Bending down, chasing after the kids or grandkids, picking up a box, getting through a day of work, going to the gym…it’s easy to take these things for granted when you’re healthy, but when you’re experiencing back pain, they can become a serious struggle. The good news is, many cases of back pain will resolve on their own. However, if the pain is persistent or gets worse over time, it shouldn’t be ignored. Seeking professional help from a spine expert like Dr. Choi is essential for achieving relief and preventing further damage.
Back Pain Basics
Though pain in the lower back, or lumbar region, is especially common, back pain can occur in any area of the back. Acute pain comes on suddenly and may be severe. It typically improves or goes away completely within a few weeks. Chronic back pain, on the other hand, is persistent pain that lasts three months or longer. It may come and go and often worsens gradually. Chronic back pain is a sign that you have an underlying problem that needs to be treated.
The Causes of Back Pain
Acute back pain is frequently caused by a strain or sprain in the muscles surrounding the spine. With time and non-surgical treatment, it usually resolves. Some of the common causes of chronic back pain include:
Spinal stenosis, which is the narrowing of the spinal column, leads to back pain. The pain may radiate down the buttocks and legs.
An Old Injury
An injury that didn’t heal properly can result in chronic back pain.
Ruptured or Bulging Discs
When the soft, jelly-like material inside of a spinal disc ruptures or bulges, known as a herniated disc, it can put pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerve roots, causing significant pain.
How is Back Pain Diagnosed?
Discussion With Dr. Choi
When you visit Spine Medicine & Surgery of Long Island for a consultation, Dr. Choi will first talk with you about your back pain, medical history, any treatments you’ve tried, as well as the triggers for your pain. He’ll also ask you to rate your level of discomfort.
After getting the details about your symptoms and situation, our Long Island spine expert will perform a physical examination. He’ll evaluate your spine and assess your ability to walk, stand and sit.
Medical Imaging Tests
Sometimes, a consultation and physical examination are all that’s needed for Dr. Choi to develop an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. However, in other cases, he may order an x-ray, which will show issues with your spinal bones, such as arthritis or a fracture. Depending on the circumstances, he might also order an MRI or CT scan. These imaging tests reveal problems with the structures that aren’t visible on an x-ray like your muscles, dics, ligaments, tissue, tendons and nerves.
Additional Diagnostic Tests
If necessary, nerve studies, such as electromyography (EMG), will be ordered to determine the type and location of a nerve injury or disease. Additional diagnostic tests could also include a medial branch block or other injections to confirm the source of your back pain.
Back Pain Treatment
After Dr. Choi has examined you and you’ve completed any recommended testing, he’ll develop a diagnosis that pinpoints the root cause of your pain. He’ll explain your diagnosis to you in detail. Finally, he’ll work with you on creating a personalized treatment plan aimed at treating the underlying problem, getting rid of your back pain and restoring optimal function.
Many of our Long Island back pain patients achieve the best results with a combination of treatments. We always start with conservative measures like physical therapy, injections, medication and other interventional pain management techniques. While the majority of patients won’t need spine surgery, it is occasionally the only way to achieve lasting relief. In these cases, Dr. Choi will discuss the pros and cons of the recommended procedure and what to expect at every step in the surgical process.