Back, Neck, & Spine

Neck and back pain is almost always related to the spine. Problems of the spine are one of the most common reasons individuals seek medical care. In fact, some 80 percent of people will experience significant back or neck pain during their lifetime.

Back and neck (spine) problems

Osteoarthritis

Almost everyone develops some form of osteoarthritis as we age (though it's diagnosed for some younger people as well). By the time we reach 50 years or older, the cushioning material (cartilage) can be quite worn or eroded. Without that cushion, bones rub against each other, which can be very painful and cause stiffness.

Rheumatoid arthritis

This autoimmune disease is not caused by wear and tear over the years. With rheumatoid arthritis material, called the synovial membrane, surrounding the joint becomes inflamed and thickened. In time, this causes loss of cartilage along with pain and stiffness.

Post-traumatic arthritis

This can follow a serious hip injury or fracture. In turn, that can cause a condition called osteonecrosis. The result is the same — pain and stiffness caused by the loss of cartilage.

Scoliosis

A common condition that affects many children and adolescents and which may continue into adulthood. It is a sideways curve of the spine.

Spinal (or lumbar) stenosis

This occurs when the space around the spinal cord narrows and puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. It may cause pain, numbness, or weakness in the leg.

Spondylolisthesis

This is the most common cause of low back pain in adolescent athletes. It is a stress fracture in one of the spinal vertebrae.

Sprains and strains

A painful stretch or tear of a ligament or muscle in the back or neck.

Ruptured/herniated disc

Discs can be thought of as “spacers” between your vertebrae. A rupture or hernia occurs when the gel-like center (nucleus) pushes against its outer ring (annulus). If the disk is very worn or injured, the nucleus may squeeze all the way through. When the herniated disk bulges out toward the spinal canal, it puts pressure on the sensitive spinal nerves, causing pain.

Sciatica

Sciatica is caused when a herniated disk in the low back puts pressure on the nerve root leading to the leg and foot. Sciatic pain often occurs in the buttock and down the leg.

When should you see a doctor?

Chronic, acute, or debilitating pain in your neck or back might be easily resolved — or it may call for a surgical solution. It’s time to get in touch with your doctor if you experience:

  • Numbness in the low back or pelvic area
  • Shooting pain down the leg
  • Weakness in the legs or very unsteady balance when standing or walking
  • Problems with altered sensation in the pelvis and legs, especially if they progress
  • Burning or stabbing sensations
  • Tightness in your back muscles
  • Difficulty bending
  • Chronic neck pain
  • Loss of mobility due to back or neck stiffness
  • Pain radiating from your buttocks down your leg

Surgery

When non-invasive treatments for back or neck pain have all failed, you may need surgery to eliminate pain and restore mobility. There are many types of surgery we perform regularly at the OICM, including laminectomy, foraminotomy, disc replacement, kyphoplasy, and discectomy.