Back pain is a common problem and is one of the main reasons why people have to take time off from work. Effective treatments for back pain vary depending on the cause and severity of the pain, but there are many nonsurgical treatments available to relieve symptoms without the need for surgery and lengthy recovery times. Your orthopedic doctor can help you find the most suitable treatments to relieve your back pain symptoms.
Most back pain episodes are temporary and are not usually a cause for concern. Often the lower back is affected, and the pain usually improves within a few weeks. A minor injury such as a sprain or a strain can cause back pain, but it can also be caused by bad posture, overexertion, lifting something heavy while in an awkward position, and stress and tension.
Gentle stretching exercises, rest, heat and cold therapies, and over-the-counter pain medication is usually all that is required to provide relief. Sometimes, however, back pain is caused by a more serious medical condition that requires the expertise of an orthopedic specialist. These conditions include the following:
The sciatic nerve is the thickest and longest nerve in your body, and it extends from your lower back down to your feet. It actually comprises a pair of nerves, with one long nerve extending down each leg.
If the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or inflamed, especially in the lower spine, sciatica can result. Symptoms can include tingling, weakness, numbness, and shooting pains that may travel from the lower back down to the foot.
Sciatic pain can usually be treated with nonsurgical methods such as medication, injections, and physical therapy. However, continuous pressure on the sciatic nerve may require surgery to relieve the pressure if other treatments fail.
A herniated disc, also known as a ruptured disc, often causes lower back pain. Discs are cushion-like pads which act as shock absorbers between each set of two adjacent vertebrae bones in the spine.
A herniated disc happens when the outer disc layer tears and its gel-like center leaks out. This can irritate and put pressure on the nearby nerve in the spinal cord, causing pain. Most people who experience this are successfully treated with pain relief medications or injections and do not require surgery.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a condition that causes the discs in the spine to deteriorate or break down. This can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, and it can cause the vertebrae bones to rub together because the integrity of the cushion (disc) is compromised. It can occur in any part of the spine but more frequently develops in the lower back.
Discs can lose fluid, flatten, and sometimes rupture with age. Pain symptoms can often be treated nonsurgically with medication or injections, but surgery may be recommended if the spine becomes unstable or if the back pain cannot be relieved by nonsurgical treatments.
Entrapment neuropathy is pain and loss of function of the nerves, such as pinched nerves, spinal stenosis, and pressure from spinal discs. Symptoms include pain, tingling, numbness, muscle weakness, and reduced flexibility of the back.
This condition can be caused by nerve degeneration, pressure, inflammation, or infection. People with significant symptoms of entrapment neuropathy may need medication, physical therapy, or surgery to help relieve and manage the pain, but often lifestyle changes including weight loss, regular exercise, and giving up smoking can help provide lasting relief.
Myelopathy (Spinal Cord Compression)
Spinal cord compression can occur anywhere in the spine from the neck to the lower back. Symptoms can include pain, stiffness, numbness, weakness, and in severe cases loss of bladder and bowel control.
It can be caused by general wear and tear as we age which can put pressure on the spinal cord. It can also be caused by other factors including abnormal spine alignment, a spinal tumor, an injury to the spine, arthritis, or an infection.
Depending on the severity and location, nonsurgical treatments for myelopathy can include neck immobilization, medications to reduce pain and inflammation, and physical therapy. Surgery may be necessary if symptoms do not improve or become worse.
Facet Joint Syndrome
The facet joints connect the spinal bones together allowing them to bend and twist. They have tiny pockets of cartilage between them to allow them to move smoothly. However, the natural aging process can cause the cartilage to wear away or become inflamed, leading to painful bone-on-bone rubbing and restricted movement. It can also trigger pain signals in nearby nerve endings.
Spine conditions such as arthritis, injury, infection, and nerve compression can also contribute to facet joint syndrome. Symptoms are often relieved nonsurgically with medication and physical therapy.
Back Pain Doctors in Watertown, NY
If you are suffering with back pain, talk to our experts at North Country Orthopaedic Group. Whether it is conservative care or surgery you need, we can help. Our spine specialists and therapists treat a wide range of routine and complex spinal conditions using the latest treatment methods and surgical techniques.