Posted on: September 16, 2015
By Dr. Marshal Peris
You’ll be happy to hear that most people recover from back pain within a few days just by taking it easy, continuing gentle activity, and using over-the-counter pain medicine such as naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen to ease their pain. If the pain doesn’t resolve itself within a week or so, your doctor may suggest physical therapy where you can learn stretches and ways of moving that will ease the strain on your back.
If you are still experiencing pain, prescription pain medications and possibly steroid injections to reduce swelling in your back are likely next steps. Your physician may recommend imaging to determine if abnormalities in your spine are causing your pain. If your back pain doesn’t get better using these more conservative methods, your doctor may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon to determine if surgery can help. Sometimes abnormalities in the vertebrae or the soft discs that cushion your spine can press on spinal nerves and cause pain or numbness in your legs and make it difficult to walk or stand. In such cases, surgery can help immensely.
Your orthopedic surgeon will explore your options with you, and the two of you can decide on the best approach. The good news is that the surgical solutions for back pain are improving all the time. One exciting development used at Northern Westchester Hospital is direct lateral fusion, which can address back abnormalities that cause chronic pain. As “lateral” implies, the surgeon works from the side of the patient. This advanced technique is much less invasive and allows us to achieve amazing results. The incision is much smaller and we don’t have to fuse as many vertebrae to get great results. It’s often a simpler, more effective treatment, and patients are usually up and moving after one day (instead of three to four) and typically leave the hospital after three to four days versus six to seven. The vast majority of patients are much happier and back to their normal activities much sooner.
Editor’s Note: Marshal D. Peris, MD FAAOS is the Director of Spine Surgery at the Orthopedic & Spine Institute and President of the Medical Staff at Northern Westchester Hospital.