Back and Neck Pain
Tips to a healthy back
• Exercise regularly. Incorporate low-impact aerobic activities, like walking or swimming, into your daily routine.
• Lift properly. Keeping feet shoulder-width apart, squat at the knees with your back straight and shoulders back. Lift slowly, holding the load close to your body.
• Practice good posture. Slouching puts stress on the back muscles.
• Sleep soundly. The best position for your back is on your side with your knees bent.
• Avoid high heels, or save them for special occasions.
• Maintain a healthy weight. Losing excess weight relieves the back of unnecessary strain.
• Quit smoking. Smoking hinders blood circulation, which may hasten spinal degeneration and slow healing. Smokers also have a higher risk of bone loss.
• Eat nutritiously. Diets high in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D may help prevent bone loss that can lead to fractures.
Typically, pain of the back or neck is a benign, self-limiting disorder. Most patients spontaneously recover within a few days, weeks, or months. Patients with chronic pain will often recover more quickly if they enter into a rehabilitation or chiropractic program designed to strengthen core muscle groups in a structured way. Maintaining good nutrition, avoiding excess weight, practicing good body mechanics, and abstaining from tobacco products can also significantly reduce pain.
It is important to understand that surgery should be considered a last resort. At UBNS, we are pursuing a relentless course toward the performance of increasingly less-invasive procedures to relieve back and neck pain. We work closely with physiatrists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, and Pilates experts in the conservative management of spinal disorders, including the development of patient-specific back and neck conditioning and strengthening programs aimed at easing pain and preventing symptom recurrence. If surgery is appropriate, our spine group focuses on less-invasive and minimally invasive procedures to lessen the discomfort and down time associated with spine surgery. Not all patients, however, are candidates for minimally invasive surgery; sometimes a more traditional approach is necessary.
In general, surgery should be reserved for patients with intractable pain, instability of the spine, disk rupture, tumor, or nerve damage. Symptoms of a more severe condition may include leg pain associated with back pain or arm pain associated with neck pain. These combinations of symptoms often indicate that a cervical or lumbar disk--one of the rubber-like shock absorbers found between each vertebra in the spine--has ruptured and is compressing a nerve root. If this occurs, minimally invasive microsurgery can sometimes be performed to remove the broken pieces of disk. Because the surgery is conducted using microscope and microdissection techniques to minimize the disruption of normal tissue, surgery can result in immediate and dramatic pain relief, and can often be performed on an outpatient basis. After microsurgery, patients are usually able to return to their normal activities within days or weeks.
For cases of significant spinal instability, a more extensive procedure, such as interbody fusion, may be required to reduce or eliminate the abnormal motion responsible for the patient's pain. In recent years, even spinal fusions have increasingly been performed in a minimally invasive fashion, enabling shorter hospital stays and more rapid resumption of normal activities.
UBNS physicians also perform vertebroplasty and foraminotomy surgery when appropriate. Please visit the Minimally Invasive Brain & Spine Surgery section of our website for more information on these procedures.