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Back pain is a common condition for many older Americans. As people age, many years of habits like poor posture or lifting techniques can cause chronic pain. In some cases, the spine itself degenerates. Surgery may relieve an acute problem but is often not helpful for chronic pain. If you need back pain relief, it’s important to find a good doctor.

The Basics of Back Pain

Back pain can result from injuries, degeneration or disease. The spinal column is a complex structure with many parts, including the bones (vertebrae), muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves. Your spine is highly flexible, which increases its susceptibility to pain, especially if you are in poor physical condition. Your body creates scar tissue after an injury and scar tissue is less flexible, which can contribute to chronic back pain. Nerve and joint irritation, as well as pressure on the spinal cord, can all make back pain worse.

Treating Back Pain

As with any medical condition, treatments for back pain depend on the cause. If poor posture is a contributing factor, exercise, muscle strengthening and stretching and postural correction can have a big impact. Nerve pain can be more difficult to treat, while both medications and joint injections may help relieve pain related to degeneration of the joints in the back. Other possible back pain treatments include epidural and facet injections, spinal infusion therapy or less invasive modalities like massage, acupuncture and physical therapy.

Finding a Doctor

When looking for a doctor to treat back pain, begin with the basics: education, post-graduate training and experience. Pain management is a medical speciality, but most physicians who practice in this field take their original training in a field such as anaesthesia, family practice or physical medication and rehabilitation. They next complete additional training called a fellowship specifically to learn about pain management. Physicians who specialise in this area gradually develop experience – look for someone who has at least five years of experience after completing a fellowship.

Making A Choice

Once you’ve confirmed that a doctor has the necessary training and experience, you should base your decision on more intangible factors. Evaluate the doctor’s approach – is it respectful and compassionate? Does the doctor take plenty of time to listen, explain things and give you options? A good physician should treat you as a partner in your care. It’s important that your personalities mesh – good clinical skills are important, but you need to be able to work with this doctor over the long term.