Tips on how to avoid developing chronic lower-back pain from a spine surgeon


man with back pain

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Lower-back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In 2005, $86 billion (adjusted for inflation) was spent in the United States to treat back and neck pain, according to the American Medical Association.

In surveys, nearly one out of four adults reports having an episode of back pain in a three-month span. A subset of those people develops back pain that lasts for more than three months. When acute lower-back pain becomes chronic, it can be life altering. Therefore, early treatment of acute low back pain is essential to trying to prevent it from getting worse.

You can try to prevent developing long-term back pain by following these four tips:


1. Do not avoid dealing with your acute back pain

If you have acute lower-back pain, you can manage it with a self-directed program that includes resting, slowly increasing your activities, using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications and avoiding activities that can worsen the pain. It is very important, however, to seek help if things have not improved within a few weeks.

Providers specializing in the treatment of lower-back pain can help direct your care and try to help you break the pain cycle. As a general rule, the earlier the pain cycle is broken, the better your chances of avoiding a longer-term problem. If the initial lower-back pain is very severe or accompanied by weakness or pain that goes down one or both legs then more urgent medical attention may be required.


2. After a short period of bed rest you must get up and move

There is some evidence that early mobilization can speed up recovery. People should slowly increase their activities and, once pain is reasonably controlled, begin to exercise. Benefits of this include improving aerobic capacity, positive effects on mood and anxiety reduction.


3. Avoid heavy lifting while recovering

Heavy lifting, repetitive motions, twisting and aggravating positions can worsen acute back pain and should be avoided — especially early on. Aggravating existing acute lower-back pain puts you at greater risk to develop chronic back pain. Talk to you doctor so you can determine limitations and figure out you’re your activity level should be.


4. Throw those cigarettes away!

Cigarette smoking has been associated with the development of chronic lower-back pain and other degenerative conditions of the spine. Smoking not only puts you at risk of injury because it accelerates the degenerative process but also can worsen lower-back pain.