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Health Information Pain in the Back: Don't Let Low Back Pain Slow You Down

Your back hurts? You're not alone.

More than 70 percent of Americans experience some form of back pain in their lifetime, while a third endure particularly serious back problems, experts say. And while most of those cases can be treated without surgery, sometimes it may be the best option.

"With minimally invasive techniques, we can have you up and running in a short time," says John O'Toole, MD, a neurosurgeon at Rush University Medical Center. "Because of faster recovery times, people are getting back to work and other regular daily activities quicker than before."

That also makes it an option for more back pain sufferers.

"Minimally invasive techniques, since they require much smaller incisions, reduced loss of blood and faster recovery times, are open to more patients, even some older adults, who wouldn't be candidates for more involved surgical procedures."

Among the minimally invasive treatments is kyphoplasty, in which a doctor injects a glue-like substance to help stabilize and strengthen the bone. Other surgical procedures include disc replacement, which involves removal of a disc and replacing it with an artificial one; and spinal fusion, in which vertebrae are fused together so they will heal into a single, solid bone.

Is It Serious?
You should visit your doctor anytime you experience severe back pain. Some back pain can indicate nerve problems or be caused by mechanical pain, when a specific part of the spine, such as a disc, ligament or joint is damaged and not working properly.

Other common causes of back pain are abnormalities in the formation and growth of the skeleton, trauma to the spine caused by injury, nerve problems and problems caused by or during pregnancy.

Look for these red flags to determine whether your back pain may signal more serious medical problems that should be assessed by a specialist:
  • Low back pain that shoots into your legs. This may signal a neurological problem.
  • Neck pain that shoots into your arms, which may be the result of a pinched nerve.
  • Pain that worsens when you cough or sneeze.
  • Inability to control your bowel function or urination.
  • Difficulty urinating or passing a bowel movement.
  • A diagnosis of osteoporosis. For people with weakened bones, back pain may indicate a fracture.
  • Persistent or debilitating pain.
  • A history of cancer, for which back pain might indicate metastasis.

Don't ignore these symptoms. The earlier problems are diagnosed, the more successfully they can be treated.

Preventing Low Back Pain
For minor back problems, prevention is the key. The following tips can help you prevent low back pain:

  • Strengthening stomach muscles through a regular routine of stomach-strengthening exercises combined with stretching exercises
  • Practicing correct lifting techniques
  • Maintaining correct posture while sitting, standing, and sleeping
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Reducing emotional stress that may cause muscle tension

To Schedule an Appointment:
The Spine and Back Center at Rush brings together the expertise of neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons, physiatrists (doctors who specialize in physical rehabilitation), nurses and physical therapists to pinpoint and treat the sources of spine, back and neck pain while offering the latest, most innovative nonsurgical and surgical treatment options. To schedule an appointment, call (888) 352-RUSH (7874).


More Information at Your Fingertips:

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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