Millions of Americans live with chronic back pain. From shooting pain while walking or bending over to bursts of pain when sneezing, the discomfort isn't always limited to the back. The pain often travels down the legs.

“Up to 80 percent of Americans experience back pain at some point in their lives. But when you have deep, dull or aching pain that lasts three months or longer, that’s when it’s considered chronic,” neurosurgeon Kara Beasley, DO, of Boulder Neurosurgical & Spine Associates told a crowd of 186 people during a free health lecture held on Jan. 19 at the Boulder Jewish Community Center.

“While most back pain is caused by muscle strain that heals over time, degenerative conditions of the spine, which occur naturally with age, are the most common culprits for chronic back pain,” she said.

Degenerative conditions commonly linked to chronic back pain include disc herniation, facet joint osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis and osteoporosis. These “wear and tear” conditions can lead to changes in the structures of the spine, irritating nerves or putting abnormal pressure on spinal joints.

“In 90 percent of chronic lower back pain problems, a nerve gets pinched or irritated, the muscles tense up, and pain results,” Dr. Beasley explained.

Conservative treatment options exist

Treatment options depend on the spinal condition, but the primary objective of any treatment is to relieve inflammation and pain. Conservative treatment includes physical therapy, weight control, steroid injections, anti-inflammatory drugs, rehabilitation and limited activity.

“Most people suffering from chronic back pain will find relief shortly after conservative treatments begin," Dr. Beasley said, "If, however, these options do not relieve pain within three months, surgery may be needed.”

Minimally invasive spine surgery

Dr. Beasley performs most spinal surgeries using minimally invasive approaches that involve smaller incisions, less muscle damage, decreased blood loss and shorter hospital stays.

She went into detail about minimally invasive laser-assisted spine surgery for degenerative conditions. Using a laser scalpel, a surgeon can make extremely precise incisions and trim away diseased spinal structures with a high degree of accuracy, helping to improve surgical outcomes.

If you suffer from chronic back and leg pain, schedule a consultation with Dr. Beasley of Boulder Neurosurgical & Spine Associates by calling 303-938-5700.

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