Acute Back Pain and Treatment

Armen Hareyan's picture
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In severe cases of acute back pain, more aggressive treatment may become necessary. Orthopedic interventions performed to ease back pain include steroid injections (according to Hey, they work "like Drano" to open up inflamed spinal channels and relieve pain) and a procedure known as laminectomy, used to remove bone spurs or disk fragments that protrude into the spinal canal or press on nerve roots within the spine. More severe cases may require fusion, which joins two vertebrae, possibly with the assistance of metal implants, to eliminate painful movement.

Surgery turned out to be just what the doctor ordered for Christy M., a 37-year-old college professor and former championship gymnast who had experienced her back "going out" on occasion for over 10 years. One day, while bending over to tie her shoe, she felt excruciating, incapacitating pain. Diagnosed with a herniated disc, Christy was scheduled for a discectomy, a surgical procedure that removes the damaged disk tissue to relieve pressure on the nerve roots. The results were dramatic: She regained her ability to walk within a day, and continues to grow stronger. "Before I injured my disc, I jogged and worked out regularly, and never needed to go to the hospital," Christy says. "But without that surgery, I don't know what I would have done."

Even when surgery is required, less is sometimes more. New instruments and techniques are being used to minimize the impact of surgery on the body and to ease and expedite recovery. At Duke, orthopedic surgeons have developed new motion-sparing techniques to retain as much flexibility as possible, as well as enhanced-performance fusion technology that helps facilitate an earlier return to athletic activities, especially for younger patients. (The fact that some surgical procedures can now be performed through smaller incisions also has a happy cosmetic result: less visible scars.) Thorough education, support, and follow-up care, as well as expert physical therapy, can help ensure optimum outcomes.

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Of course, as with every health condition, prevention is the best course of all. So to keep your back as pain-free as possible, eat right, stay reasonably fit, and take some simple precautions to minimize strain on your spine. And whatever you do, don't tango with an elephant.

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The source of this article is http://www.dukehealth.org

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