A. You’ll be happy to hear that most people recover from back pain within a few days just by taking it easy, continuing gentle activity, and using over-the-counter pain medicine, such as naproxen or ibuprofen to ease their pain. If the pain doesn’t resolve itself within a week or so, your doctor may suggest physical therapy where you can learn stretches and ways of moving that will ease the strain on your back.
Q. What if that doesn’t work?
A. Next steps may include prescription pain medications and possibly steroid injections to reduce swelling in your back. You may also be referred for imaging to determine whether abnormalities in your spine are causing your pain. If your back pain doesn’t get better using these more conservative methods, your doctor may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon to determine if surgery can help. Sometimes abnormalities in the vertebrae or the soft discs that cushion your spine can press on spinal nerves and cause pain or numbness in your legs and make it difficult to walk or stand. In such cases, surgery can help immensely.
Q. Can surgery really solve my problem?
A. It can. Your orthopedic surgeon will explore your options with you, and the two of you can decide on the best approach. The good news is that the surgical solutions for back pain are continuously advancing. One exciting development used at Northern Westchester Hospital is direct lateral fusion, which can address back abnormalities that cause chronic pain.
As “lateral” implies, the surgeon works from the side of the patient. This advanced technique is much less invasive and allows us to achieve amazing results, especially in scoliosis patients. The incision is much smaller and we don’t have to fuse as many vertebrae to get great results. It’s often a simpler, more effective treatment, and patients are usually up and moving and home within 1 to 2 days instead of three to four. The vast majority of patients are much happier and back to their normal activities much sooner.