Approximately 80 percent of Americans will experience spinal pain at some point in their lives. While most people experience neck and back pain for a relatively short amount of time, a small percentage of patients have long-term pain. The spine team at the Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics-Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland (CAO-OACM) provides patients with non-surgical and surgical treatments to alleviate spine pain and restore quality of life.
Why Do I Have Neck or Back Pain?
By far the most common cause of neck and back pain is muscle imbalance or deconditioning, which is called “non-specific” neck or back pain. Arthritic or degenerative changes of the spine also cause pain due to inflammation and/or strain on the muscles and joints. Degenerative changes can lead to instability of the spine or to pinching of nerves, both of which cause pain. Other causes of spine pain may include traumatic injuries leading to spinal fractures, certain spinal deformities, spinal infections, and tumors.
How Can I Alleviate Neck or Back Pain at Home?
Trying home remedies and lifestyle modifications is a good place to begin to treat back and neck ailments. Activity modification involves rest, avoiding heavy lifting, bending, and twisting. Applying ice or heat to the affected muscles can be helpful as can stretching exercises. Over-the-counter oral pain medicine SPINAL PAIN SOLUTIONS can help reduce inflammation and non-prescription numbing creams or medicated patches may also help minimize symptoms.
When Do I Need To See a Doctor For My Spinal Pain?
For back or neck pain that is severe and does not respond well to home remedies or pain that persists for more than one week, a medical evaluation with a spine specialist is appropriate. Any person who experiences a loss of bowel or bladder control, numbness in the genital area, rapidly worsening weakness in the arms or legs, worsening balance, clumsiness of the hands and fingers, or fevers, should seek immediate medical attention.
What Tests Might Be Ordered?
Your doctor will take your medical history and perform an exam to accurately diagnose “nonspecific” neck or back pain. For pain caused by injury or trauma, x-rays can determine the presence of bone fractures, degenerative conditions, spinal instability, deformity, or signs of an infection or cancer. More advanced imaging like CT, MRI, or a bone scan may be helpful when X-rays show a lesion that needs to be looked at more closely. EMG/NCS, an electrical test of the spine, arms, and legs, may be performed to test for nerve function and damage.
What Treatments Might Be Prescribed?
Your doctor will begin with the least invasive treatment options. When lifestyle modifications and home remedies are ineffective, physical therapy and/or chiropractic care are typically the next line of treatments. Other non-invasive treatments such as massage, acupuncture, electrical nerve stimulation, or laser therapy may be considered. If pain management is the goal, your physician may prescribe medications such as steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or certain antidepressant medications that have been shown to reduce pain, especially in cases of a
pinched nerve. Spinal injections of steroids and long-acting numbing agents can help reduce inflammation around spinal nerves or joints, and a procedure called radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, may be considered to numb arthritic spinal joints.
When non-surgical options are ineffective, there are surgical options. These range from minimally invasive to standard open techniques and can include cervical and lumbar discectomy, spinal fusion, and kyphoplasty. Spine surgeries have very high success rates.
What Kind of doctor should I see for spine pain?
Primary care providers and emergency medicine specialists can usually provide first-line evaluation and treatment, though the initial evaluation may also be made by spine-care specialists. Physiatrists are physicians specializing in non-surgical care for pain relief and rehabilitation. Spinal surgeons may be either orthopedic or neurosurgical. Both specialties offer the same evaluation and treatment options. The key is to choose a center like CAO-OACM offers a wide array of specialists and treatment options for comprehensive care.