Chronic pain is medically defined as pain that lasts for three months or longer. This is distinct from acute pain, which occurs suddenly, usually as a result of an injury. Pain of any kind in the spine – from the cervical (neck) region to the lumbar (lower back) region – normally can be traced to a strained muscle or a sprained ligament. While these injuries usually produce acute pain that heals over time, the pain can become chronic if the natural healing process is inhibited because of a recurrence of the injury or because of another existing spinal condition.
Causes of Spinal Chronic Pain
Chronic pain, when it occurs within the vertebral column, often can be traced to a degenerative spine condition associated with the normal wear and tear that occurs during the aging process. These conditions include:
- Degenerative disc disease – The intervertebral discs begin to lose their water content and elasticity during the natural aging process, disrupting the delicate relationship among the various components of the spinal anatomy.
- Spinal stenosis – This occurs when the spinal canal or the pathways for nerve roots become constricted, either through soft tissue swelling or the growth of bone spurs.
- Herniated disc – The torn or split wall of an intervertebral disc allows the disc’s nucleus material to extrude into the spinal canal, a potential cause of nerve compression.
- Bulging disc – Intense pressure within the intervertebral disc forces the disc to expand into the spinal canal, potentially causing pinched nerve.
- Arthritis of the spine – Natural degeneration as we age wears down the cartilaginous layers that lubricate joints where the vertebrae meet (the facet joints).
Treatment for Chronic Spine Pain
Most chronic pain sufferers can successfully manage their symptoms through conservative treatments, including pain medication and physical therapy. However, if pain persists after weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery might become an option. The orthopedic specialists at Laser Spine Institute have helped tens of thousands of chronic pain sufferers find relief through the use of minimally invasive procedures that employ safe, gentle endoscopic techniques. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more, and to receive a free review of an MRI or CT scan.