Spinal pain can be divided into short term (acute recent onset) and long term (chronic).
Treatment varies according to the type of pain you’re experiencing.
Short-term pain is best managed by remaining active, rather than resting, according to specialist pain management physician Dr Simon Tame, from Northern Integrated Pain Management (NIPM).
“Simple pain killers (anti-inflammatories or paracetamol) can be used providing they are effective. Stronger pain killers should be avoided.
“Education and reassurance about low back pain is very important. Patients need to know the problem is quite likely to resolve, and rarely dangerous.”
Long-term (chronic) spinal pain is a more complex problem.
“People who experience long-term pain often develop associated problems such as depression, poor sleep, weight gain, and disability related to pain,” Dr Tame said.
“In any long-term pain the way the brain processes pain changes, essentially making the pain-processing system more sensitive, and the problem more entrenched. These various problems associated with long-term pain all feed into each other.
“In this case, a multi-disciplinary treatment that addresses psychological, physical and social factors is the best approach.”
Multidisciplinary treatment can involve practitioners such as physical therapists, psychologists, nurses and doctors with a focus on things like physical therapy, pain psychology and pain management procedures.
“Physical therapy focuses on helping people self-manage exercise,” Dr Tame said.
“Pain psychology focuses on undoing unhelpful beliefs and thoughts about pain which often pose a major barrier to improving fitness and function.
"There have been major advances in pain management procedures for back pain in the last five years – especially with new spinal cord stimulation systems. We are now at the stage where many spinal pain complaints can be significantly improved by pain clinic procedures.”
If you experience any sort of spinal pain, Dr Tame recommends you first get in touch with your GP.
"If pain persists beyond three months then a pain clinic referral should be considered – especially when people are struggling to keep up with normal activities or using opioid medications,” Dr Tame said
“Access to good quality information and educational material about managing pain is also crucial. Our website has links to free, high quality internet-based sites such as the Pain Management Network."
For more information, phone NIPM on (02) 4923 8900 or visit www.newcastlepainmanagement.com.au.