Approximately eight in ten people experience back pain. It is one of the most common health complaints, second only to the headache. Although it can affect any area of the spine, it most often occurs in the lower back, or the lumbar region.
Acute back pain occurs suddenly, but the episode is generally limited to a few weeks. The accompanying pain can be severe. Back pain that lasts for more than three months is considered chronic. With chronic back pain, the condition may progressively worsen, although the pain is usually not as intense as the pain associated with an acute episode.
It’s important to understand that the level of pain does not always “match up” with the degree of injury. In other words, muscle spasms in the back can be incapacitating, whereas a herniated disc may only cause a moderate amount of pain. Certain instances warrant medical attention, such as:
Over-use injuries such as a sprain/strain, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to the development of back pain. Bone disease (e.g., osteoporosis), metastatic cancer, and degenerative spine disorders can also cause back stiffness and pain. Conditions associated with back pain include:
A definitive diagnosis is the first step in obtaining lasting relief from your back pain. When you arrive at our NYC office for your appointment, Dr. Stieber will begin by examining your back and collecting detailed information about your symptoms. From there, he will ask you to sit, stand, walk and lift your legs, all while rating your pain on a scale of zero to ten. This portion of the examination is critical in identifying the severity and origin of the pain.
In some cases, additional tests are needed to confirm the suspected diagnosis. They may include:
Imaging tests can provide Dr. Stieber with invaluable information about your back pain. X-rays can reveal arthritis and broken bones, while MRI and CT scans can uncover herniated disks and problems affecting the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels and more.
If Dr. Stieber suspects an infection is the cause of your back pain, he may order a blood test.
In some cases, back pain is due to a bone tumor or compression fracture. Both of these issues can be identified with a bone scan.
Nerve studies measure the electrical impulses your nerves produce, along with the response of your muscles. The results of this test can confirm nerve compression and spinal stenosis diagnosis.
Dr. Stieber strongly believes that a personalized treatment approach delivers optimal relief and a superior patient experience. As such, your back pain treatment regimen will be tailored based on the severity, duration and underlying cause of your symptoms. For most of our NYC patients, the solution will involve a blend of approaches, including medication, physical therapy and, in rare cases, surgery.
There are a number of medications that can relieve back pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers, muscle relaxants, topical pain relievers and narcotics are all extremely effective in increasing your comfort. In addition, cortisone injections can decrease inflammation around the nerve roots and low doses of antidepressants can relieve certain types of chronic back pain.
Back pain treatment at our New York office almost always includes physical therapy. Heat, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation can reduce pain, while exercises can strengthen the area, increase flexibility and improve your posture.
Most back pain can be successfully treated without surgery. If conservative back pain treatment fails, or if you have difficulty standing or walking, you may be a candidate for surgery. Dr. Stieber is a leader in the use of minimally-invasive surgical techniques with advanced expertise in restoring mobility to the back and helping his New York patients return to activity and an improved quality of life.