Back pain is a huge problem worldwide, and many people suffer chronic pain long term because it’s very difficult to diagnose and treat. Lower back pain affects 1 in 10 people according to researchers from all over the world, and is becoming increasingly common. Experts think the modern lifestyle is the main cause of back pain – a combination of lack of exercise, too much sitting, bad posture and some types of jobs could also be to blame.
Most of us will experience an episode of back pain at some point in our lives. However for some individuals, the pain is persistent and difficult to treat. There are many different underlying causes of back pain, so it’s important to establish the problem before a GP or back specialist can recommend treatment.
Here’s a few reasons why treating back pain is so difficult.
Difficult to diagnose
There’s a number of different types of back pain and it’s difficult to tell what patients are feeling. There is no test which can perfectly identify back pain and recognise if it relates to an underlying condition, so doctors often have to rely on descriptions of the pain. Someone with chronic back pain could be suffering from sciatica, a slipped disc or non-specific back pain and an accurate diagnosis could take some time.
Lack of understanding for back pain treatment
Most people know that back pain is a common problem and that it often goes away on its own within a few weeks. The majority of sufferers manage the pain with painkillers – but don’t seek advice or treat the root cause of the pain. There isn’t enough awareness about the wide range of back pain treatments available, including manual therapy, physiotherapy and specific exercise and stretch programmes.
Trial and error
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for general back pain, and people are likely to respond to different treatments. The back has many different muscles, joints and tissues so it can be hard to target the exact area which is causing the pain. There is always more than one option available, so if the first recommended treatment didn’t really have an effect, go back to your doctor and ask for something different. It’s trial and error for most people – sometimes a combination of treatments works well.
Ignoring the symptoms
Many people are reluctant to visit a doctor with back pain – some people prefer the grin and bear it approach. However, ignoring the symptoms can only make the problem worse. Sufferers who are having a ‘bad day’ with their pain may choose to stay off work and lie in bed all day. This is only making the back pain more intense, and other ill informed decisions like these can prolong the episode of back pain. If you see a GP or chiropractor straight away, they can advise certain treatments and give general tips for avoiding pain in the future.