According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, approximately 80 percent of adults will experience lower back pain during the course of their lives. Back pain is also a leading cause of disability and missed days from work. Given this prevalence, at DISC Sports and Spine Center, we understand that our patients not only want to feel better, but also have many questions when it comes to spine care. Here, we’ll address some of those questions most frequently asked by our patients.
What causes back pain?
Determining the source of back pain isn’t always easy, simply because there are a number of possibilities. Back pain may occur suddenly or slowly worsen over time. Ongoing pain will often require special imaging or testing done by your doctor to help identify the cause. Common causes include:
- Muscle strain or ligament sprain - Muscles and ligaments around the spine can become stretched or torn.
- Arthritis - This occurs as the result of inflammation in the joints of your neck and back.
- Disc problems - The spongy discs between each backbone can bulge or herniate out of place or simply degenerate over time.
- Spondylolisthesis - When one vertebra slips over an adjacent one, instability and nerve compression can result.
- Spinal stenosis - If the opening of your spinal canal becomes too narrow, you may experience pain from pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
- Spinal deformity - An abnormal curvature in your spine, such as scoliosis, can cause pain.
When do I need to see a doctor for my back or neck pain?
In most cases, back and neck pain will resolve on its own over time. Home treatments such as over-the-counter pain medication, rest, and ice/heat application often help in the interim. However, you should see your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Pain after a car accident, fall, or other trauma
- Weakness or numbness in your extremities
- Pain accompanied by fever or unexplained weight loss
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Severe, constant pain
- Ongoing pain after attempting treatment at home
What type of doctor should I see for spine care?
Many spine specialists are surgeons, though they provide both surgical and non-surgical treatment. Neurosurgeons focus on the treatment of the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system, while orthopedic surgeons focus on the treatment of the bones, joints, and other parts of the musculoskeletal system. Both types of surgeons can be fellowship-trained in spine care.
An increasing number of spine care centers are integrated facilities, meaning multidisciplinary teams work together to deliver patient care. Other practitioners may include anesthesiologists, physiatrists, radiologists, rheumatologists, and occupational and physical therapists.
How will my back or neck pain be treated?
Conservative measures, such as activity modification, physical therapy, and medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and muscle relaxers, will often be attempted first. If the pain persists, your doctor may suggest epidural steroid injections to reduce inflammation and provide relief for a few months.
Surgery is usually an elective procedure, utilized only when other treatment options have failed. Thankfully, many cases of spine surgery can now be performed using minimally invasive procedures, allowing for a quicker recovery.
What types of minimally invasive spine surgeries are commonly performed?
Minimally invasive spine surgery uses small incisions and special medical equipment to access the spine and perform the procedure, minimizing damage to the surrounding tissue. Some treatments include:
- Discectomy - If a herniated or bulging disc is placing pressure on a nearby nerve, a discectomy can be performed to remove part or all of the disc material.
- Spinal Fusion - This procedure permanently joins two adjacent vertebrae into one solid bone, eliminating painful movement and providing stability at that joint.
- Laminectomy - The back part of the vertebrae, called the lamina, can be removed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.
- Foraminotomy - By widening the openings where the nerves leave the spinal canal, this procedure helps improve symptoms of nerve root compression.
What should I look for in a spine surgeon?
It’s important to do your research when selecting a spine surgeon. Look for a surgeon who is board-certified and fellowship-trained to ensure he or she has a high level of knowledge and expertise in the field. Additionally, you want to find a surgeon who has strong experience treating your particular condition and is proficient in minimally invasive surgery.
You need to find a surgeon you can trust. Ask friends, family, and coworkers for recommendations, and utilize websites like www.healthgrades.com to find out more information. Search for spine surgeons with high patient satisfaction and safety records. Be sure to schedule a consultation with any potential spine surgeon. A reputable spine surgeon should be willing to discuss several treatment options with you and be willing to work together to determine what treatment plan works best with your lifestyle.
About the author
discmdgroup DISC Sports and Spine Center (DISC) is one of America’s foremost providers of minimally invasive spine procedures and advanced arthroscopic techniques. Our individually picked, highly specialized physicians apply both established and innovative solutions to diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate their patients in a one-stop, multi-disciplinary setting. With a wide range of specialists under one roof, the result is an unmatched continuity of care with more efficiency, less stress for the patient, and a zero MRSA infection rate. Read more articles by discmdgroup.