4 Reasons You May Have Back Pain on Only One Side

Article featured on Penn Medicine

The pain may come on suddenly, as a sharp stitch on the left side of your back. Or it may throb to life on your right side, growing slowly worse each day. No matter its exact location, though, one thing is sure: Back pain isn’t fun—but it’s a familiar foe.

Some 80% of the population in the U.S. will have a back problem in their lifetime, and Americans spend upwards of $50 billion a year treating it, according to the American Chiropractic Association.

That pain can radiate from the bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, or a combination of sources. Lifestyle plays its part in back pain, too. Everything from sports injuries and poor posture to obesity and psychological stress can contribute to back pain.

When the pain is isolated to one side, though, you may wonder what exactly is going on. The pain could represent something minor from which your body will heal itself, or it could indicate a more serious condition.

One-sided back pain is a fairly common issue,” says Bradley Tucker, MD, a Penn Medicine Physician and Assistant Professor of Clinical Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Read on to learn symptoms to watch for and what back pain on one side may mean. Penn Medicine offers an online assessment test to help you learn when it is time to see a doctor for your back and neck pain.

Tissue Injuries

Injuries to the spinal structures can happen in the muscles, discs, or joints, and make up the most common cause of back pain on just one side. They often occur after minor injuries or from an impact in sports or a car accident.

Tissue injuries typically cause pain central to the spine, but they can lead to pain entirely on either the right side or the left side of the back. And of tissue injuries overall, muscle strains are the most common cause of lower back pain on one side.

Poor posture is another possible culprit for this type of one-sided back pain, according to Dr. Tucker. “Typically when you sit, everything should be at a 90 degree angle: knees, ankles, hips, and elbows,” he explains.

Muscle Strain Symptoms Include:

  • Limited range in motion
  • Tenderness or swelling
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain the improves with rest, ice or NSAIDs
  • Pain that worsens after sitting or getting out of bed

Bone Issues

Arthritis, bone spurs, or spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal column) also all may cause pain on one side of the back. The pain may radiate down the leg or cause weakness. For instance, Dr. Tucker says, “If someone has right hip pain from arthritis, they may walk in a way meant to prevent falling and minimize hip irritation. But then they might have left-side back pain as a result.

He adds that this compensation might not be something your body does consciously. “It’s just the body protecting itself from worsening pain, which causes muscles and other joints to be overused or over-fatigued,” he says.

Your treatment options depend on how badly the issue interrupts your daily life: walking, sitting, and other activities you enjoy. Your physician will discuss your optimal treatment options based on the severity of your symptoms.

Treatments may include pain medication and hot/cold packs. They may also range from physical therapy to surgery. Keep in mind that while frustrating, finding the right treatment that works for your specific back pain will likely take time, trial, and error.

Internal Organ Problems

Though you may not think of them at first, pain on the right side or left side of your back may actually come from the organs in your mid-back, abdominal, or pelvic area. That pain may signify infection, inflammation, or irritation, and the potential affected organs include:

  • Kidneys
  • Pancreas
  • Colon
  • Uterus

There are a lot of one-sided issues you could have from pelvic or abdominal structures, but it’s not the typical back pain people think of,” says Dr. Tucker. “For instance, kidney stone pain tends to radiate from the flank down to the groin.

Your kidneys live toward your lower back and can cause pain if infected. However, if you’re experiencing kidney stones or a kidney infection, you’ll likely have other symptoms, too, including pain when urinating, nausea, or fever.

Chronic inflammation of the large intestine, called ulcerative colitis, can also cause back pain—along with abdominal cramping, digestive issues, weight loss, and fatigue, as well. And in women, pelvic pain from endometriosis or fibroids can radiate into the lower right back. This pain often comes with other issues, too, including abnormal menstruation, frequent urination, and pain during intercourse.

Emergency Symptoms

Nobody wants to rush to the Emergency Room over back pain, but it’s important to take right-side or left-side back pain seriously. Go to the emergency room if your back pain is severe or if you believe it could be an emergency, such as a serious health problem or injury.

You’ll also want to recognize if it’s happening in conjunction with other symptoms, such as spinal tenderness, swelling, or bowel or bladder problems.

One such issue is a serious nerve condition called cauda equina syndrome, which involves nerve compression at the end of the spinal cord. “Usually, symptoms include numbness around the groin, significant leg pain, loss of bowel/bladder control, and paralysis,” explains Dr. Tucker.

But emergency symptoms that cause back pain don’t necessarily have to do specifically with the back. An abdominal aortic aneurysm causes the abdominal aorta to balloon and, in some cases, rupture. If the aneurysm ruptures, there is often associated sudden and severe abdominal or chest pain radiating to one side of the back. It’s important to familiarize yourself with emergency symptoms and seek medical attention immediately if you suspect you may be having an issue.

In general, remember: It’s better to be overly cautious when dealing with back pain on your right or left side, especially if the pain interrupts your daily life or comes on suddenly and doesn’t go away with rest or medication.

Talk with your doctor or go to an emergency room to solve exactly what’s going on behind your back.


New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.

Why good posture matters

Article featured on Harvard Health Publishing

“Stand up straight.” That’s timeless advice we’ve probably all heard at one time or another. It’s worth heeding. Good posture is important to balance: by standing up straight, you center your weight over your feet. This also helps you maintain correct form while exercising, which results in fewer injuries and greater gains. And working on balance can even strengthen your abilities in tennis, golf, running, dancing, skiing — and just about any other sport or activity.

Not an athlete? It still pays to have good balance. Just walking across the floor or down the block requires good balance. So do rising from a chair, going up and down stairs, toting packages, and even turning to look behind you.

Poor posture isn’t necessarily a bad habit, either. Physical reasons for poor posture include:

  • Inflexible muscles that decrease range of motion (how far a joint can move in any direction). For example, overly tight, shortened hip muscles tug your upper body forward and disrupt your posture. Overly tight chest muscles can pull your shoulders forward.
  • Muscle strength affects balance in a number of ways. The “core muscles” of the back, side, pelvis, and buttocks form a sturdy central link between your upper and lower body. Weak core muscles encourage slumping, which tips your body forward and thus off balance. Strong lower leg muscles also help keep you steady when standing.

The good news: You can improve your posture with a few simple exercises. Balance-specific workouts address posture and balance problems with exercises that build strength where it counts and stretches that loosen tight muscles. Quick posture checks in the mirror before and during balance exercises can also help you get the most from your regular workout. And increasing your core strength and flexibility can help you improve your posture noticeably in just a few weeks.

Good posture means:

  • chin parallel to the floor
  • shoulders even (roll your shoulders up, back, and down to help achieve this)
  • neutral spine (no flexing or arching to overemphasize the curve in your lower back)
  • arms at your sides with elbows straight and even
  • abdominal muscles braced
  • hips even
  • knees even and pointing straight ahead
  • body weight distributed evenly on both feet.

When sitting down, keep your chin parallel to the floor; your shoulders, hips, and knees at even heights; and your knees and feet pointing straight ahead.


New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.

Better Sitting Posture for Better Health

Article from Brigham Health Hub, Written by Arthur Madore, LMT

I am often asked for advice on the best sitting posture. The problem is that there is no one position that will be comfortable for everyone over a prolonged period of sitting. But there are some steps you can take to avoid strain and pain.

Prolonged sitting at a computer can be particularly problematic. Despite our best efforts, most people begin to slouch and thrust their head forward within a short period of time in front of a computer. This creates a number of problems, such as:

  • Compression of the joints at the base of the neck
  • Strain on the muscles that hold the head up
  • Sitting up straight
  • Difficulty breathing freely
  • Strain on the discs of the lower back
  • Difficulties returning to a standing position
  • Sensation of heavy arms
man slouching slightly
Slight slouching

However, sitting up straight comes with some challenges, too. Try sitting up tall. Did you start by tightening your lower back and pulling your head up? Would you be able to stay in this position very long? Now, appreciate how difficult it is to look over your shoulder or up to the ceiling. When the muscles that perform these movements are busy holding you erect, they are more strained when adding another action.

man sitting up straight
Sitting up straight

A better way to sit erect is to roll your lower body under your head and torso rather than pulling your upper body over your pelvis. Your spine is supported upright because it is connected to a pelvis that is tipped forward.

man leaning forward
Pelvis tipped forward

An alternative position is to sit with your knees wide, on the edge of your chair, and simply roll your pelvis back and forth like you are riding a slow, gentle horse. Eventually you will notice that you are sitting upright with less effort. When done correctly, you will notice that is easier to breathe and there is less strain in the lower back, neck, and shoulders. You also will be able to move more freely.

Another strategy to avoid poor posture is to make sitting a dynamic activity. This can be accomplished in several ways.

man sitting with knees wide
With knees wide
  • Set an online timer for about 20 minutes as a reminder to get up and stretch for a minute. You also can set it to remind yourself to simply assess how comfortable you really are.
  • Sit on an air-filled balance disc. The tipsy surface makes it difficult to sit still.
  • Some people find that sitting on a large therapy ball also works well. It simply makes you want to move.
  • Strategically place your water, phone, pens, etc., on your desk so you have to move frequently to reach them.
  • Use recurring events, like phone calls or checking emails, as reminders to take a relaxing breath.

Remember, the posture position that works for you may be different than what works for others. And be patient! Poor posture habits, ingrained over many years, take time to change.


New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.

Why is my sciatica not going away?

Article featured on MedicalNewsToday and medically reviewed by Deborah Weatherspoon, Ph.D., R.N., CRNA — Written by Zawn Villines on October 23, 2020

Sciatica is a type of nerve pain that radiates down the back into the hip and leg. It often goes away in a few weeks, but for some people, the condition is chronic.

The pain can feel like an intense cramp or burning electrical sensations.

Sciatica that lasts more than 3 months or that goes away and comes back may be chronic sciatica.

Chronic sciatica is a long-term condition that can cause ongoing pain. It is more difficult to treat than acute (short-term) sciatica, but several remedies can offer relief.

This article reviews what sciatica is, what causes it, and how to treat it.

Why is my sciatica not going away?

Sciatica happens when something presses on or traps the sciatic nerve.

The most common cause is a herniated disk in the lower spine.

Another risk factor is spinal stenosis, a condition that causes the spinal column to narrow.

Herniated disk

Doctors do not know why some cases of sciatica become chronic. Many acute and chronic cases happen because of a herniated disk. In most cases, herniated disks improve on their own within a few weeks. When they do not, this may cause chronic pain.

Injury

People with herniated disks often remember a specific injury that triggered the pain. An injury does not mean that the pain will be chronic. However, people who have a herniated disk from an injury may develop the same injury again, especially if they continue repeating the movements that led to it.

Inflammation

Inflammatory conditions can trap spinal nerves, causing sciatic pain. People with chronic inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may notice that their sciatica flares when their condition gets worse. Treating the underlying condition may help treat the sciatica.

Infection

An infection in or around the spine can cause an abscess, which is a swollen and infected mass. This abscess can trap spinal nerves, causing sciatica and, sometimes, other symptoms. A person with an abscess may develop a fever, have pain in other areas of the body, or find that sciatica begins after they have another infection.

Spinal mass or cancer

Any type of mass in or near the spine may trap spinal nerves, causing sciatic pain. Some masses are cancerous. In other cases, an epidural hematoma, which is a swollen blood spot near the spine, can cause the pain. It is important that people with sciatica see a doctor to rule out potentially dangerous conditions such as cancer, especially when sciatica does not go away.

Wear and tear

As a person ages, the normal wear and tear on their spine can cause the spinal column to narrow, resulting in spinal stenosis. For some people, spinal stenosis causes chronic or worsening pain.

Lifestyle issues

Several lifestyle factors may increase the risk of sciatic pain or extend the healing time. People with these risk factors may find that sciatica becomes chronic or recurs. Risk factors for sciatica include:

  • little physical activity and prolonged sitting
  • having overweight or obesity
  • smoking

As sciatica often follows an injury, people may also find that the symptoms do not improve if they continue the activity that caused the original injury.

Tuberculosis

Sacroiliac joint tuberculosis, which doctors call tuberculous sacroiliitis, is a rare form of tuberculosis (TB), a lung infection. It happens when the infection creates an abscess that spreads to the sacroiliac joint in the pelvis and lower spine. A person may also have symptoms of TB, such as breathing problems or coughing. TB is a very rare cause of sciatica, but if symptoms persist, and a person has a history of exposure to TB, testing is important.

Spinal misalignment

When the spine is not properly aligned, such as when a person has scoliosis or another chronic condition, it can put pressure on the space between the vertebrae. This pressure may cause herniated disks. It can also compress the sciatic nerve, causing nerve pain. Depending on the cause, a person may need surgery, physical therapy, or other treatments.

Will my sciatica come back?

Sciatica can and does come back, especially when a person has a chronic medical condition.

People who do not make lifestyle changes to prevent more sciatic pain may also redevelop symptoms. However, for most people, sciatica heals on its own within a month or two.

Exercises for sciatica

Exercise can help ease the sciatic pain. The following exercises might help a person with sciatica:

  • Aerobic exercise promotes fitness and can help a person reach and maintain a moderate body weight. Try low impact exercises, such as swimming or walking.
  • Stretch the hip flexors by standing straight in front of a chair. Bend the knee to a 90-degree angle and put the foot on the chair. Lean forward to stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Kneel with the buttocks resting on the heels, then put the chest to the ground with the arms elevated straight above the head and flat on the ground. Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Lie on the back and bring the knees to the chest. Hold for 30 seconds. Some people find additional relief by rocking from side to side in this position.
  • Lie on the back, with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor. Lift alternating legs up, as if marching, for 30–60 seconds.

Other symptoms of sciatica

The most common symptoms of sciatica include:

  • electrical sensations along the side of one leg
  • pain that radiates from the lower back to the hip and down the leg
  • intense leg cramps
  • pain when walking or moving
  • numbness in the legs, hips, or lower back
  • pain when sneezing or coughing

When to see a doctor

Sciatica usually goes away on its own, with or without treatment.

A doctor can diagnose the cause of sciatica and may prescribe treatment to speed healing.

However, sciatica is not a medical emergency, and it is fine to wait to see whether the symptoms resolve on their own before visiting a doctor.

It is advisable to see a doctor if:

  • sciatic pain interferes with daily functioning
  • sciatica lasts longer than 3 months
  • sciatica goes away and then comes back
  • the pain is unbearable or gets steadily worse

New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.

What to know about lower back pain when sitting

What to Know About Lower Back Pain When Sitting

Medically reviewed by Emelia Arquilla, DO— Written by Hana Ames on October 14, 2020. | From Medical News Today

The cause of pain in the lower back while sitting may involve posture, an injury, or a health condition.

Back pain is one of the most common medical problems in the United States. About 1 in 4 adults in the country have at least 1 day of back pain in any 3-month period.

Here, we describe the causes, treatments, and prevention of lower back pain while sitting.

What does it feel like?

Back pain may be acute, in which case it comes on suddenly and usually lasts a few days or weeks. Or, the pain may be chronic, lasting longer than 12 weeks.

Pain in the lower back may be sudden and sharp or a dull, constant ache.

Causes

A variety of factors can cause pain in the lower back while sitting, and the best approach to treatment depends on the cause.

The treatment plan might include over-the-counter pain relief medication, physical therapy, a new exercise routine, surgery, or a combination.

Posture

Poor posture can cause or worsen lower back pain. Improving posture involves changing a person’s position as they sit or stand. It can often ease or relieve the pain.

Injury

A person might injure their lower back while lifting something incorrectly, leading to a strain or sprain in the area.

The injury might instead result from trauma, sustained during sports or from a car accident, for example.

Sciatica

Sciatica happens when something presses on the sciatic nerve, which travels through the buttocks and extends down the back of the leg, and the issue can cause pain throughout the area.

The pain may be intense and feel like an electric shock or be a dull ache.

Herniated disk

A herniated disk refers to a disk in the spine bulging outward and pressing on a spinal nerve. Any disk in the spine can be affected.

Treatment for this condition usually involves medication and physical therapy.

Lumbar disk disease

Lumbar disk disease, also known as degenerative disk disease, is not actually a disease. Usually, it results from aging.

It occurs when the disks between the vertebrae of the spinal column wear down.

Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis involves a vertebra of the lower spine slipping out of place and pinching nearby nerves.

Home care strategies

A person may not need professional treatment for lower back pain while sitting.

Often, a person can take steps at home to relieve the pain and keep it from returning. Some strategies include:

Staying active

It can be tempting to rest as much as possible, but the medical community recommend keeping active to ease lower back pain.

Try not to do too much at once, however. Instead, try coupling physical therapy or a recommended form of exercise below with other home treatments.

Using heat and cold

Alternating between heat and cold can often help ease lower back pain.

Taking a hot bath or using a hot water bottle may help alleviate the pain. Heat can also increase blood flow to the area and promote healing in the muscles and tissues of the back.

Applying ice packs or bags of frozen vegetables to the area can also ease pain, but ensure to wrap them in a cloth first.

Heating or cooling sprays are also available over the counter, and they can stimulate the nerves in the area.

Taking pain relief medication

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs can help ease pain in the lower back. Many, such as ibuprofen, are available without a prescription.

People tend to take these medications orally, but they also come as creams, gels, patches, and sprays.

Stretching and exercising

Exercises and stretches can help strengthen the lower back and prevent the pain from occurring.

Routines that focus on working the core, or abdominal, muscles may also help speed recovery from chronic lower back pain.

Yoga, for example, can help relieve pain in the lower back and neck, and other forms of exercise that may help include:

  • swimming
  • walking
  • Pilates

Stretches that can help alleviate lower back pain include:

  • Deep lunge: Kneel on one knee, with the other foot in front. Facing forward, lift the back knee up. Hold the position for 5 seconds.
  • Back stretch: Lie on the stomach, using the arms to push the upper body off the floor. Hold the position for 30 seconds before allowing the back to relax.
  • Sagittal core strengthening: Standing 3 feet away from a wall with the feet should-width apart, tighten the abdominal muscles, then reach through the legs to touch the wall, keeping the hips and knees bent. Use the hips to push the body back to a standing position, then extend arms and reach over the head and slightly backward.

Prevention

Lower back pain is more common in people with obesity and people who smoke.

Also, people who are infrequently active are more likely to have lower back pain, as are people who tend to be inactive but occasionally engage in strenuous exercise.

The best sitting position

The Department of Health and Human Services warn against slouching and recommend sitting up straight, with the back against the back of the chair and the feet flat on the floor.

They also recommend keeping the knees slightly higher than the hips when sitting.

Diagnosis

To determine the cause of back pain, a healthcare provider will ask the person about their medical history and perform a physical examination.

If the pain is acute, further tests are usually not necessary, unless the pain results from an injury.

The treatment for chronic pain depends on the cause, and surgery may be an option.

When to see a doctor

Seek medical attention if lower back pain is severe, lasting, or does not improve with stretches, exercises, and other home care techniques.

Also, contact a doctor if the pain results from an injury.


New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.

Common Causes of Sciatica

Common Causes of Sciatica

What is Sciatica and what are some of the common causes?

From Medical News Today

Sciatica is a type of nerve pain that radiates down the back into the hip and leg. It often goes away in a few weeks, but for some people, the condition is chronic.

The pain can feel like an intense cramp or burning electrical sensations.

Sciatica that lasts more than 3 months or that goes away and comes back may be chronic sciatica.

Chronic sciatica is a long-term condition that can cause ongoing pain. It is more difficult to treat than acute (short-term) sciatica, but several remedies can offer relief.

This article reviews what sciatica is, what causes it, and how to treat it.

Why is my sciatica not going away?

Sciatica happens when something presses on or traps the sciatic nerve.

The most common cause is a herniated disk in the lower spine.

Another risk factor is spinal stenosis, a condition that causes the spinal column to narrow.

Herniated disk

Doctors do not know why some cases of sciatica become chronic.

Many acute and chronic cases happen because of a herniated disk. In most cases, herniated disks improve on their own within a few weeks. When they do not, this may cause chronic pain.

Injury

People with herniated disks often remember a specific injury that triggered the pain.

An injury does not mean that the pain will be chronic.

However, people who have a herniated disk from an injury may develop the same injury again, especially if they continue repeating the movements that led to it.

Inflammation

Inflammatory conditions can trap spinal nerves, causing sciatic pain.

People with chronic inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may notice that their sciatica flares when their condition gets worse.

Treating the underlying condition may help treat the sciatica.

Infection

An infection in or around the spine can cause an abscess, which is a swollen and infected mass. This abscess can trap spinal nerves, causing sciatica and, sometimes, other symptoms.

A person with an abscess may develop a fever, have pain in other areas of the body, or find that sciatica begins after they have another infection.

Spinal mass or cancer

Any type of mass in or near the spine may trap spinal nerves, causing sciatic pain.

Some masses are cancerous. In other cases, an epidural hematoma, which is a swollen blood spot near the spine, can cause the pain.

It is important that people with sciatica see a doctor to rule out potentially dangerous conditions such as cancer, especially when sciatica does not go away.

Wear and tear

As a person ages, the normal wear and tear on their spine can cause the spinal column to narrow, resulting in spinal stenosis.

For some people, spinal stenosis causes chronic or worsening pain.

Lifestyle issues

Several lifestyle factors may increase the risk of sciatic pain or extend the healing time.

People with these risk factors may find that sciatica becomes chronic or recurs. Risk factors for sciatica include:

  • little physical activity and prolonged sitting
  • having overweight or obesity
  • smoking

As sciatica often follows an injury, people may also find that the symptoms do not improve if they continue the activity that caused the original injury.

Spinal misalignment

When the spine is not properly aligned, such as when a person has scoliosis or another chronic condition, it can put pressure on the space between the vertebrae.

This pressure may cause herniated disks. It can also compress the sciatic nerve, causing nerve pain. Depending on the cause, a person may need surgery, physical therapy, or other treatments.

Will my sciatica come back?

Sciatica can and does come back, especially when a person has a chronic medical condition.

People who do not make lifestyle changes to prevent more sciatic pain may also redevelop symptoms. However, for most people, sciatica heals on its own within a month or two.


New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.

What Causes Spinal Stenosis?

From WebMD

Cervical Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition, mostly in adults 50 and older, in which your spinal canal starts to narrow. This can cause pain and other problems.

Your spine is made up of a series of connected bones (or “vertebrae”) and shock-absorbing discs. It protects your spinal cord, a key part of the central nervous system that connects the brain to the body. The cord rests in the canal formed by your vertebrae.

For most people, the stenosis results from changes because of arthritis. The spinal canal may narrow. The open spaces between the vertebrae may start to get smaller. The tightness can pinch the spinal cord or the nerves around it, causing pain, tingling, or numbness in your legs, arms, or torso.

There’s no cure, but there are a variety of nonsurgical treatments and exercises to keep the pain at bay. Most people with spinal stenosis live normal lives. 

Causes

The leading reason for spinal stenosis is arthritis, a condition caused by the breakdown of cartilage — the cushiony material between your bones — and the growth of bone tissue.

Osteoarthritis can lead to disc changes, a thickening of the ligaments of the spine, and bone spurs. This can put pressure on your spinal cord and spinal nerves.
Other causes include:

  • Herniated discs. If the cushions are cracked, material can seep out and press on your spinal cord or nerves.
  • Injuries. An accident may fracture or inflame part of your spine.
  • Tumors. If cancerous growths touch the spinal cord, you may get stenosis.
  • Paget’s disease. With this condition, your bones grow abnormally large and brittle. The result is a narrowing of the spinal canal and nerve problems.

Some people are born with spinal stenosis or diseases that lead to it. For them, the condition usually starts to cause problems between the ages of 30 and 50.

 

Symptoms

Spinal stenosis usually affects your neck or lower back. Not everyone has symptoms, but if you do, they tend to be the same: stiffness, numbness, and back pain.

More specific symptoms include:

  • Sciatica. These shooting pains down your leg start as an ache in the lower back or buttocks.
  • Foot drop. Painful leg weakness may cause you to “slap” your foot on the ground.
  • A hard time standing or walking. When you’re upright, it tends to compress the vertebrae, causing pain.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control. In extreme cases, it weakens the nerves to the bladder or bowel.

If you’re having symptoms, you might want to talk them over with your doctor. If you’re having a loss of bladder or bowel control, call your doctor at once.

Diagnosis and Tests

When you visit your doctor, she’s likely to ask you questions about your medical history. After that, she might order at least one of the following tests to figure out whether you have the condition:

  • X-rays. These can show how the shape of your vertebrae has changed.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging(MRI). By using radio waves, an MRI creates a 3-D image of your spine. It can show tumors, growths, and even damage to discs and ligaments.
  • Computerized tomography (CT scan). A CT scan uses X-rays to create a 3-D image. With the help of a dye injected into your body, it can show damage to soft tissue as well as issues with your bones.

Treatment

Your doctor may start off with nonsurgical treatments. These might include:

Medication: Common pain remedies such as aspirin, acetaminophen , ibuprofen, and naproxen can offer short-term relief. All are available in low doses without a prescription. Other medications, including muscle relaxants and anti-seizure medications, treat aspects of spinal stenosis, such as muscle spasms and damaged nerves.

Corticosteroid injections: Your doctor will inject a steroid such as prednisone into your back or neck. Steroids make inflammation go down. However, because of side effects, they are used sparingly.Anesthetics: Used with precision, an injection of a “nerve block” can stop pain for a time

Exercise: You can improve your flexibility, strength, and balance with regular activity. Your doctor may recommend a physical therapist to help you.Assistive devices: You might get braces, a corset, or a walker to help you move about. 

Surgery

Some people have severe cases. They struggle to walk or have issues with their bladder and bowel. Doctors may recommend surgery for these people. Procedures such as laminectomy and laminoplasty create space between the bones so inflammation can go down.

What You Can Do at Home

Some things you can do to help ease symptoms of spinal stenosis include:

  • Exercise. Think about moderation — not 100 push-ups. Just take a 30-minute walk every other day. Talk over any new exercise plan with your doctor.
  • Apply heat and cold. Heat loosens up your muscles. Cold helps heal inflammation. Use one or the other on your neck or lower back. Hot showers are also good.
  • Practice good posture. Stand up straight, sit on a supportive chair, and sleep on a firm mattress. And when you lift heavy objects, bend from your knees, not your back.
  • Lose weight. When you are heavier, there will be more pressure on your back.

 


New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.

What Can an Orthopedic Surgeon Do for Back Pain?

Article from City Hospital at White Rock

Eighty percent of adults will suffer from lower back pain during their lifetime according to an epidemiology study published by the National Institutes of Health. Lower back pain is the second-most common cause of job-related disability and time off of work. Most chronic sufferers turn to medications, heating pads, and massage to relieve their aches, but when is the right time to see an orthopedic surgeon?

Do you suffer from lower back pain? You’re not alone. In this guide, we will discuss the common causes of lower back pain and how an orthopedic surgeon can help you.

Eight Risk Factors of Lower Back Pain

There are eight risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing lower back pain. These factors include:

  • Age – Most patients experience lower back pain as they age. Osteoporosis can develop, leading to fractures. Additionally, spinal stenosis increases with age due to lost cushioning and reduced muscle elasticity in the vertebrae.
  • Fitness – Out-of-shape people are more likely to develop back pain. Weak abdominal muscles create lack of support for the spine.
  • Pregnancy – Pelvic changes caused by increased pregnancy weight gain can cause lower back injuries. This does not always resolve after childbirth.
  • Obesity – Excess weight can cause back aches and pains.
  • Genes – Inherited conditions can cause lower back pain. Ankylosing spondylitis, a genetic form of arthritis, can cause lower back pain as spinal joints fuse together.
  • Job-related risks – Lifting and pushing heavy objects can cause injuries. Sedentary desk jobs can trigger back pain due to poor posture or back support.
  • Mental illness – Anxiety and depression can alter how a person perceives pain. Chronic pain can also lead to the development of psychological issues that affect the body in several ways.
  • Backpack overload – Heavy backpacks can strain younger children’s back muscles. Backpacks shouldn’t weigh more than 20 percent of the child’s body weight.

What is Lower Back Pain?

Lower back pain, or lumbago, affects more than three million people every year. The condition affects men and women equally. Patients can experience a dull ache or sharp stabbing pains that immobilize them.

There are two categories of back pain according to orthopedic surgeons:

  • Subacute low back pain – This condition lasts four to 12 weeks and resolves with non-surgical intervention.
  • Chronic back pain – This health issue extends three months or longer, even after the patient receives treatment for their initial injury. Around 20 percent of patients suffer from this chronic pain.

Nine Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes is a federal agency that studies spinal and neurological related issues. The NINDS says there are nine leading causes for lower back pain.

  • Disc degeneration – Healthy intervertebral discs are flexible, allowing people to bend. As a person ages, these discs deteriorate and lose their cushioning ability.
  • Herniated and ruptured discs – Another common cause of lower back pain occurs when discs compress and bulge outward.
  • Spinal nerve root injury (Radiculopathy) – These injuries cause inflammation that compresses the spinal nerve root. The patient experiences pain, numbness, or tingling that radiates down their limbs. Herniated or ruptured discs cause most spinal nerve root injuries.
  • Sciatica – This spinal nerve injury develops when inflammation compresses the sciatic nerve. Patients experience a burning, shock-like pain in their lower backs, buttocks, and feet. They can also have numbness, muscle weakness, and interruption in nerve signaling. Tumors, cysts, or injuries may cause sciatica.
  • Skeletal irregularities – Some people develop spinal curvatures as they age. Skeletal irregularities (lordosis) is an abnormal arch of the lower back. Congenital spinal disorders can cause these abnormalities.
  • Spondylolisthesis – This disorder occurs when an injury causes the lower spine’s vertebrae to slip out of place. The displaced discs irritate and pinch nerves exiting the spinal column.
  • Sprain and strains – These injuries trigger most acute back pain. Sprains occur due to muscle strains, overstretching, or tendon and ligament tears.
  • Spinal stenosis – The condition develops when the spinal column narrows, placing pressure on the spine and nerves. Patients with spinal stenosis suffer from numbness, leg weakness, and sensory loss.
  • Traumatic injuries – High-impact events (during sports, car accidents, or falls) can cause intervertebral discs to herniate or rupture.

Uncommon Causes of Lower Back Pain

The NINDS has identified nine uncommon causes of lower back pain.

  • Infections – Infections of the vertebrae can cause pain. These conditions include osteomyelitis, discitis, and sacroiliitis.
  • Tumors – Cancerous masses can trigger lower back pain.
  • Cauda equina syndrome – This rare complication results from ruptured disks. Their material pushes out into the spinal column, then compresses the lumbar and sacral nerve roots. Cauda equina syndrome causes patients to lose bladder and bowel control. It may result in permanent damage if not treated.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysms -This dangerous health disorder causes the abdominal vessel supplying blood to the lower body to swell. Severe back pain can signal that the aneurysm is large enough to rupture. This condition requires immediate medical attention.
  • Kidney stones – Patients with this issue suffer from sharp, lower back pains on one side.
  • Arthritis – These disorders include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory joint diseases.
  • Osteoporosis – This progressive metabolic bone disorder causes vertebral fractures and decreases in bone density and strength.
  • Endometriosis – Tissue can leave the uterus and migrate to other areas, causing lower back pain.
  • Fibromyalgia – This disease causes chronic pain, soreness, and fatigue.

Step One: Before You Visit a Surgeon, See Your Family Doctor

Every patient should visit their primary care physician before seeing an orthopedic spine surgeon. Your family doctor will perform a medical exam to identify the cause of your condition. He or she can prescribe medicines for non-chronic lower back pain (12 weeks and less). These treatments may include analgesics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, anticonvulsants, and counter-irritants.

Additionally, your doctor can order chiropractic care or physical therapy as a first-line treatment option. Chiropractors are specialists that use spinal manipulation and mobilization to provide pain relief. Physical therapists use techniques including traction, massage, muscle manipulation, and biofeedback to relieve aches and mobility issues. These therapies may not alleviate your pain. If this happens, your primary care doctor will refer you to an orthopedic surgeon. Contact an experienced orthopedic surgeon who can diagnose your lower back pain..

Step Two: Visit an Orthopedic Doctor

Orthopedic surgeons diagnose disorders of the bones, joints, muscles,  ligaments, and tendons. These professionals may use the following tests to develop a treatment plan for you.

  • X-ray – This imaging technique identifies broken bones and injured vertebra. It can also reveal structural and vertebral misalignments or fractures.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) – This imaging helps orthopedic surgeons identify soft tissue damage that may be causing your pain. CT can reveal bulging discs, spinal stenosis, disc ruptures, tumors, and other health conditions.
  • Myelograms – These enhance the x-ray and CT scan images. Technicians inject a contrast dye into the spine, allowing any spinal and nerve compression to be seen on other examinations.
  • Discography – Surgeons use these diagnostic procedures when other test fails to find the cause of lower back pain. Doctors inject a contrast dye into the spinal area where the lower back issue exists. The fluid pressure will reproduce the symptoms to identify the damaged discs. The information helps patients who require lumbar surgery after conventional treatments have failed.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – Physicians use a magnetic force to produce images of soft tissue, muscles, tendons, and blood vessels.
  • Electrodiagnostic – These procedures include electromyography, nerve conduction studies, and evoked potential studies. They can detect muscle weaknesses resulting from nerve issues.
  • Bone scans – Orthopedist use bone scans to detect and monitor infections, orthopedic disorders, and fractures. Doctors inject a tiny amount of radioactive material and allow it to collect in the bones. Afterward, they photograph images to identify any bone metabolism irregularities.
  • Ultrasound (Sonography) – The test uses high-frequency sound waves to image the inside of the body. This test can show ligament, muscle, and tendon tears.
  • Blood tests – The screenings can identify infection, inflammation, and arthritis.

Non-Surgical Treatments Orthopedic Surgery

Your orthopedic surgeon may offer several non-surgical treatments to alleviate your pain, before recommending surgical options. They include the following:

  • Nerve block therapies – An orthopedic doctor can use local anesthetics, botulinum toxins, or steroids to block nerve pain. An orthopedist’s skill determines whether this approach is successful. They must know how to identify and treat the right nerves. Additionally, physicians may inject low doses of pain relievers (using a catheter) to block, nerve pain.
  • Epidural steroid injections – Orthopedic surgeons use this short-term treatment option to relieve sciatica-related, low-back pain. The NINDS doesn’t recommend this treatment method for spinal stenosis patients, because most experience poor long-term outcomes.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) – Battery-powered electrodes generate impulses that block pain peripheral nerves pain. TENS also elevates endorphins, the body’s pain-numbing chemicals. Recent studies have shown TENS produces mixed results.

Surgical Treatment Options

An orthopedic doctor will consider surgery when other treatments fail to relieve pain. It can take months for a patient to fully heal after a surgical procedure.

Operations aren’t always effective, so patients must consider the risks before undergoing a procedure. Here are nine surgical options for patients.

  • Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty – Orthopedic surgeons use this minimally invasive procedure to treat compression fractures caused by osteoporosis. They insert a hypodermic needle into the vertebrae’s largest region, then fill it with bone cement. Once the material hardens, it relieves pain and stabilizes the area. Surgeons prepare patients for vertebroplasties using kyphoplasty. They gently inflate a balloon to restore the vertebrae’s height before they inject the cement.
  • Spinal decompression (laminectomy)– Specialists perform this operation to treat spinal stenosis. They remove any bone spurs and portions of the vertebral walls (lamina). Decompression relieves spinal column pressure.
  • Discectomy or microdiscectomy – This operation removes herniated discs pressing against the spinal column’s nerves. During a microdiscectomy, doctors eliminate the herniation disc using a small back incision. Laminectomies and discectomies are usually performed together.
  • Foraminotomy – Bulging discs can narrow the spinal cord. This inflammation causes pain, numbness, and limb weakness. Physicians widen the bony hole (foramen) where the nerve root leaves the spinal canal to relieve pressure.
  • Intradiscal electrothermal therapy – IDET treats bulging and cracked discs caused by degenerative disc disease. Doctors insert a catheter through an incision into the damaged area. They pass a wire through it, then apply a heated, electrical current. The procedure strengthens collagen fibers, reduces bulging, and decreases spinal irritation. Researchers are still assessing the efficacy of IDET.
  • Nucleoplasty, or plasma disc decompression (PPD) – Orthopedic surgeons use radiofrequency to treat herniated discs. They insert a heated needle to guide a plasma laser into the area. The laser vaporizes damaged disc tissue and reduces nerve pressure and inflammation.
  • Radiofrequency denervation – Doctors disrupt the nerves’ conduction of signals to lower pain. Specialists use x-rays to identify specific nerves, then apply a local anesthetic to identify the ones causing pain. They heat the region to destroy the nerves. This procedure produces temporary pain relief.
  • Spinal fusion – During this procedure, physicians remove vertebrae to alleviates pain caused by degenerative disc disease (spondylolisthesis). Doctors perform the procedure using an incision in the abdomen (called anterior lumbar interbody fusion) or the back (posterior fusion). After removing the damaged areas, surgeons fuse adjacent vertebrae using bone grafts and metal devices. Patients lose some spinal flexibility after surgery. They need a long recovery period so the vertebrae can graft together.
  • Artificial disc replacement – This surgery treats people with severe disc damage. They remove the disc, then replace it with synthetic bone to restore the vertebrae’s height and movement.

New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.

help for chronic back pain

Orthopaedic Guide to Chronic Back Pain

Whether you’re a workout enthusiast or simply spend a lot of time sitting in an office chair, it’s likely that you’ve dealt with some degree of back pain in your day-to-day life. When pain strikes, it’s essential that you’re equipped to identify the cause of your condition and recognize your symptoms.

COMMON CAUSES OF BACK PAIN


Back pain may arise from everyday causes, especially for adults over the age of 35. Slouching in front of a desk is a common culprit, and being overweight is another risk factor.

Many people also experience issues due to prolonged stress or heavy lifting. The repetitive motions and impact of sports can cause back pain, but lack of exercise can also weaken muscles and make them more susceptible to injury.

Pain in the back may be linked to a medical condition that requires a doctor’s diagnosis. Back pain can have anatomic causes, such as scoliosis or weak core muscles. As the body ages, troublesome disc issues are more likely to occur as the soft matter bulges and presses on nerves, causing disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, or spinal stenosis.

Certain chronic issues, such as arthritis, can affect the back as well. Sciatica, nerve compression, kidney disease, or even tumors can be risk factors, and pregnancy often puts additional stress on the back muscles.

SYMPTOMS OF LOWER AND UPPER BACK PAIN

If you’re experiencing lower back or lumbar spinal pain, you may experience:

  • The inability to sit up straight or move with your full range of motion
  • Pain or discomfort when attempting to stand, sit, or walk
  • Pain when trying to lift a heavy object
  • A sharp pain in the back of the thigh or buttock
  • A dull ache in the lower back

If you’re experiencing upper back or thoracic spinal pain, you may experience:

  • Stiffness or tightness, especially when attempting to twist or fully straighten your upper body
  • Pain through your neck and shoulders
  • Weakness or a slouched posture
  • Numbness, tenderness, or muscle spasms in the back
  • Intense pain, in the case of vertebrae injury
THE INITIAL DIAGNOSIS

If you have chronic back pain, it’s important to consult your doctor. Some pain may indicate the need for simple lifestyle changes — better posture, more exercise, or a new mattress, for example. Most of the time, the pain can be traced back to a muscle injury or joint inflammation, which can respond well to more conservative treatments.

Only a doctor can help you determine if your discomfort is more serious. For instance, if you’re experiencing shooting or burning pain down the legs, numbness, or tingling, this may be the sign of a herniated disc or pinched nerve. Your doctor may recommend an MRI to rule out disc herniations and spinal stenosis, along with an EMG nerve test to identify any other underlying issues. For more urgent conditions, like a fracture due to direct impact, you should seek immediate medical attention.

SEEKING TREATMENT AND PAIN RELIEF

If you’re experiencing acute but manageable back pain, you can start with conservative treatment methods. For the first 48 hours you should rest, take anti-inflammatory medication, and ice the affected area for 20 minutes at a time. Rest is the most effective treatment for upper back pain, as long as you lie down in a way that doesn’t strain the spine.

If your pain persists, your doctor may suggest physical therapy, or changes like exercising and improving your posture. Exercise can prevent injury by strengthening the back and abdominal muscles, but be sure to warm up, stretch, and gradually increase activity.

Injections are another common treatment for back pain. Options include trigger point injections to relieve painful muscles, anti-inflammatory joint injections, epidural injections for spinal nerves, or nerve blocks. In more serious cases, your doctor may recommend surgery.


New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.

Understanding Low Back Pain

Understanding Low Back Pain

By Lynne K. Schneider, PhD | Reviewed By Forest Tennant, MD, DrPH | Article Featured on Practical Pain Management

At some point in our lives, up to 90% of us will have low back pain, or pain in the lumbar (lower) spine. However, the American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine (AANEM)1 assures us that in about 50% of these cases, the pain will resolve within 2 weeks, and in 80% of these cases, within 6 weeks.

However, one in five individuals will develop chronic back pain, which the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)2 defines as pain that lasts more than 12 weeks. It is difficult to determine which cases will become chronic, as chronic back pain isn’t necessarily related to the location, onset, or even the initial severity of the pain.

Most low back pain is caused by strains or sprains—people starting a new exercise routine, shoveling snow, or doing yard work. In general, overactivity back strains usually heal on their own, although you might need to use ice/heat packs and/or take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications.

Other important causes of back pain include osteoarthritis of the spine (or spondylosis), sciatica, and/or a herniated or bulging lumbar disc. Less frequently, notes the North American Spine Society (NASS),3 low back pain may be caused by something more serious, such as an infection, fracture, or cancer. Low back pain can also result from non-spinal causes, such as a kidney infection or stomach ulcer. In women, endometriosis, pregnancy, and fibromyalgia may cause low back pain.

How Do You Know If You Need To See A Doctor?

According to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS),4 you will likely need medical attention if your back pain is accompanied by fever, chills, or if the pain doesn’t go away or worsens over a few weeks. Other indications of severe low back pain include weakness, numbness, or tingling in your arms, hands or in your groin or going down your leg, as well as swelling, or losing bowel or bladder control. You should also seek medical attention for low back pain that is severe enough to interfere with your ability to do your daily activities and/or preventing you from work.

NINDS, AANEM, and AAOS all mention things you can do to reduce your risk of low back pain, such as losing weight to put less stress and pressure on your back; learning correct exercise or weightlifting form (including shoveling and gardening); and doing exercises to help strengthen the surrounding low back muscles. While we can’t control the natural effects of aging that causes wear and tear on our spine, discs and ligaments, nor can we prevent accidents, injuries, or falls from happening, we can learn how to better deal with the stress on our backs and improving posture, both of which can help reduce the risk of low back pain. In addition, quitting smoking and removing inflammatory foods from your diet might also be beneficial. Making a few simple lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk for and help you deal with low back pain.

NINDS suggests that many cases of low back pain can be diagnosed by a physical examination and a review of your medical history. To help in the diagnostic process, you might think about what triggers your low back pain:

  • Does it get better or worse by rest or inactivity?
  • By prolonged sitting or standing?
  • By moving around?
  • By any specific movements?
  • Were you recently involved in an accident of some type?

Treatment*

Experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine5 suggest that once the cause of your back pain has been identified, your doctor might recommend rest, specific muscle strengthening exercises, diet and lifestyle changes, physical therapy, and OTC anti-inflammatory agents that may provide relief. The potential benefits of prescription drugs—muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs, and analgesics— need to be weighed against their side effects and risks. Opioid medications are never considered first-line therapy for low back pain.

Injection-based treatments, including epidural steroid injections, nerve blocks or nerve ablations, may be effective in lessening the pain in the short term, but do not address the underlying cause of the pain. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS)6 notes that surgery is often a last resort or used for people with serious complications such as loss of bladder or bowel functions, difficulty walking or standing, or progressive limitations due to the low back pain. A rehabilitation psychologist might recommend mindfulness, meditation, yoga or other relaxation strategies. Alternative treatments—acupuncture, biofeedback, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), spinal manipulation/mobilization, and some laser therapies, may also be helpful with low back pain.

*Any treatment decision should be made after speaking with your spine or pain physician.


New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.