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Q. What can I do about my aching back?

A. Back pain is surprisingly common—nearly 80 percent of Americans will experience back pain at some point during their lives. For most, stretching, rest, and over-the-counter painkillers will resolve the issue. If your pain is persistent, your doctor might refer you to a physical therapist for guidance in how to sit, lift, and move in ways that won’t exacerbate your pain. A physical therapist can teach patients stretches and exercises that will help prevent future back troubles.

Q. What causes back pain?

A. Strains are the most common cause of back pain and usually occur from awkward lifting or even a sudden movement. Structural problems are also a common source of back pain. Discs can bulge and press on the spinal nerves, the vertebrae can develop arthritis, narrowing, and pressing on the spinal cord, or osteoporosis can develop. Although rare, it’s possible to get infections or cancer in the spine.

Q. What if my back pain won’t go away?

A. After standard treatments such as rest, physical therapy, painkillers and steroid injections have failed, your physician might refer you to a spine specialist. There are several surgical solutions for chronic back pain, and the tools and techniques have vastly improved. The O-Arm Surgical Imaging System at Northern Westchester Hospital is an innovative technology that provides surgeons with a detailed, multidimensional CT scan of the spine during surgery.

The detailed views offered by the O-Arm enable surgeons to operate with increased precision and patient safety when performing complex neuro and spine surgery. With the treatments available for many spinal disorders, there is no need to live in pain.

Q. When should I see a doctor for my back pain?

A. Your pain can be your guide—if you’re worried about your back, definitely make an appointment. Some signs that your back trouble might be serious are if the pain:

• Spreads to one or both of your legs

• Is constant or intense, especially when you lay down

• Causes weakness or numbness in your legs

• Comes after a fall

• Causes bowel or bladder problems

• Is also in your abdomen, is throbbing, or is accompanied by a fever

Northern Westchester Hospital
Chief, Neurosurgery
Co-Director, Orthopedic & Spine Institute, Spine Section
Learn More About Dr. Abrahams


Learn more about Orthopedic Conditions and Treatments

John Abrahams, MD, FAANS