The majority of back pain symptoms stem from inflammation due to an acute injury or overuse of the muscles, joints, or tendons.

Understanding and adhering to proper posture and lifting techniques can help decrease your chance for sustaining a back injury, such as a fracture, herniated disc, or strained muscle.

However, not all causes of back pain are as easily preventable; pain can also arise from a chronic or degenerative condition or from conditions that may spontaneously occur, such as disc herniations.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms of back pain, it’s important to seek treatment from a spine specialist as soon as possible before your condition worsens.

  • Pain that radiates from the neck to the arm/hand
  • Pain that radiates from the back to the leg/foot
  • Pain that increases in the back, leg, or foot with standing or walking and is relieved by sitting
  • Pain following heavy lifting, especially if you have osteoporosis
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or legs
  • Nerve or dexterity problems in the arms and hands

At The Bone & Joint Center, we understand that pain in the back can make everyday activities difficult. Our back doctors know that proper diagnosis is paramount in determining the most effective treatment plan for your individual condition.

To consult with a back doctor at The Bone & Joint Center, please request an appointment online or call (518) 489-2666.

 

Same-Day Spine Surgery,
Long-Term Relief

Our experienced, fellowship-trained spine surgeons at The Bone & Joint Center proudly perform a number of spinal procedures in the outpatient setting to help you overcome pain and limitations. Outpatient spine surgery offers you comfort, convenience, and a faster recovery through leading-edge techniques, technology, and protocols.

Learn More

Arm & Leg Pain

The anatomy of the spine includes both the bony vertebrae and the compressible intervertebral disc. Over time, the discs can develop degeneration, leading to loss of the disc's internal water content and compromising its integrity. This can result in a bulging or herniated (slipped) disc. Because of the spinal anatomy, the close proximity of the spinal nerves can result in pain along the course of the nerve, in the case of the cervical spine typically pain down the arm, and in the case of the lumbar spine pain running down the leg.

Arm or leg radiating pain, burning, numbness, tingling, or weakness are common symptoms associated with nerve compression and inflammation. In the cervical spine, problems dropping objects or with functional dexterity also may occur causing impairment of the delicate functions of the hand. In the lumbar spine, weakness in the foot and ankle can lead to foot drop, where weakness can cause trips and falls.

Rarely, numbness, weakness, or pain down the arm or leg can represent much less common neurological problems. Problems with vision or sight, swallowing, balance dysfunction, or vertigo should be immediately brought to the attention of your physician. In addition, an impairment of bladder or bowel function, either inability to start or stop, could constitute cauda equina syndrome which is an absolute emergency necessitating immediate attention in the Emergency Department.

Low Back Pain

Pain in the lower back, or the lumbar spine region, can affect most people on occasion. Most commonly, low back pain is muscular and associated with improper form with heavy lifting or is caused by sitting long periods with poor posture. Severe, chronic low back pain can have a number of causes, from pinched nerves to vertebral damage. 

Neck Pain

Neck pain can commonly occur as a consequence of muscle strains, ligament sprains, or as a consequence of spinal arthritis. A traumatic injury to the neck can also produce cervical whiplash, in which all of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the cervical spine are subjected to significant damage. Causes of neck pain can be the following; Neck muscle strain, ligament sprain, whiplash, spinal arthritis Symptoms associated with neck pain can include stiffness or difficulty with range of motion, cracking or crepitation with motion, headaches, or referred pain to the shoulder or shoulder blade. Symptoms may also radiate down to the arm or hand and may be associated with numbness or weakness of the hand and arm. Additional Points Pain radiating to the arm or hand, associated with numbness, tingling, or weakness should be evaluated by a spinal specialist immediately.

Neck Pain Associated with Whiplash: Common complaints noted in Whiplash associated dysfunction (WAD) include neck pain, both localized as well as spreading out in a diffuse fashion to the shoulders. Additionally posterior region headaches, fatigue, dizziness, jaw pain, photophobia as well as complaints of impaired ability to concentrate are all commonly noted. Subjective sensation of numbness and tingling in the hands has also been described.

As one can see the above symptoms are fairly non-distinct. The diffuse and somewhat vague nature of the complaints presents unique challenges in the evaluation and ultimately the management of this syndrome.

During the course of history taking not only will the above complaints be targeted, but specific questions of bladder function, such as urgency and frequency of urination may be asked by your physician. Urinary urgency / frequency and occasional accidents may be a sign of a more significant issue, such as cervical spinal cord injury, which can be seen in older patients who were involved in relatively low speed, low energy, whiplash type injuries.

Although neck pain can have many sources, there are some questions that may help your doctor make the correct diagnosis and select appropriate treatment.

Did your neck pain begin following an injury?

  1. If you had a recent injury, your neck may be painful due to a sprain of ligaments or a strain of cervical muscles. Either of these problems may cause neck pain with neck range of motion especially posterior neck pain with bringing the chin to chest.
  2. Pain radiating from the neck down the arm and into the hand may be as a result of cervical nerve root injury. The pattern of numbness and tingling may help your physician localize the level of root injury. Evaluation of reflexes may also reveal absence of a reflex, not uncommonly seen in nerve root injury.
  3. Headaches are a common complaint noted by cervical whip lash syndrome patients. They may also be associated with a sensation of dizziness. This may be secondary to muscle strain and associated muscle spasm.
  4. Urinary urgency and frequency can occur after whip lash type injuries and may be the sign of a subtle spinal cord injury. You physician will perform a detailed neurological exam and obtain appropriate imaging studies to evaluate this complaint.

Sensory Loss / Numbness / Tingling

Lack of sensation in the back or extremities is often a sign that something is wrong with the nervous system. Tingling sensations are also associated with nerve problems. Either through acute injury, repetitive use, or musculoskeletal degeneration, spinal and / or peripheral nerve damage is serious. Loss of sensation, numbness, and / or tingling are serious symptoms that require expert examination.

Whiplash

Cervical sprains and strains are common disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Acute sprains and strains may occur as a result of strenuous lifting and pulling activities and not uncommonly as a result low speed / low energy impact type injuries. They can occur secondary to recreational as well as vocational activities. Acute sprain / strain syndromes are typically self-limiting and generally resolve in days to several weeks. Acute and chronic sprain /strain syndromes can also be referred to as whiplash associated disorders (WAD), when the mechanism of injury includes a component of rapid acceleration/deceleration of the posterior as well as anterior neck musculature.

Symptoms associated with whiplash include:

  • Neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Upper back / shoulder pain
  • Dizziness
  • Jaw pain / swallowing dysfunction
  • Sensation of numbness / tingling in hands

Click here for specific neck pain information.

Whiplash

Conditions associated with whiplash include:

  • Cervical muscle spasm
  • Cervical nerve root injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Spinal fracture

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Lumbar spinal stenosis has been defined as any type of narrowing of the spinal canal, nerve root canals, or intervertebral foramen. This narrowing can put pressure on the contents of the spinal canal (spinal cord and nerve roots) resulting in symptoms of lumbar stenosis. It can present at any age but usually presents in patients over the age of 50. The most common levels of lumbar spinal stenosis are L3-4 & L4-5. Nearly 15% of the patients with degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis also have cervical spinal stenosis.

The Causes: The narrowing can be caused by soft tissue abnormalities (e.g. disc herniation, ligament enlargement), bony abnormalities (e.g. facet enlargement or bone spurs), or a combination of both. The resultant nerve root compression leads to nerve root ischemia, which gives the clinical picture of lumbar spinal stenosis. The narrowing of the spinal canal structures can be congenital and or acquired (more common). The primary cause of the acquired spinal stenosis is degenerative disc disease. Less common causes are spondylolisthesis, scoliosis, trauma, and rarely, spinal tumors.

The Diagnosis: A thorough medical history and physical examination are the keys to the correct diagnosis. If no relief is achieved with conservative care, other workups or studies may become necessary, including X-rays, MRI, and CT scans.

X-rays of the lumbar spine are usually the first diagnostic study and give an assessment of the degenerative spine disease, disc space narrowing, spur formations, spine instability, foraminal narrowing, and other bony abnormalities.

MRI studies use the magnetic field and radiofrequency waves to give detailed pictures of the lumbar spine, including disc herniations, bone spurs, the extent and level of narrowing in different planes, and horizontal or vertical cut sections.

CT scans give detailed information regarding spine structures, especially bony structures, but are limited in the evaluation of soft tissues. This can be of significant help in clinical situations where MRI studies are not indicated, e.g., patients with pacemakers or surgical clips. A CT myelogram is rarely needed in clinical situations when the MRI study is limited due to metallic artifact from spine implants and fusions.

Electrodiagnostic studies involve the electrical study of nerves and muscles, which is helpful in the diagnosis of nerve damage or irritation. Nerve root blocks or transforaminal epidural injections are commonly used to make a focal diagnosis of the spinal pain or are used prior to spinal surgery. Points: On rare occasions, numbness, weakness, and/or impairment of bladder or bowel function—either the inability to start or stop—could constitute cauda equina syndrome, which is an absolute emergency necessitating immediate attention in the emergency department.

Neck Pain

Treatment for neck pain typically follows a conservative course with the employment of anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, early engagement with physical therapy, and occasional employment of a cervical collar. Physical therapy involving stretching, exercises, and traction may be recommended, along with modalities such as moist heat, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation. Generally, the prognosis is positive with improvement or resolution in days-weeks. Severe whiplash injuries can take a considerably longer period for recovery.

Arm & Leg Pain

Fortunately, the vast majority of leg and arm pain sufferers gain significant improvement over time with conservative care alone. In the absence of progressive worsening such as worsening weakness or numbness, the symptoms usually resolve within four-six weeks. Medications such as anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, and occasionally corticosteroids in combination with early stretching, exercises, and traction can be helpful in keeping the symptoms at bay until resolution occurs.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Conservative or nonsurgical treatment is often sufficient to control symptoms and remain functional. General fitness and conditioning exercises are usually sufficient including cycling, pool exercises, treadmill exercises as tolerated. Medications used are acetaminophen (maximum dose not to exceed 2000mg/day), anti-inflammatory medications, medications to help with neuropathic pain (gabapentin).

Try our home remedy exercises provided. Stop if they cause an increase in pain or symptoms. If no relief with home exercises, formal physical therapy involving therapeutic William flexion exercises, functional stabilization exercises may be helpful.

After failure of conservative treatment, epidural steroid injections or selective nerve root blocks are commonly used in nonsurgical management of lumbar spinal stenosis.

Surgical treatment is needed for patients with symptomatic severe spinal stenosis who do not respond to conservative management. Surgical treatment commonly consists of spinal decompression to remove structures (lamina, bone spurs, ligamentum flavum and hypertrophied facet joints, herniated discs) causing narrowing of the spine and causing compression of spinal cord or nerve roots).

Exercise Programs

Choosing the right exercise program is one of the best methods of preventing back pain. We recommend strengthening exercises as an excellent option because it makes the muscles that support the back stronger. Strong muscles increase balance and decrease the risk of falling-preventing fractures, injuries and pain. Always consult your doctor before starting an exercise regimen after any injury.

About Capital Region Spine

The specialists at our multi-disciplinary spine center are fellowship-trained, board-certified orthopaedic surgeons, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists, and nonsurgical spine specialists. We offer the full spectrum of nonsurgical and surgical treatment of spinal disorders, encompassing degenerative and deformity conditions, trauma, tumors, and infections. In addition, minimally invasive surgery to allow same-day surgery and motion-sparing techniques using disc replacements are often possible should surgery be necessary.

Capital Region Spine, located in Albany, New York, with satellite offices in Catskill, Clifton Park, Latham, Malta, Saratoga, and Schenectady, is a regional spine center specializing in back and neck problems. It currently receives some of the most complex cases of back and neck pain from across the state. Capital Region Spine is able to care for any type of back or neck problem, from the simple back or neck strain all the way to the most complex spine surgery.

How We're Unique

What makes Capital Region Spine different from other treatment centers is its nonsurgical approach to back and neck problems. Most spine treatment centers are directed by surgeons who favor the use of spine surgery. Capital Region Spine includes fellowship-trained orthopaedic spine surgeons, physical medicine doctors who help patients with nonsurgical treatments, sports medicine specialists, and spine-specialized physical therapists. These specialists have advanced training in the treatment of back and neck pain and are successful in helping people return to activity—without surgery.

Capital Region Spine takes a multidisciplinary, team approach to spine care, involving both surgical and nonsurgical spine physicians. This team of professionals works together to develop the best treatment for each patient. We provide all the necessary diagnostic testing and treatment in one place—eliminating the need for multiple referrals, delayed care, and overall confusion. 

If Surgery Is Needed

Sometimes, surgery is the best treatment option, especially for those suffering from herniated discs, spinal fractures, spinal deformities, spinal tumors, and scoliosis. However, it is estimated that over half of back surgeries performed are unnecessary, and in some cases, even counterproductive. At Capital Region Spine, surgery is used as a treatment option only after nonsurgical treatments have been exhausted. When surgery is necessary, our Capital Region Spine surgeons are highly trained and proficient in the latest minimally invasive techniques for spine surgery.

Clinical Outcomes

To consult with one of our back doctors, please request an appointment online or call (518) 489-2666.

Orthopaedic Urgent Care

HURT TODAY? TREATED TODAY!

Injuries occur when you least expect them. That’s why our doctors are proud to offer same-day orthopaedic care and treatments at our Albany office for those who suffer from acute injuries and conditions. At our Orthopaedic Urgent Care, we have extended clinic hours staffed with highly skilled medical professionals who will put your needs first.

BE SEEN TODAY – LEARN MORE