Chronic Pain

What is chronic pain?

Pain is an unpleasant sensory or emotional experience. It may be acute or chronic. Acute pain can be mild to severe and last a relatively short time. This is usually less than three months. It is often a signal that body tissue is being injured in some way. It generally disappears when the injury heals. Chronic pain may range from mild to severe, and is present to some degree for longer periods of time. It generally lasts longer than three months.

What causes chronic pain?

There are many causes of chronic pain. It may have started from an illness or injury, from which you may have long since recovered from, but pain remained. Or there may be an ongoing cause of pain, such as arthritis or cancer. Many people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of illness.

How is chronic pain treated?

Chronic pain involves all aspects of your life.  A multidisciplinary approach to pain management is required to provide the needed interventions to help manage the pain. Active involvement by you and your family is vital to the success of the program. The goal of pain management programs is to help you return to the highest level of function and independence possible, while improving the overall quality of life--physically, emotionally and socially. 

Many skilled professionals are part of the pain management rehabilitation team, including any or all of the following:

  • MDs
  • Nurses
  • Physical therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Chiropractors
  • Acupuncturists
  • Nutritionists

Chronic Pain Conditions Treated:

Low Back Pain

What is low back pain?
Low back pain is classified as acute (or short term) and chronic. Acute low back pain lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Most acute low back pain will resolve on its own. Chronic low back pain lasts for more than 3 months and often gets worse. The cause of chronic low back pain can be hard to find.  

What causes low back pain?
The exact cause of low back pain can be hard to determine. In most cases, back pain may be a symptom of many different causes, including any of the following:

  • Overuse, strenuous activity, or improper use (such as  repetitive or heavy lifting, exposure to vibration for prolonged periods of time)
  • Injury
  • Degeneration of vertebrae (often caused by stresses on the muscles and ligaments that support the spine, or the effects of aging)
  • Infection
  • Abnormal growth (tumor)
  • Obesity (often increases weight on the spine and pressure on the disks)
  • Poor muscle tone in the back
  • Muscle tension or spasm
  • Sprain or strain
  • Ligament or muscle tears
  • Joint problems (such as spinal stenosis)
  • Smoking
  • Protruding or herniated (slipped) disk
  • Disease (such as osteoarthritis, spondylitis, compression fractures)

What are the symptoms of low back pain?
Low back pain is classified as acute (or short term) and chronic. Acute low back pain lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Most acute low back pain will resolve on its own. Chronic low back pain lasts for more than 3 months and often gets worse. The cause of chronic low back pain can be hard to find.  

These are the most common symptoms of low back pain. Symptoms may include discomfort or pain in the lower back that is:

  • Aching
  • Burning
  • Stabbing
  • Sharp or dull
  • Well-defined or vague

The pain may radiate into one or both buttocks or even into the thigh or hip area.

The symptoms of low back pain may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is low back pain diagnosed?
Along with a complete medical history and physical exam, tests for low back pain may include:

  • X-ray. A test which uses electromagnetic energy beams to make images of bones onto film.
  • CT scan. An imaging test that uses X-rays and computer technology to make horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
  • MRI. A test that uses large magnets and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures in the body.
  • Electromyogram (EMG). A test to check nerve and muscle function.

How is low back pain treated?
Treatment may include:

  • Activity modification
  • Medications
  • Pain relieving procedures/injections
  • Physical therapy
  • Psychological counseling
  • Spinal manipulation
  • Acupuncture
  • Weight loss
  • Yoga
  • Assistive devices (such as mechanical back supports)
  • Surgery

Can low back pain be prevented?
The following may help to prevent low back pain:

  • Use correct lifting techniques
  • Maintain correct posture while sitting, standing, and sleeping
  • Exercise regularly (with proper stretching beforehand)
  • Yoga
  • Avoid smoking
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce stress which may cause muscle tension

Neck Pain

What is neck pain?
Due to its location and range-of-motion, your neck is often left unprotected and at risk for injury. Neck pain can range from mild discomfort to disabling, chronic pain.

What causes neck pain?
Many different things can cause neck pain including injury, age-related disorders, and inflammatory disease. Causes of neck pain and problems may include:

  • Injury (damage to the muscles, tendons, or ligaments)
  • Herniated disk in the neck
  • Arthritis (such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Cervical (neck) disk degeneration
  • Congenital (present at birth) abnormalities of the vertebrae and bones
  • Tumors

How is neck pain diagnosed?
Along with a complete medical history and physical exam, diagnostic procedures for neck pain may include:

  • X-ray. A test which uses electromagnetic energy beams to make images of bones onto film.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A procedure that uses large magnets and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures within the body. MRI can often identify damage or disease of internal structures within our joints, or in a surrounding ligament or muscle.
  • Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan). An imaging procedure that uses X-rays and computer technology to make images of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.

How is neck pain treated?
Treatment may include:

  • Rest
  • Medications (to reduce inflammation and control pain)
  • Pain relieving procedures
  • Physical therapy
  • Neck brace or immobilization
  • Exercise/yoga
  • Massage therapy
  • Surgery

Cancer Pain

Cancer and Pain Management
Pain may happen as a result of cancer, cancer treatment, or both.  But, even after a cancer diagnosis, not every pain is related to or caused by cancer. Cancer pain may depend on the type of cancer, the stage (extent) of the disease, and an individual's tolerance for pain.

What causes pain with cancer?
Cancer pain that lasts several days or longer may result from one or more of the following and should be evaluated right away:

  • Pain from a tumor that is pressing on body organs, nerves, or bones
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Blockage of an organ or canal in the body
  • Metastasis (cancer cells that have spread to other sites in the body)
  • Infection or inflammation
  • Side effects from chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery
  • Stiffness from inactivity
  • Psychological responses to tension, depression, or anxiety

Treatment for pain
Cancer pain may be treated directly with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Sometimes a surgical procedure may even be recommended specifically to reduce pain. Specific treatment for pain will be determined by your healthcare provider based on the following:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Type of cancer
  • Extent of disease
  • Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Your opinion or preference

Multiple approaches may be used to treat pain including both pharmacological and nonpharmacological.  Let our multidisciplinary pain management team tell you more about your treatment options. Come see us today!

Sports Related Injuries

Most sports injuries are due to either trauma or overuse of muscles or joints. The majority are caused by minor trauma involving muscles, ligaments, tendons, or bones, including:

  • Contusions (bruises)
  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Fractures
  • Dislocations

The goal of rehabilitation after a sports injury is to help the patient return to the highest level of function and independence possible, while improving the overall quality of life--physically, emotionally, and socially. Active involvement of the patient and family is vital to the success of the program.  In order to help reach these goals, sports injury rehabilitation programs may include the following:

  • Activity restrictions
  • Physical or occupational therapy
  • Exercise programs to stretch and strengthen the area
  • Conditioning exercises to help prevent further injury
  • Pain procedures/injections
  • Heat or cold applications and whirlpool treatments
  • Applications of braces, splints, or casts to immobilize the area
  • Use of crutches or wheelchairs
  • Patient and family education

Come learn about your treatment options today!

Other Conditions

  • Back Pain
  • Myofascial Pain
  • Post-Surgical Pain