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New treatments provide faster, safer back pain relief

Brain and Spine Primary Care Healthy Aging
women with back pain

Back pain is one of the most common reasons for adults to seek medical care. Nearly every adult experiences significant back pain at some point in their life. Back pain can be debilitating and frustrating for many if it does not resolve quickly.

Fortunately for those patients whose back pain is severe there is a wide variety of therapeutic options. There have been many advances in treatment that are helping patients get better faster and without lengthy hospitalizations.

Causes of back pain

People will experience back pain for many different reasons. Most episodes of back pain stem from muscle strain and injury which can happen after exercise, heavy lifting and occasionally without a clear prior event. The pain is predominantly localized in the back only. This pain, while intense, is usually self-limiting and responds to medical management within a few days’ time.

More severe spine injuries can create back pain that worsens and will radiate into the legs or arms (radiculopathy). This can happen when the disks between vertebrae protrude and irritate adjacent nerves. The disks can press on nerves around the spine and cause pain, weakness and numbness. This type of pain occurs abruptly. Often these patients will need to seek medical care.

Another group of patients that will ultimately seek medical attention are those patients with long-standing arthritis in the spinal column. This can progress to spinal canal stenosis, a condition where the area around the spinal cord and spinal nerves narrows. As the narrowing worsens, patients can experience back and leg pain, particularly when standing and walking. This type of back pain usually develops over a long period of time and can limit a patient’s mobility.

Treating back pain

The treatment recommendations for back pain depend on the severity of your pain, the source of the pain and the patient’s wishes.

Some common treatment options for back pain include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medicine, such as NSAIDs and Tylenol
  • Steroid injections
  • Physical therapy
  • Lifestyle changes (weight loss, anti-inflammatory diets, stretching and exercise regimens) Surgical correction

Specialists in neurosurgical spine services with Riverside Health System have expertise in a wide range of surgical options for back pain. Riverside neurosurgeons also work with pain management and physical therapy specialists to find the right treatment option for your condition.

“Our neurosurgeons have expertise in all types of spine surgery, from routine treatments to the most complex procedures,” says William H. McAllister IV, M.D., a neurosurgeon with Riverside Hampton Roads Neurosurgical & Spine Specialists. “Our specialists are also able to use minimally invasive procedures that effectively reduce pain, shorten hospital stays and improve recovery time when surgery is necessary.”

Advances in back pain treatment and surgery

In recent years, physicians and researchers have made great strides in back pain treatment. One of the biggest advances is the use of image-guided spine surgery.

During image-guided surgery, doctors make small incisions on the back. Then, they insert special tools into the incisions that remove tissue that is pressing on nerves. These procedures cause less trauma on the surrounding muscle and tissue, which means the patient has less pain and a faster recovery. Compared to open surgery, image-guided procedures are safer and have higher satisfaction rates than conventional surgeries according to both the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and UCLA Health.

Other recent advances in back pain treatment include:

  • Minimally invasive surgeries. These treatments help with accuracy and cause less tissue damage reducing postoperative pain and speeding recovery.
  • Enhanced recovery after surgery protocols. Coordination of anesthetic techniques with newer modalities of postoperative pain management allows for improved pain control after surgeries. Recoveries are fast and length of hospitalizations is reduced.
  • Spinal cord stimulation. Some patients with long-standing pain syndromes are candidates for this advanced therapy.

“Therapies are starting to move away from heavy narcotic medicines and open surgeries,” says Dr. McAllister. “With these and other advances, we are able to treat patients more safely and see better results.”

For more information on how Riverside can help patients with back pain, call 757-534-5200.

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