Spine Association for Education

Solutions for Chronic Back Pain


New minimally invasive surgical options offer relief from chronic back pain, with fewer of the drawbacks related to conventional surgical approaches.

Slipped or herniated discs, spinal curvature, and sciatica are some of the many conditions affecting the lower back that cause chronic pain. Whether caused by poor posture, genetics, or stress from overexertion at work or from leisure activities, back pain can range from slight discomfort to debilitating in severity.

Back pain can take on different forms. You may have frequent aches and stiffness along your spine, or sharp pains in a concentrated area like the neck or the upper or lower back. Perhaps prolonged sitting or standing makes you ache, or standing upright causes your lower back to spasm. Back pain can also travel down your legs and through to your toes.

Chronic back pain can make staying active can be difficult. You may not be able run or walk for long distances. Sports like golf, swimming, or tennis can be too painful to consider. Sitting for long periods in an office chair may cause pain to flare up. Simply getting out of bed can be a daily struggle.

Your Doctor Can Help

It is important to talk to your doctor, who can diagnose and find the source of your back pain. Your doctor may test your range of motion, check your nerves, and ask you to point to painful areas. An X-ray or another scan may be used to check for any damage to your spine or soft tissues.

Depending on how severe your pain is, your doctor may recommend different ways to soothe your pain and allow you to return to your normal activities. These include over-the-counter pain medications, physical therapy to strengthen your abdominal and back muscles, massages, hot or cold compresses, and whirlpool baths. You may be referred to a specialist for steroid injections. A regimen of bed rest, exercise, or changes in diet could also be recommended.

These conservative treatments may help to relieve back pain temporarily and give irritated muscles time to strengthen and heal, however, they may not be enough. Some back conditions, such as degenerative disc disease, lumbar spinal stenosis, or a herniated disc, can require surgical intervention to give you long-term, and potentially permanent, relief.

Your doctor may suggest different surgical options depending on the nature of your condition or injury. Fortunately, effective minimally invasive treatment options are available. Minimally invasive procedures are completed through a small incision near the injured vertebra. By completing the entire procedure through a small incision, your surgeon can minimize trauma to the surrounding muscles and tissue which potentially decreases pain, and gets you back on your feet more quickly.

One procedure that is both minimally invasive and minimally disruptive is OLLIF (oblique lateral lumbar interbody fusion). The OLLIF procedure is often completed as an outpatient procedure, which means that the surgery lasts only about two to three hours, and most patients return home on the same day. Recovery time to normal activity for the OLLIF procedure is typically six weeks.

If you suffer from chronic back pain, consult your doctor to find the treatment that could help you quickly get back on your feet.

Find a Specialist

Featured Article


Solutions for Chronic Back Pain

New minimally invasive surgical options offer relief from chronic back pain, with fewer of the drawbacks related to conventional surgical approaches...

Read More