Treating Pain for: Back, Neck & Spine
Pain in the back, neck and spine — and functional problems such as reduced mobility and weakness — can make normal daily activities unbearable. Arm and leg pain, which are sometimes caused by neurological disorders rooted in the back, neck or spine, can also be debilitating.
If any of these problems have impacted your life, New England Baptist Hospital (NEBH) is here for you. Besides treating pain, we help you regain the strength and flexibility you need to resume your normal lifestyle. NEBH specializes in orthopedics, and we offer you the same full range of treatments we use to help elite athletes return to action.
Our approach to treating pain in the back, neck and spine centers on collaboration among experts from many disciplines. Our team includes orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, neurologists, pain management specialists and physiatrists (specialists in physical medicine and non-surgical treatments), who manage everything from chronic back pain to the most complicated spinal disorders.
NEBH has found that 90% of the patients with back, neck and spine pain do not need surgery. These patients take advantage of our expertise and research in non-surgical treatment methods. It is this approach that has made NEBH a major destination for referrals and second opinions.
Finding the Cause of Your Pain
To identify the cause of your pain, your NEBH physician will first discuss your problem in detail and how it has changed your quality of life. He or she will do a thorough physical examination, review your complete medical history and take a fresh look at your diagnostic studies (MRI, X-ray or CT scan). These diagnostic studies, with the help of our spine neuroradiologists, will be used to clearly define your spinal anatomy. If needed, you may be asked to take additional images.
Developing a Personalized Treatment Plan
Once a diagnosis is made and your team understands your goals for treatment, we'll develop a personalized treatment plan for you. Your plan will include carefully educating you about your problem, discussing what the future holds, treatment recommendations and other providers at NEBH who are available to help get you well again.
Many treatments for back, neck and spine problems don't require surgery. Whenever possible, we use non-surgical options such as:
- Education & informed decision making: All patients are fully educated about the natural history, prognosis and treatment options available for their specific problem as well as given practical expert advice on the management of their symptoms.
- Exercise-based physical therapy: For many patients, specific exercise-based treatments are offered to improve strength and physical function and to reduce pain. The Spine Center has developed an intensive exercise-based program, often referred to as “boot camp” which is internationally recognized for its effectiveness and multiple clinical studies. Our program uses extensive testing of physical function to identify areas of the body in need of improvement. These areas are then the focus of an intense, supervised exercise program. Our patients’ hard work is often rewarded with a marked improvement of physical abilities and reduced pain.
- Spinal injections: After a comprehensive evaluation by your physiatrist or pain management specialist, spinal injections may be offered for the management of pain. You will be educated about spinal injections and will be offered a variety of services including precise fluoroscopic-guided spinal injections of local anesthetics and corticosteroids.
Based on your needs, injections may be performed by your physiatrist, an interventional neuroradiologist or a pain management specialist. At New England Baptist, all of our interventionalists are experts in performing a variety of spinal injections aimed at treating pain and symptoms.
- Medications:Thoughtful, limited use of medications is offered for select patients.
For the 10% of patients who need surgery, your physiatrist or pain management specialist will refer you to the very best experts in orthopedic and neuro surgery. Your doctor will work closely with you to make the best decision about the next step based on your particular needs.
Here's an overview of how we treat pain caused by back, neck and spine problems across three broad age groups.
Most spinal problems begin to appear in young adults in their 20’s and 30’s due to the early stages of age-related degeneration of the discs and joints of the spine. Pain episodes are usually relatively brief and have a favorable prognosis. Occasionally, more extensive problems occur and require longer treatment or surgery. At NEBH, we help patients work through it with physical conditioning to control symptoms to get back to the activities of everyday life.
In people aged 40 to 65 years, the most common back, neck and spine problems are due to progressive degeneration of the spine that normally occurs from a combination of wear and tear and aging. As adults age, conditions like disc degeneration (where the disc or soft spacer between the vertebrae narrows and deforms) and osteoarthritis of the facet joints (breakdown of joint cartilage and inflammation of the membranes lining the joint) are present in everyone. Surprisingly, most people are able to tolerate these conditions with no symptoms. When symptoms like pain and reduced mobility do appear, NEBH has treatment options available to help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. Our treatment programs have shown great results.
All degenerative conditions worsen as people age, including those involving the spine. Fortunately, the human neurological system is so dynamic that it usually adjusts to advancing degeneration, enabling most people to be relatively pain free throughout the latter part of their lives. For some people however, the advancing degeneration can alter the spinal canal (the spaces within the spine that the nerves occupy) to such an extent that pain and altered nerve function occur – a condition called spinal stenosis. For patients with spinal stenosis a variety of treatments are available that may be helpful for reducing pain and improving daily function. Some patients with spinal stenosis are best served with surgery, and at NEBH we have the most experienced surgical team to insure the best results.
At NEBH, our specialists understand seniors' desire to enjoy an active lifestyle and have studied ways to reduce the risks for seniors when undergoing surgery. NEBH has the expertise to manage the needs of geriatric patients during and after surgery. We have extensively studied the use of anesthesia in the geriatric population and have protocols in place to lessen the anesthesia risks during and after surgery. This includes advanced pain treatments to lessen the need for sedating medications and specialized psychological services available to help eliminate the sedation and confusion that can follow anesthesia.