Sidelined by Back Pain? Get Back in the Game
Seminar Offers Information on Causes and Treatment Options
If you suffer from back pain, you're not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), back pain is one of the most common medical problems in the country, affecting 8 out of 10 people at some point in their lives. It also is the second most common reason for missing work, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections.
"Back pain can have a variety of causes," says Dr. Eldan Eichbaum, a neurological surgery specialist at Washington Hospital's Taylor McAdam Bell Neuroscience Institute. "Quite often, back pain results from injuries incurred during everyday activities," he explains. "For example, lifting heavy objects or twisting or bending suddenly may strain back muscles and ligaments. Fortunately, most back pain can be treated at home with rest, applications of heat or ice, and over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. If your back pain doesn't improve after a few days, however, you should consult a physician."
To help people in the community learn more about the causes of back pain and the variety of treatment options available, Washington Hospital is hosting a free seminar featuring Dr. Eichbaum on Tuesday, August 20 from 1 to 3 p.m. The seminar will be held in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium located in the Washington West Building at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.
"Back pain is more common in people who perform heavy labor, such as construction workers," Dr. Eichbaum says. "Also, there are many things that can add extra stress to the spine, which is, after all, essentially a series of little joints."
In addition to muscle and ligament strains, other more serious conditions may cause acute or chronic back pain, such as:
* Traumatic injuries.
* Bulging or rupturing of the discs in the spine that act as "cushions" between the vertebrae.
* Arthritis in the spine that causes stiffness or a narrowing of the spinal canal (stenosis).
* Skeletal abnormalities such as scoliosis, a condition in which the spine curves to the side.
* A condition called spondylolisthesis, in which one vertebra slips down in front of another vertebra, resulting in pain and instability of the spine.
"If you experience disabling back pain, weakness or numbness in your extremities - such as radiculopathy (nerve pain in the arm or leg) or sciatica (pain radiating down the sciatic nerve in the leg) - seek medical treatment right away," Dr. Eichbaum cautions. "These symptoms may indicate a serious medical problem."
When home treatments don't alleviate back pain, a physician may recommend physical therapy and exercise, or prescribe a muscle relaxant or a stronger prescription pain medication. Injections of cortisone - an anti-inflammatory medication - may be used to help decrease inflammation around the nerve roots, but that pain relief usually lasts only a few months.
"In some cases, surgery may be the best option for treating back pain," Dr. Eichbaum says. "Surgery is usually indicated for pain related to structural spinal problems, such as herniated or ruptured discs, spinal stenosis, scoliosis and spondylolisthesis. People with chronic back pain accompanied by radiating leg pain or progressive weakness in the extremities also might benefit from surgery."
Some of the surgical options used to treat back pain include:
* Laminectomy - Surgery to remove the lamina, which is part of the bone that makes up a vertebra, or to remove bone spurs in the spine, to take pressure off the spinal nerves or spinal cord.
* Discectomy - Surgical removal of herniated disc material that presses on a nerve root or the spinal cord.
* Disc Replacement - Surgical replacement of a worn or degenerated disc with an artificial replacement.
* Spinal Fusion - Surgery to permanently join together two or more vertebrae in the spine so there is no movement between them.
"In most cases, we can use minimally invasive techniques to perform spinal surgeries, but some conditions may require more traditional open surgeries," Dr. Eichbaum says.
To register for the seminar on August 20, visit www.whhs.com/event/class-registration. For more information about the Minimally Invasive Spine Program at Washington Hospital's Taylor McAdam Bell Neuroscience Institute, visit www.whhs.com/neuroscience/spine/. For general information about spine health and related conditions, visit www.spineuniverse.com.