The Best Rx for Back Pain

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You've probably experienced back pain at some point, whether it was from lifting something heavy, sitting at a desk all day or straining yourself without realizing it. In fact, most of us are familiar with back pain, as it affects nearly 80 percent of adults, according to the National Institutes of Health.

In the US, back pain is the second most frequent reason for doctor visits. And only the common cold keeps more people home from work.

Back pain can be debilitating because your back supports not only the weight of your body when standing, walking or lifting, but also turns, twists and bends.

Our goal is to get patients back to being active and enjoying their lives, says Chetan Patel, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon. And because back pain isn't one-size-fits all, customized care is critical to a good prognosis.

Types of Pain

Back pain can be classified as acute, lasting for a few days to a few weeks, or chronic, lasting more than three months. Symptoms range from muscle aches to shooting pain, limited flexibility or range of motion, and the inability to stand up straight.

The Spine Center offers some of the most advanced minimally invasive surgical procedures and non-surgical options for the full spectrum of disorders, including arthritis, spinal stenosis, herniated or bulging disk, scoliosis, and spinal trauma or injuries. Treatments vary by patient and can range from physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications to injections or surgery.

The centers approach to comprehensive care includes a spine care coordinator, pain management, spine surgery and rehabilitation. Patients are presented with all available options and select the treatment with which they're most comfortable. The first and most important part of comprehensive care is an accurate diagnosis.

We often find that patients who come in describing back pain often have problems other than spine that are the cause of or are contributing to their pain, explains Dr. Patel. Hip issues and kidney stones are often mistaken as back pain, so determining the cause is essential to treating it.

Common Causes of Back Pain

As we age, we're more prone to arthritis of the back. In fact, studies suggest that more than 90 percent of Americans over age 55 are afflicted. The lower back is an area commonly affected by osteoarthritis, or inflammation of the joints, and in some cases it can lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal, called spinal stenosis.

Another common spinal condition is a herniated or bulging disk, which causes the cushioning between the vertebrae to bulge out of place or rupture and press on a nerve. This pressure may lead to sciatica problems, causing a shooting pain down the buttock and back of the leg. Other causes of back pain include muscle and ligament strains, which can limit flexibility and range of motion.

Osteoporosis, skeletal irregularities such as scoliosis, and spinal trauma may also be the culprit. However, patients can benefit from a variety of treatment options for those conditions, based on the severity of the condition.

What Can You Do

According to a recent US study, weekly yoga and stretching eases pain and improves functioning for people with chronic lower back ailments. Treatments for muscle strains include anti-inflammatory medications, heat and cold applications, physical therapy and avoiding activities that exacerbate pain. More severe conditions require cortisone injections or surgery.

When patients come in with acute pain, the first thing we look at is how we can lessen the pain, explains Dr. Patel. Once the pain is managed, we give patients tools to help prevent pain and encourage them to be proactive in their approach.

The Spine Center focuses on individual treatment plans to address the specific needs of each patient. Each persons pain is different, and back and neck problems can keep you from living a normal, active life.

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