers are looking at whether our genetic makeup plays a role in controlling our body’s response to pain. There is even thought that a particular gene, catecholamine-O-methyl transferase, that is thought to play a role in the body’s system of modulating pain.

Successful genetic treatments for humans with pain are not available now and probably won’t be available om the foreseable future. In the meantime, understanding that our susceptibility or vulnerability to developing most chronic conditions depends on reversible factors and some non-reversible factors.

As with many other chronic medical conditions, your outlook and understanding of your medical condition can greatly impact your overall quality of life. A helpful way to manage chronic pain is engaging in some consistent level of activity despite pain. If you can convince yourself that chronic pain comes from an over-excited or over-responsive nervous system that is attached to your musculoskeletal system, then you are much less likely to be afraid of activity that causes increased pain.

A harmful way of managing your pain is to think that with every step you take, your discs are leaking, degenerating, or bulging. This will lead you to retreat and respond by becoming fearful of any and all normal activities that cause further pain. Hurt does not necessarily mean harm when it comes to chronic back pain especially if your doctor has assured you that you don’t have a fracture, tumor, or infection.

Last reviewed: 
April 2018

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