With around one in six Australians experiencing back pain each year, it’s not uncommon for us to be complaining about a sore back.

For some of us, back pain can be treated and will leave us be, but for others it continues long after the body has healed.

So how do you know if your back pain is chronic and what can you do to manage it?

Firstly, chronic means long lasting i.e. pain that persists for more than 3 months is considered chronic.

Secondly, there are many options for management of back pain. The simplest and most effective form of management is to get your spine moving.

Sitting hunched over a keyboard and straining to read the tiny letters on our screens isn’t a lifestyle conducive to healthy spines and many of us will find we have backache after a long day at a desk. There are some things we can do to reduce the risk of back pain, for example ensuring chairs and screens are at the right height, sitting with both feet on the ground and getting up to go for a walk regularly. That twenty-fifth email for the day can wait while you take a quick stretch and get your legs moving again.

Sometimes though, the pain might not go away and this can make it hard to work, exercise and do the things we enjoy doing every day. In fact, chronic back pain is one of the most common reasons that people drop out of the workforce and is most prominent in people of working age (15-64).

When we talk about chronic pain, we’re referring to pain that has lasted longer than about three months and that has resulted in reduced physically strength, fitness, freedom of movement or independence in everyday activities.

Back pain includes many conditions such as degeneration, disc disorders, sciatica and curvature of the spine or problems that are not usually associated with a specific disease. Each person is affected in different ways and but most usually experience some form of limitations in their day-to-day lives.

Chronic pain is different from the pain you might experience when you have an injury or illness, as this type of acute pain doesn’t last too long and subsides when the injury heals, or the illness is treated. Chronic pain is ongoing and debilitating.

Living with chronic pain can be unrelenting and it is common for people to feel frustration, anger, helplessness or even grief. But it’s important to know that the pain can be managed in a number of ways, including with physical exercise, psychological treatment, relaxation, hydrotherapy, medication and more. If simple measure overseen by your general practitioner have not resulted in the pain subsiding, remember you could consider an assessment by a pain specialist physician.

The team of professionals focused on your rehabilitation might include pain specialist physicians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists and even dietitians, who all work together to combat your pain.

Our Pain Specialist and Anaesthetist is Dr Nick Christelis.

04 February 2019