Spine Conditions & Injuries
It's wise to visit a physician who is experienced in dealing with spinal pain. The physicians at SportsMed know it's important to have a thorough physical examination to make sure there is no nerve involvement, which sometimes can be detected by sensory, motor or reflex changes. The physician will most likely check the range of motion to many of your joints and look closely for any atrophy or wasting of muscle groups.
Knowing the history is critical to determine how the pain started, the mechanism of injury if applicable, whether there's been a significant history of spinal pain or past surgery, and whether there's any numbness or tingling in the extremities. Knowing if there are any bowel or bladder problems is another consideration. Masking the symptoms with pain pills or rest will not resolve the problems, as physicians know the symptoms will return quickly and frequently.
SportsMed believes x-rays are overused and frequently present unnecessary radiation exposure to patients. Therefore, if we believe spinal pain is muscular, we will forego x-rays and merely start a course of treatment. If the patient fails to respond to this treatment, we'll use a more aggressive treatment. If trauma or little improvement through the treatments is present, limited views of x-rays will be used.
The treatment modalities we've found most beneficial for spine pain are physical therapy, NSAIDs and muscle relaxants, home icing and exercise protocols, and the avoidance of bending, lifting, and prolonged periods of sitting. The therapist most often uses modalities such as deep heat, ultrasound, massage and traction. Manipulation and adjustments have been less useful for acute muscular pain.
No medication should be taken without a prescription. Be sure to ask your doctor about their side effects, and whether they might interfere with any other medication you're taking or ailment you're currently experiencing. Sometimes pain pills may be necessary to relieve agonizing discomfort but we usually discourage these because they can be habit forming, constipating, and don't really address the problem and often mask symptoms. Certainly patients should avoid taking outdated medications or pills from a friend!
There are many other treatment possibilities available to patients including chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists. Although our previous mentioned protocols have worked best, these other practitioners are used by many people and, we believe, are perfectly acceptable as long as no harm is done to the patient and the treatment expectations and duration is well outlined.
Lastly, we want to emphasize that the very best treatment for spinal pain is not pills, shots or surgery - it's prevention. In fact, most patients are their own best doctors. They know what irritates their condition so they avoid those activities. In addition, we know that being overweight strongly contributes to lower back pain and we always gently remind our patients that excess weight contributes to almost all painful orthopedic conditions and we encourage appropriate exercise, eating habits, and proper nutrition.