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At some point in our lives, 80% of Americans will have experience back pain or neck pain. Another unfortunate statistic is that once you have your first episode of back pain or neck pain, you are four times more likely to have a recurrence. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that in some simple cases, back pain or neck pain symptoms can go away on their own a week or so. When the pain symptoms persist for longer than a week, some of these cases can also improve with non-surgical treatment options — like customized stretches that restore movement to inflamed ligaments and muscles; anti-inflammatory medications; or spinal injections that relieve pain long enough to get moving again.
The challenge with back pain and neck pain is that unlike other health care problems — where pain is a good indicator of an emergency and when a person shold promptly go to the doctor — pain is NOT a good indicator of what is an emergency.
For example, a back spasm can be excruciating enough to knock a person down to their knees. But surgery is never needed for a ligament strain. These problems respond best to non-surgical treatment.
Conversely, the emergency symptoms for spine care often don’t cause pain. Emergency symptoms for back and neck pain are weakness or numbness in a leg or hand, or loss of control of bowel or bladder. These symptoms represent emergency symptoms where back or neck surgery must be done quickly to prevent permanent paralysis of the nerves that relate to these muscles or extremities, causing the symptoms to become permanent and lifelong.
Within this educational Internet site, you will learn what symptoms can be addressed with home remedies, watchful waiting and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories. More importantly, we will help you understand what symptoms need to be seen within 24 hours to prevent permanent paralysis of nerves in the spine.
You will also learn that herniated-disc symptoms like radiating pain into a leg or arm can sometimes respond to non-surgical treatment options like a spinal injection that directs anti-inflammatory and pain relieving medication at the problem disc level. You will also learn that after non-surgical treatment options have been exhausted, however, there can be risks from too much watchful waiting. For example, a herniated disc in the low back can cause an impingement on a nearby nerve root which causes radiating pain into a leg or foot, or when more serious, weakness and numbness into a foot. Similarly, a herniated disc in the neck can cause radiating pain into an arm or hand, or when more serious, weakness and numbness into a hand.
With herniated discs, research is now showing that waiting too long, such as longer than six months, can make an eventual surgery less effective in relieving the pain symptoms long term. The best way to think about this is to imagine your car parked in your driveway on a garden hose. The longer the car compresses the hose (nerve root), the less likely the hose (nerve root) can return to normal function. Just as the garden hose can have a permanent crimp even after the car is removed, circulation to the nerve root can be disrupted which may result in some residual pain even after a successful surgery.
In this sense, researchers are concluding that there is a three to six-month window where non-surgical options can be explored. After that time, a person needs to be aware that waiting too long may not provide the best relief of pain. Our goal is to help you understand when to explore non-surgical treatment options, and when a surgery may provide the quickest return to activity.
Those with back pain and neck pain can be extremely frustrated by finding appropriate spine care. Part of the problem is that unlike heart problems which are the domain of cardiologists and cardio-thoracic surgeons working in specialized heart centers, back and neck pain can involve a variety of providers, including chiropractors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, therapists, rheumatologists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, etc. Many of these providers are well-intentioned and can provide excellent care. But sometimes, because they are working by themselves, they can have “specialty bias” based on their area of training. A spine center combines multiple specialties to address single-specialty bias.
Consequently, with back and neck pain so widespread, the unfortunate reality is that often those with back pain symptoms end up making a pilgrimage to multiple locations. While non-surgical treatment options can be appropriate for simple cases of back or neck pain, we’ve seen cases where people with herniated disc symptoms wait too long before going to a spine center, which can cause some herniated disc symptoms to become permanent and lifelong. The back or neck pain sufferer needs to be well informed to refer themselves to a spine center if their problem hasn’t improved in two or three weeks.
For the person with an aching back, who can find it painful to simply walk around, the physical journey to multiple locations, in and out of the car, walking out of parking structures, up elevators and down hallways, can all be excruciating and frustrating.
They also need to suffer through a variety of conflicting opinions and treatment plans because there can be tremendous treatment variation — and often misinformation — based on the training bias of the back treatment provider visited.
Because these unrelated spine care providers are spread across towns or regions, there is usually no communication between them about a specific patient. This means that a back or neck pain sufferer will travel from doctors office to doctors office, having to start from with his or her story to build a new medical chart from scratch with each visit. The diagnosis starts all over again, often repetitive diagnostic tests like additional X-rays, MRIs and invasive tests.
The common problem with the fragmented approach to spine care is that non-surgical treatment options are often so poorly designed so they predestine the patient to failure of conservative non-surgical care.
Too many back pain or neck pain sufferers pursue pain relieving drugs from their primary care doctor when that is not the solution. While anti-inflammatories can reduce inflammation to help resolve the problem of a strain, narcotics focus on masking symptoms rather than curing symptoms. Worse, these narcotics can be addictive which creates a bigger problem than the original episode of back or neck pain.
The second problem with fragmented spine care is that too many providers can give a prescription of disability. A patient is told not to play tennis, not to golf, not to walk. But movement and special customized exercises are key to helping a person over a back or neck strain. Movement is used efficiently by both chiropractic and spine therapists. In fact, one of the best features of chiropractic is that chiropractors don't prescribe drugs in their treatment. The key is not to mask symptoms, but to find out what is causing the pain with diagnostic tests, and then resolve that problem.
When poorly designed non-surgical options fail, this forces the patient to prematurely resort to surgery, in some cases, unnecessarily. An unnecessary spine surgery can unfortunately just create a bigger nightmare for the person, as scarring around a nerve root from surgery can create “failed back surgery syndrome” which is worse than any original pain symptom.
Because SpineCare Long Island combines many of these spine care specialists, with one medical record, there is no redundancy or duplication of effort. The physicians involved communicate and blend their expertise for the benefit of the patient with one central patient chart. The patient goes to one spine center location instead of multiple stops. As a result, these spine specialists are often able to help many patients resolve their back or neck pain symptoms without the need for spine surgery.
According to Dartmouth Medical Atlas, one of the leading researchers on spine surgery outcomes, there is tremendous variation in spine surgery with some locations in the U.S. having twice as much spine surgery as other locations. Health insurance companies have been long aware of this problem, and can utilize review methods to prevent unnecessary surgeries.
The second issue beyond variating in spine surgery rates, is the variation in spine surgeon expertise. Some surgeons still use long three-inch incisions when the current standard of care for spine surgery is minimally invasive spine surgery performed through a one-inch incision. Using tubular retractors and tiny cameras in the tip, the trained minimally invasive spine surgeon can repair a herniated disc or perform a spinal fusion and have the person home later the same day to recover in the comfort of their own home.
Thankfully, for those on Long Island, New York, we are positioned to help.
Recognizing that the best way to care for complex health problems is through a Center of Excellence approach, SpineCare Long Island was created.
SpineCare Long Island combines the expertise of spine surgeons, a non-surgical spine MD, and physician assistants. All are experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of back pain, neck pain, and other spine related problems. These spine physicians also understand the unique challenges of helping those with on-the-job back injury and how to help them return to activity and return to work.
The spine center assembles all these spine care specialists, along with X-ray, MRI diagnostics, a nearby injection suite, and an affiliated ambulatory surgery center all for the convenience of those with back and neck pain.
What makes SpineCare Long Island unique is that it helps back and neck pain sufferers explore non-surgical treatment options for back and neck problems before resorting to spine surgery. We believe that many times non-surgical options can help a person avoid or delay a spine surgery.
The physicians have a single centralized patient chart and they collaborate with each other to make sure the back and neck patient is getting the right treatment at the right time. This eliminates duplicate efforts and unnecessary diagnostic tests.
Patient education: As the expert source for information about back and neck pain, we strongly believe in educating patients to make informed decisions about their medical care. As a free community service, we distribute a 36-page home remedy book for free. This helpful back pain book has symptom charts that show when to see a doctor, how to use ice and heat at home to relieve pain, and 30 pages of customized back and neck exercises that can not only relieve pain symptoms, but also make your back more flexible, stronger and more resistant to future strain.
SpineCare Long Island recognizes the national trend in spine care is to take a Center of Excellence approach, with a multidisciplinary team of spine specialists working together under one roof, emphasizing nonsurgical options. SpineCare Long Island is located on the South Shore of Long Island in West Islip and includes the expertise of:
Over the past 20 years, the spine physicians at SpineCare Long Island have provided care to back pain and neck pain patients from all areas of Long Island, from the North Shore and South Shore of Nassau County and Suffolk County, and from Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn to the East End.
Over the past 20 years, the spine specialists at Spine Care Long Island have been the preferred back doctor for low back pain and neck pain patients from across Long Island, from the North Shore and South Shore of Nassau County and Suffolk County, and from Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn to the East End. Those with back pain or neck pain often struggle to find a back doctor, neurosurgeon or spine center that can provide a second opinion for spine surgery and offer nonsurgical treatment for back pain, neck pain, scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and pain symptoms related to a herniated disc. Spine Care Long Island is a regional spine center on Long Island that provides spinal injections, minimally invasive spine surgery, artificial disc replacement surgery, second opinions for back surgery and other advances in spine care.