When a patient comes into our lumbar spine specialty practice complaining of back pain, we conduct a thorough physical examination and ask lots and lots of questions, all with the intention of pinpointing the source of the pain. We order diagnostic tests to help with this process, and in the vast majority of cases what is identified is a problem with one or more of the patient’s discs.
Research into back and neck pain supports what we have observed anecdotally: that both lumbar and cervical spine pain almost always tracks back to the spinal disc.
With the vast majority of adults facing the very real probability that they will suffer back pain at some point in their lives, it is important for lumbar spine specialty practices like ours to approach each patient with a treatment plan that is going to be most effective at solving the problem, and if the problem is physical damage to the disc, there’s a good chance that the best solution will be a physical one rather than the use of medication.
The idea behind this is simple. If the disc has gone through some kind of physical change that has led to pain, then the obvious answer is to change it back. Neither opioid pain relievers nor an injection accomplishes that goal.
Instead, those solutions reduce inflammation or block the sensation of pain. They won’t stop nerves from being compressed, and generally misdirects attention away from what is actually causing the problem.
Treating disc problems by masking their pain often allows the problem to be seen as taken care of, when the physical damage remains — and that means that it is highly likely that it will eventually come back at some point in the future.
Far too often patients who come into our office have repeatedly tried medications and only seek our help when they are no longer working or the pain has gotten to the point where it has become intolerable.
When we see patients whose discs are badly damaged, it is usually either a result of a recent injury or a long-time deterioration, and when they tell us that they’ve been suffering for a long time it is upsetting – it means that nobody ever took the time to address the source of their problem: their problems were treated as temporary, and that means that they suffered needlessly.
According to recent studies, when a patient is suffering from physical damage to the spinal discs, the earlier the problem is addressed, the more effective a physical solution can be.
This doesn’t mean that the patient will automatically be told they need surgery. When addressed at an early enough stage, massage, physical therapy and spinal manipulation can help restore normal function and rehabilitate a damaged disc.
Problems like bulging or herniated discs that have been allowed to worsen over an extended period of time can sometimes be helped by spinal decompression, though minimally invasive surgery may provide the most effective relief.
At our lumbar spine specialty practice in New Jersey, we understand that patients are hesitant about coming in to see us because they are afraid that they will automatically be put on a surgical path. There are many physical treatment options available that we will be happy to discuss with you.