If you have back pain, you are not alone. Did you know that more than 75% of people report experiencing back pain? When we talk about back pain, we mean any region of the back, although generally, the pain is felt in the low back or lumbar region.
When understanding back pain, it’s important to know the difference between two types of pain: acute and chronic. Acute back pain means pain that happens suddenly and is often severe. Acute back pain generally dissipates within a few weeks. Chronic back pain, on the other hand, generally occurs for more than 3 months. We often see this type of pain increase over time, but it is usually not as intense as acute back pain. Both types of back pain can substantially interfere with your quality of life.
As back pain experts, we can assure you that the amount of pain you feel is important to us. We’ve seen plenty of back patients in severe pain from what many would consider a minor injury, like a muscle spasm. On the other hand, what’s considered a more serious problem – like a herniated disc – may cause a lesser amount of pain for some people. Here are instances in which your back pain warrants a consultation with a back pain doctor:
Common causes of back pain include carrying excess weight, remaining sedentary, or over-use of the back muscles, including a sprain or strain. You may also have back pain that is related to diseases like osteoporosis, cancer, or degenerative spine disorders, which often result in feelings of stiffness. Here are several conditions we find are commonly associated with back pain:
To begin the process of long term relief from back pain, an accurate diagnosis is the first step. Dr. Stieber performs a thorough exam of your back, and listen to all the information you can give him about your symptoms. He may also have you perform various activities, including sitting, standing, and walking, while he asks you about your pain levels.
In some cases, the exam is enough, and in other cases, we will recommend additional testing. These back pain tests can include:
Imaging tests can consist of X-ray, MRI, or CT scans. Through these images, we can see evidence of broken bones, arthritis, herniated discs, and other problems that may be related to your bones, tendons, blood vessels, ligaments, or other internal structures. Dr. Stieber will use this information to form a more comprehensive picture of the source of your back pain.
While many back pain patients do not need blood tests, in the case that Dr. Stieber believes you may have an infection related to your back pain, he will likely recommend a blood test for confirmation.
A bone scan is useful in the case that Dr. Stieber suspects your back pain may be related to a compression fracture or a bone lesion.
A nerve study is useful because it can measure the electrical impulses produced by your nerves, and can also evaluate your muscles’ responses to this stimulation. Nerve studies may be used when nerve compression or spinal stenosis are suspected as the causes of back pain.
Once you have a diagnosis, Dr. Stieber will work with you to create a truly customized treatment plan that will give you the optimal amount of relief for your back pain. The treatment regimen he designs will take into account the severity of your symptoms, as well as the duration and underlying causes of your back pain. The majority of NYC back pain patients benefit most from a personalized blend of approaches that can include medication and physical therapy. In the rare case that Dr. Stieber believes that surgery is the best option for you, he will make that recommendation.
There is a wide range of medication options for your back pain. Based on your individual circumstances, Dr. Stieber will likely recommend a course of medications that may include over-the-counter pain relievers, topical pain relievers, muscle relaxers, or narcotics. In addition, some of our patients may benefit from cortisone injections, which will help decrease inflammation or low doses of antidepressants, which are effective for certain types of chronic back pain.
Physical therapy is one of the pillars of many of Dr. Stieber’s customized back pain treatment plans. During physical therapy, our experts may use ultrasound, heat treatment, or electrical stimulation to reduce pain. They will also teach you exercises that can increase flexibility, strengthen muscles, and improve posture.
In general, Dr. Stieber is able to treat most of his back pain patients without surgery. However, in some cases, surgery is warranted. If surgery is recommended for you, rest assured that Dr. Stieber is a true leader in minimally invasive back surgery techniques and has advanced expertise in restoring mobility to the back. His treatment plans – including surgery if necessary – are known for getting his New York patients back to an active, energetic, and pain-free life.
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