Thinking and Communicating About Back Pain

According to Britain’s Daily Mail, back pain is one of the medical disorders that doctors most frequently encounter, more common even than heart disease. In fact, when taking into account the number of years that discomfort is experienced, back pain tends to outpace heart disease, malaria, and other such major health concerns and other life-threatening illnesses. Any type of chronic pain disorder can represent a huge impact on an individual’s quality of life. Dr. Solomon Kamson, who specializes in pain medicine, notes that chronic pain issues often cause patients to have a negative outlook not only on their health but also on other areas of life.

If you are experiencing back pain, you no doubt understand what a distraction and an impediment it can represent for your productivity and even for your happiness. According to the same study, doctors are also starting to see back pain occurring with increased frequency in patients as young as 25 to 30. This rise in frequency is often linked to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, which actually put a bigger strain on our backs than a very active lifestyle. This has been found to be true even when that active lifestyle involves regular heavy lifting or other activities that put a strain on the back. The bottom line is that no matter how much strain a regular activity may put on your back, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is still the best measure of preempting back problems.

While it is difficult to live with any kind of chronic pain, back pain can be particularly debilitating. There are many routes that a patient can choose to pursue relief, but much of the process of ongoing back pain management comes down to the degree to which the sufferer can make lifestyle changes. This could mean stopping behaviors that were causing or exacerbating the problem, or to changing behavior in accordance with their current medical condition. While some chronic back problems are related to genetics, patients should still be prepared to consider behavioral therapies to increase their ultimate likelihood of living a pain-free life.

As with any chronic pain issue, it can be extremely frustrating for patients suffering from back pain to communicate their needs to their friends and family. Because chronic pain may not have an apparent cause and because it is so persistent, family and friends may have difficulty understanding the very real symptoms that patients experience.

However, for patients trying to come up with a pattern of behaviors that will allow them to live their lives in spite of their pain, here are a few talking points that might help explain to family and friends exactly what it means to live with chronic pain:

• Your feelings and abilities from one day to the next are going to be variable. Because people living with chronic pain often learn to do things despite their pain, family and friends may interpret your ability to do certain activities as a sign that you are not feeling pain. Remind them that your mood or what you’re doing is not necessarily an indication of the amount of pain you are experiencing at any given moment.

• Similarly, just because you are able to do an activity one day, it doesn’t mean you will be able to do it tomorrow. Friends and family need to learn to understand that when you say you are unable to do something they need to take you at your word, and not doubt you because you were able to do the same thing recently.

• Family and friends need to respect the urgency with which you handle your illness. Set clear boundaries so that when you say you need to lie down right away or take your medicine right away, family and friends understand that you really mean it. They also need to understand and respect your feelings when you say you do not want their medical advice. Remind them that you are doing everything in your power to feel better and that you prefer not to dwell on the subject unnecessarily.

There is no doubt that living with chronic back pain is a challenge. If you are in need of a new way to approach chronic pain, contact the Spine Institute Northwest to learn more about the options we offer for an improved quality of life.