Often times, many people overlook their spine health until they experience back pain. Back pain is a common event. We recommend that you seek consultation from an orthopedic physician when you have back pain, with or without numbness and tingling in a leg or an arm, that lasts more 6 weeks, or if you are experiencing back pain at night.
Neck Pain (Cervical Spine)
Most neck pain is due to degenerative or aging conditions of the spine, that put pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots.
Low Back Pain (Lumbar Spine)
Low back pain affects people of all ages. Risk factors include age, sex, fitness level, heredity, race, occupational factors, arthritis and smoking. Women commonly suffer more back problems than men. Most can be treated with conservative measures to eliminate pain.
Many common causes of back pain start in the lumbosacral section of the spine, called L5-S1, and are due to disc herniation that presses on a nerve causing pain to radiate down the leg.
Orthopedic Specialists of SW Florida Practice Philosophy
Most back pain is low back pain which is pain from nerves, muscles, ligaments and joint, or the bones in the spine. Science shows that the best way to approach back pain is to develop muscle strength, flexibility and endurance. Physical therapy, OTC medications and physical conditioning are conservative methods used to help patients manage their condition. Additional conservative measures include acupuncture, massage therapy, spinal manipulation, yoga, and relaxation activities.
Causes of Back Pain
The cause of most back pain is unknown. Common diagnoses are disc disease, spinal arthritis and muscle spasms. Acute low back pain is often caused by strain, and injury to muscles and ligaments, which can improve with OTC drugs, and exercise.
Degenerative diseases are the most common cause of chronic back pain, including arthritis, spinal stenosis, and osteoporosis leading to fractures of the spine and hip.
Post-injury arthritis is degenerative arthritis that results from an injury such as a fracture.
Trauma and sports injuries including falls and accidents, violence or sports injuries, can result in fractures and dislocations, and chronic pain. Cervical spine injuries caused by high-energy trauma, include strains, sprains and disc injuries.
Our Spine Specialists
Dr. Paul D. Fuchs, DO is a surgical spine specialist. He was fellowship-trained at Stanford University, and is the cofounder of our Spine Center. His specialty is minimally invasive spine surgery.
Dr. Allen C. Tafel, MD is our non-surgical Spine specialist. He is a board-certified specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R). Dr. Tafel is an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with chronic pain and disability caused by injury, illness or conditions involving any organ system.
Some Common Spine Conditions We Treat
- Herniated disc – A herniated disc occurs when a disc in the spine is injured or wears down, and bulges into the spinal canal. Obesity and a history of smoking increase the risk of bulging discs. The damaged disc may be removed in a procedure called a discectomy.
- Sciatica – Sciatica is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve in the low back, due to spinal stenosis, degenerative disease, and when a muscle deep in the buttocks pinches the nerve.
- Spinal stenosis – Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal, which compresses the spinal cord and nerves. Compression results in myelopathy, a condition that causes gait disturbances, and muscle spasticity, weakness and numbness. It is usually caused by osteoarthritis of the spine, a slowly progressive degeneration. The most common procedure to decompress the spine is a laminectomy.
- Spinal Compression Fractures – Osteoporotic fractures of the spine and hip are due to Osteoporosis, a disease that causes weak, brittle, fragile bones that are easily broken. It is due to hormone changes, or a deficiency of Vitamin D or calcium. Most are allowed to heal naturally over several months. The pain from this type of fracture tends to improve significantly in a short period of time. Medications for pain and to treat bone density are employed, along with a back brace. Chronic pain may require surgery.
- Degenerative disc disease – This is a natural breakdown of the discs between the vertebrae due to trauma, genetics and previous surgery. It causes debilitating pain and muscle spasms, and in the worst case drastically affects quality of life. In that case, spinal fusion or disc replacement surgery may provide relief.
Diagnosing back pain
Your spine expert at Orthopedic Specialists of SW Florida will review your medical history, conduct a physical exam, and order imaging studies such as X-Rays for bone fractures and arthritis, and MRIs for soft tissue injuries.
Your spine specialist will evaluate your symptoms, physical findings, imaging studies and lab tests to make a diagnosis. You will be provided with an explanation of your pain, and create a personalized program for your success.
When conservative measures fail to decrease pain, surgery may be required. Patients with chronic low back pain that is persistent and disabling are often good candidates for back surgery.