Ready for Relief: Managing pain without surgery
Our spines work hard for us every day – they support the weight of our heads, chests and shoulders, while rotating and flexing when we move. It’s no surprise that people often suffer from neck and back pain, but when the pain gets serious, so should your treatment.
Rather than sending patients to the operating room, The Christ Hospital uses non-surgical treatments for spinal conditions whenever possible. “Not only are these treatments less invasive than surgery, they can be equally effective for pain management,” says Leslie Gunzenhaeuser, M.D., anesthesiologist and board-certified pain management physician with The Christ Hospital Pain Management Associates.
When is it time to seek treatment?
According to Dr. Gunzenhaeuser, most spinal pain that gradually worsens can be treated using non-surgical treatments. “Typically, patients visit us with long-lasting pain that has suddenly progressed, or have recently developed pain in their neck or back from an occupational injury,” he notes.
Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs, or pain that stops you from normal activities are key signals of a more serious problem, and should prompt a visit to your primary care physician. “At The Christ Hospital, we don’t start with the most complex procedures to treat spinal pain,” Dr. Gunzenhaeuser explains. “Instead, we try the simplest option first, and work with a network of medical specialists, chiropractors and surgeons to determine the next step if the pain progresses.”
Over-the-counter care – Whether it’s a strained muscle from playing softball or a kink in your neck from a poor night’s rest, we’ve all experienced some form of back or neck pain. In cases like these, Dr. Gunzenhaeuser recommends icing and resting the affected area for three to four days, while using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen.
Interventional pain management – Injections are effective at diminishing localized, consistent pain from lumbar disorders and sciatica, and can also help physicians diagnose the source of the pain. Epidural steroid injections, for example, are performed with X-ray guidance to uncover the exact source of the pain. Physicians can then deliver a cortisone solution directly into the problem area to reverse swelling and inflammation, and relieve any aches.
Electrotherapy – Not only can electrotherapy treatments relieve pain from arthritis, they can also speed the healing process for nerve or spinal cord injuries. Radio frequency ablation, nerve root blocks and spinal cord stimulation can stop pain signals from reaching the brain. These treatments can either cauterize the nerve cells, deliver both local anesthetic and a corticosteroid to numb the nerve, or use electrical stimulation to block pain signals.
Physical therapy – Whether you suffer from acute or chronic spinal pain, physical therapy uses active (stretching, exercise, etc.) or passive (massage, electrical stimulation, etc.) therapies to cut the pain, increase flexibility, build strength and improve posture. “Physical therapy can work wonders at diminishing spinal pain,” Dr. Gunzenhaeuser says. “In the long-term, it can also work well to strengthen the spine and prevent injury.”
- Chiropractic care – By focusing on the biomechanics, structure and function of the spine and its effects on the musculoskeletal and neurological systems, chiropractors condition and restore these systems by manipulating the spine.
“Improvements in intervention techniques and therapy are helping people who suffer from spinal pain,” Dr. Gunzenhaeuser says. “The only way to know if you are a candidate for any of these procedures is to be evaluated by one of our physicians.”
To get your back pain questions answered, calling our spine care nurse at 513-585-BACK (2225) or visiting www.TheChristHospital.com.