If you experience back pain, you may opt to make an appointment with a chiropractor or even a massage therapist. Most of the time, these modalities can relieve your pain and get you back to your normal routine. If the pain persists, you’ll make your way eventually to your primary care physician.
However, none of these practitioners, as skilled and credible as they may be, are experts in spinal medicine. It takes a spine specialist to ask the right questions about your pain and examine you in the right places to find the real cause of your discomfort. And only with an accurate diagnosis can an effective treatment plan be put in place.
Diagnosing Back Pain
Any doctor can prescribe a pain medication or order an MRI, but it takes a specialist — sometimes a whole team of specialists — to get to the cause of your pain. A specialist knows not only what tests to prescribe, but also how to read the results of those tests. Sometimes, an MRI isn’t the best choice (or best first choice) to diagnose your case. Sometimes, an X-ray, fluoroscope, ultrasound or nerve test might better find the cause.
At the Southeastern Spine Institute in Charleston, SC, your spine physician consults with other specialists — including surgeons, pain management specialists and physical therapists — to get expert opinion and insight into your back pain. Together, they order the tests necessary to make an accurate diagnosis.
Don’t Get Surgery Unnecessarily
As it turns out, few back pain cases require surgery. Most respond to other treatment, such as nerve block or steroid injections. You don’t have to undergo surgery if a non-surgical procedure stops your pain and physical therapy helps heal the source of the pain. Even a slipped disc often can be treated without surgery.
Specialists in spinal medicine nearly always proceed slowly, conservatively trying treatments that may work to ease your back pain while addressing its root cause. If one treatment doesn’t work, you can try the next, more invasive procedure. Surgery is always the last resort, after other treatments have failed. That’s not because surgeons don’t want to operate, but instead, it’s because their primary concern is your health.
When You Need Surgery
Spinal surgeons do not recommend surgery unless your condition has not improved from non-surgical procedures and the surgeons find an anatomical cause of your back pain. In other words, normally your back surgeon will not perform exploratory back surgery. Even minimally invasive surgery is still invasive. Your surgeon requires a specific purpose to do the operation.
Surgery to eliminate low back pain is appropriate if the diagnosis is either:
- A pinched nerve that cannot otherwise be treated (from a tumor or abnormal bone growth, for example)
- An unstable spinal structure due to herniated discs or bone failure
When you have a bone fragment, legion or impingement on your spinal nerve, your surgeon can operate to remove it, thus freeing your nerve and eliminating the pain you’ve experienced. But any type of surgery is serious, even endoscopic surgery. A surgeon worth his reputation, like those at the Southeastern Spine Institute, will only operate when absolutely necessary. To get more information, contact the Institute today.