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Painful Back Conditions Threaten Quality of Life for Many Americans

Upcoming free public seminar will explore options for diagnosis and treatment

Back pain is one of the most common medical problems for Americans today. According to the National Institutes of Health, in a three-month period, 25 percent of adults in this country experience at least one day of back pain. About 80 percent will experience low back pain at some point in their lifetime. The condition occurs more often as we age.

For some, back pain becomes a chronic condition, lasting months or even years. Pinpointing the cause of the pain and treating it effectively can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

Sometimes, even when the cause is identified and treated, the pain persists. Besides the physical effects, chronic back pain can diminish a person’s quality of life and independence and can also have a severe impact on their emotional state. Entire families can be affected.

If you or a family member suffers from chronic back pain and are searching for answers, come to a free Health & Wellness seminar “Relieving Chronic Pain: Know Your Options,” sponsored by Washington Hospital. The class will be held on Tuesday, April 21 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson Auditorium of the Washington West building next to Washington Hospital, 2500 Mowry Ave. in Fremont. To reserve your space, go online to and click on Community Connection. Then, select Community Seminars, Health Classes and Events. Or, call (800) 963-7070.

“At the seminar, we will focus mainly on what to look for to help determine the cause of chronic back pain and how to get help,” said Bruce Lin, MD, Washington Hospital interventional radiologist, who will lead the seminar. “People should know their options, not only for treatment but also the best way to go about pinpointing the cause.”

“Interventional radiology is a less invasive method of diagnosing and treating many types of back pain,” he continued, “but many people are not aware of this option.”

In the Interventional Radiology (IR) Program at Washington Hospital, board certified physicians perform a variety of minimally invasive diagnostic procedures and interventions to treat back pain and other conditions. First trained in diagnostic radiology, the interventional radiologist uses imaging techniques to understand, visualize and diagnose a condition. Then, miniature catheters and instruments are introduced into the body to treat the specific condition.

Another advantage of IR is that the doctor is adept at using a wide range of imaging tools not directly available to many other physicians. Having these options can be particularly helpful in the case of complex, hard-to-diagnose back pain.

“Advanced technology and extensive imaging skills help us determine the cause of the pain less invasively and with greater accuracy. Some possible causes include a compression fracture due to osteoporosis, trauma from a fall, sciatica due to a herniated disc, or cancer,” explained Dr. Lin.

At the seminar, Dr. Lin will share images from numerous diagnostic techniques to demonstrate how the IR specialist pinpoints the reason a patients suffers from chronic back pain.

A compression fracture of one or more spinal vertebrae is a common cause, especially among older women who are more prone to have osteoporosis. People with untreated osteoporosis are at risk of fracturing a vertebra when making movements as simple as stretching, coughing, reaching for an object, or sitting down, Dr. Lin pointed out.

Pain stemming from a compression fracture can be very debilitating and severely limit an older person’s independence and quality of life. Dr. Lin will talk about osteoporosis and compression fractures, including the causes and treatment alternatives.

Sciatica is another painful condition that can be difficult to treat.

“Patients may try everything, including medication and physical therapy, and still not get pain relief. It can be very frustrating,” stated Dr. Lin. “As the pain limits a patient’s ability to move around, activities of daily living can be compromised and other problems may occur, such as blood clots, bed sores, weakened muscles and constipation.”

Dr. Lin will also discuss several minimally invasive treatment options for back pain sufferers who have been unable to find relief through medication, physical therapy or other standard interventions. Some examples are neurostimulation, neuromodulation and epidural pumps to administer pain medication.

“I have seen these approaches be very effective in improving quality of life for some patients with intractable back pain,” he related. “After treatment, people are often able to stand up, walk around, get dressed, use the bathroom, cook a meal, do laundry or climb stairs. These are simple things that most of us take for granted, but people with severe, chronic back pain may see them as a luxury.”

Learn more

To learn more about Health & Wellness seminars and the Interventional Radiology Department at Washington Hospital, go to To find out more about the medical practice of Interventional Radiology go to the website of the Society of Interventional Radiology at