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Acute Back Pain vs. Chronic Back Pain: Know When to Consult an Expert

Aug 04, 2023
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If you’re dealing with back pain, knowing when to treat it at home and when to seek medical care can be tough. Read on to learn when it’s time to get an expert’s opinion on your back pain.

Nothing quite like back pain to make you realize how much you use your back. You use your back to stand up, sit down, laugh, and even breathe. So if your back hurts, any little movement can cause you debilitating pain.

Experts typically divide back pain into two categories: acute and chronic. So, if you’re dealing with back pain, you might be wondering which category you fall into and what that means for your treatment plan. Should you power through it, or should you seek professional care?

At Genesis Pain and Regenerative Medicine in Colleyville, Texas, our team, led by Don Enty, MD, understands that it can be difficult to know what kind of back pain you have and if you should seek treatment. In this blog, we review what qualifies as acute back pain and chronic back pain and when it’s time to seek medical help.

Acute or chronic?

Acute back pain comes on suddenly and lasts for six weeks or less. Causes of acute back pain typically include putting stress on your back, performing strenuous activity, moving awkwardly, or lifting something incorrectly. Most cases of back pain are acute, and this type doesn’t pose any serious long-term health risks.

On the other hand, chronic back pain can have severe implications for your long-term health since it can affect your mobility and quality of life. Chronic back pain usually occurs gradually and lasts longer than 3 months. This type of back pain can sometimes be caused by an injury, but it’s typically an indicator of an underlying health condition such as spinal stenosis, arthritis, or a bulging disk.

The only way to tell the difference between acute and chronic pain is to consider the time frame. Also, acute back pain often includes shooting, burning pain that comes on quickly and can be relieved by over-the-counter pain medications and rest. Chronic back pain, on the other hand, builds over time and may subside and return.

When to seek expert help for your back pain

When you first start experiencing back pain, you can start by treating it at home. Home remedies include taking over-the-counter pain medications, alternating between ice and heat, and resting. Physical therapy is also a great way to deal with acute back pain.

However, if you’re dealing with chronic back pain, at-home treatments or physical therapy won’t cut it because these conservative treatments don’t target the actual problem — just the pain. If your pain lasts longer than two weeks and isn’t improving, it’s probably best to have Dr. Enty and our team check it out.

If you’re struggling with persistent back pain that’s not going away with home remedies, come and see us for expert medical care. To schedule an appointment, call us at 817-482-0188 or use our online booking tool today.