Back/Neck Pain Diagnosis and Treatments
Back and neck pain is one of the most common conditions that affect patients in the United States. Unfortunately, 60-90% of people will have back or neck pain at some point in their lifetime. Luckily, it is rare that back pain is due to a life-threatening condition and at least 75% of people improve to having no pain within 12 months according to multiple academic studies. The most important thing to treating your pain is identifying your specific pain generator and formulating an effective and efficient plan of treatment.Back and neck pain can be categorized into two major categories: radicular and axial.
Back pain that starts in the lower back and radiates into the leg (or if in the neck radiates into the arm). At times radicular symptoms can also cause weakness in the affected extremity. Radicular pain is caused by the nerve roots in the spine being pinched by an abnormality in the spine. These abnormalities are often herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and/or degenerative changes in the joints of the vertebrae.
Back or neck pain that remains only in the back or neck (there is no radiation down the arms or legs). Axial back pain is often caused by degeneration (wear and tear) of the facet joints of the spine. Other conditions that can cause axial back pain are: vertebral compression fractures, spondylolopathies, and sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Treating back and neck pain usually involves multiple avenues of pain relief including: physical therapy, medications, injections, and surgery.
Physical Therapy is critical to improving back and neck pain. Specific programs are designed for patients to improve the strength and flexibility of certain muscle groups to allow better functioning of the joints of the spine and relieve pressure from irritated nerves. Physical therapy progresses to a home exercise program which allows improvements made to continue on a long-term basis.
Medications are helpful to relieve pain and allow toleration of physical therapy and home exercise programs. These medications include NSAIDs, muscle relaxants, and nerve stabilizing medications. Opioids are rarely indicated in back or neck pain.
Injections are used for significant flares of pain. There are multiple injection options for treating your pain. Some procedures involve injecting steroids near the irritated nerve root or joint while others involve directly burning and destroying the nerves that provide sensation to the pain generator.
Surgery is an option if all other treatments fail to effectively treat your pain or if there is a dangerous diagnosis that is identified that requires immediate surgical intervention.
Dr. Hagan and his team are dedicated to identifying your pain generator, improving your symptoms, and getting you back to functional goals!