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Causes And Treatments of Extreme And Chronic Back Pain

Almost 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain according to the American Pain Foundation. Despite years of research, it remains deficiently understood. If you are one of the unfortunate back pain sufferers and if your back pain has lasted more than three months, or beyond the time of tissue healing after an injury, you can consider yourself a chronic pain sufferer.

The back is a complex connection of bones, nerves, muscles, discs and tendons. An irritation of any of these can cause back pain and even pain that radiates to other parts of the body.

Chronic back pain can be caused either by an unidentifiable factor or by an identifiable factor.

Back pain stemming from unidentifiable causes:

You may have experienced an injury and although the tissue compromised has already healed, you continue to experience pain in which case there is no identifiable pain generator. Although this type of pain is called chronic benign pain, there is nothing that feels benign about it. Even after the tissue has healed, the nervous system continues to send a pain signal and treatment for this type of pain is more complicated that treatment for pain that has a clear cause.

Back pain stemming from identifiable causes:

Back pain may have several sources. Younger adults between the ages of 30 and 60 are likely to experience back pain caused by disc herniation or degeneration, or from a muscle strain, whereas adults who are over 60 years of age are more likely to experience back pain caused by joint degeneration or a compression fracture.

Some of the most common identifiable causes for back pain are:

  • Irritation of the nerve roots that travel from the lower back to the legs
  • Strain of the back muscles due to heavy lifting or poor posture
  • Damage to the bones, ligaments or joints
  • Degeneration of the intervertebral discs
  • Arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Shingles


  • Medicine: many patients who experience chronic back pain find relief in pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics. Some medicines originally manufactured to treat epilepsy as well as some antidepressants have also proven to be successful at relieving chronic pain. Many doctors effectively prescribe opioids such as morphine, codeine and oxycodone in order to treat chronic pain.  
  • Alternative treatments: acupuncture, massages, meditation, biofeedback  and spinal chiropractic manipulation have scientifically proven to offer significant chronic pain relief.
  • Physical therapy: a physical or occupational therapist can help chronic pain patients avoid certain movements that often contribute to chronic back pain.
  • Nerve stimulation: via transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation or implantable devices, little jolts of electrical current are transmitted, blocking the nerve impulses that cause chronic pain.
  • Exercise: walking, swimming, stretching and other forms of low-impact exercise can help stretch tight muscles and strengthen your core.
  • Psychological therapy: especially effective in patients with unidentifiable causes of pain, a form of psychotherapy known as cognitive behavioral therapy has proven to be particularly effective at treating chronic back pain.