Sonoma Valley Hospital

SPR 2013

Spirit of Women magazine is a national publication presented to women by hospitals and their physicians. The magazine provides up-to-date, evidence-based healthcare information and promotes our hospitals as leaders in women's health excellence.

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T he numbers speak for themselves: As many as 97 percent of us will suffer from neck and back pain at some point during our lives, and 80 percent of us will seek treatment for it, according to Dr. Farhan Siddiqi, who is chief of the Division of Surgery at Trinity Spine Center in Odessa, Fla. For most people, noninvasive treatments such as losing weight, strengthening muscles and quitting smoking (steps that also are likely to improve your overall health) will do the trick. But even when more advanced treatment is called for, you may still have a number of options besides surgery, say physicians. SIZING UP THE SITUATION No matter what kind of neck or back pain you're suffering from, it's important to be evaluated by a spine surgeon, who will use imaging technology such as MRI to better pinpoint the source of the problem. Sometimes what appears to be back pain, for example, may actually be hip pain, explains Dr. Siddiqi, who is affiliated with Medical Center of Trinity in New Port Richey, Fla. "If it is hip arthritis and we treat the back, then it will not help," he says. For the majority of patients, a course of medications to lessen pain, in combination with physical therapy to strengthen muscles, stress reduction and weight loss, can be effective. "We do not need you to be a gym rat," says Dr. David R. Blatt, director of neurosurgery at North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, Colo. "But things like Pilates, things that patients do on a regular basis to strengthen their core, can prevent a lot of back problems." In fact, even the most serious back problems can be headed off if caught ! Serious symptoms It's time to seek immediate medical attention if your back or neck pain also includes: • • • • Signifcant weakness Changes in bladder function Inability to walk Changes in your ability to balance early enough, say experts. For most people, education is an important part of that process. Your physician may ask you to start writing down exactly when you experience pain, what you were doing at the time, whether the pain is sharp or dull and how long it takes to get relief. This information can help the spine surgeon or other medical professional tailor a treatment plan geared to you. NEXT STEPS If you and your doctor decide that stronger medicine is called for, you may want to try nonsurgical options that are more invasive than physical therapy or medication but less invasive than surgery. Treatments such as epidural injections, using a combination of steroids and painkillers, can reduce pain enough to allow you to get back into rehab and continue physical therapy and other noninvasive treatments. When these types of treatments don't bring relief, your spine surgeon may ultimately recommend surgery. If you have severe pain or other symptoms that interfere with your everyday activities and mobility, and you rely on painkillers on a regular basis, you may be a candidate for surgery. The good news is that even surgery is much less invasive than it used to be. In general, explains Dr. Siddiqi, surgeons now can repair the spine rather than having to reconstruct it, which means they can avoid large incisions. This results in drastic reductions in the time needed for recovery. Often a patient can be walking around within a day of surgery and be back to normal activity levels in two to three weeks. Disc replacements are minimally invasive surgeries and tend to work well for younger patients as an alternative to fusing discs to decrease back pain, says Dr. Blatt. In addition, computer navigation—using a camera in the surgical procedure—has made the disc replacement process safer and less invasive as well. • 5 noninvasive ways to treat back and neck pain 1. Appropriate pain medication 2. Physical therapy to strengthen muscles 3. Weight-loss programs 4. Stress reduction 5. Quitting smoking SHUTTERSTOCK w w w. s p i r i t o f w o m e n . c o m S P R I N G 2 013 SPI RIT O F WOM EN 11

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