Do You Suffer from Debilitating Back Pain?

By Dr. Marshal Peris, FAAOS, Co-Director of the Orthopedic & Spine Institute, Spine Surgery Section, Northern Westchester Hospital

During Covid-19, your orthopedic physician at Northern Westchester Hospital is always available in the office or through telehealth. Imaging (such as x-rays) can be performed completely safely. And both non-surgical and surgical treatments at the Hospital are available and extremely safe. All exam rooms are cleaned and disinfected between patients. Everyone wears masks, gloves and PPE. Delaying care can sometimes lead to irreversible damage even if surgery is performed.

Chronic back pain usually affects your lower back, also called the lumbar spine. Physicians define chronic back pain as daily pain for more than three months. The pain can be intense enough to affect all aspects of your life – from work to sleep. That’s why prevention is so important. The good news is that there are many ways you can help keep chronic back pain at bay, permanently.

Prevent Pain From Ever Taking Hold – Here are the risk factors…

Studies show a major risk factor for back pain is smoking. Older people and those who are overweight also experience more back pain. So do manual laborers and people who sit while working. People who work from home need to maintain a good level of activity. Walking, stair climbing, air squats, yoga/trunk strengthening exercise can all be done in your home.

A recent or old back injury can also trigger pain. An injury to a spinal disc can speed up the normal spinal disc degeneration that occurs in all of us with age.

Prevention Works! Stop Back Pain Before It Starts. Here’s How…

  1. Immediately stop smoking. To join our FREE smoking cessation program, please email NWHSmokingCessation@northwell.edu
  2. If you are overweight, it’s important to get to a healthy weight. If you’re struggling to lose weight, Northern Westchester Hospital’s Center for Weight Management offers weight-loss strategies geared to your lifestyle now – being home much of the time, with added responsibilities and stress, maybe still not able to go to a gym. And just a few steps from the kitchen. From medical screening and nutritional counseling to virtual individual and group classes, possible referral to our surgical weight loss team, and optional sessions with our exercise physiology team plus a personalized exercise plan — we help you put all the pieces together in your unique way to take off the pounds and keep them off. To learn more, call (914) 223-1780.
  3. Go to bed! People who sleep well have less back pain.
  4. Sit up. Not slouching in your chair helps protect you from chronic back pain.
  5. Move around to keep your joints juicy. While sitting, change your position frequently. Your body wants to move – it’s how your joints are lubricated. Moving also changes the area of stress. If you don’t shift stress from one part of the body, it eventually gets tired and you hurt yourself. The best type of chair is one you can raise and lower, with a tilt feature that lets you lean back with support.
  6. Exercise is key for a painless future. Here’s how working out wards off back pain. Embark on a program of general regular aerobic exercise (30-45 minutes, three to four times a week) that you enjoy, whether it’s swimming, walking, using the elliptical machine, biking or stationary biking, or any combination of these. Studies show that people who exercise have less back pain than those who don’t. Discuss with your physician or a physical therapist how to tailor your workouts so they offer maximum lower back protection.
  7. Be sure to exercise your trunk. People tend to avoid the muscles around their midsection when working out. But because these hardworking muscles support your lumbar spine, the stronger they are, the less stress the discs and ligaments of your lumbar spine must withstand. There are many floor exercises that people can do at home to strengthen their core or trunk muscles. Try planks (also called a front hold, this involves holding a position similar to a push-up as long as you can), leg lifts, crunches, air squats, basic yoga or Pilates. You don’t need to be in a gym to do any of these exercises.

Non-surgical treatment for chronic back pain is very effective.

After diagnostic imaging, it typically starts with physical therapy (PT) and an in-home regimen. Steroid injections may be recommended to reduce your pain if it’s so severe that you can’t participate in PT or exercise. All rehab exercise programs should combine education with strengthening the core and back muscles. Hands-on techniques can reduce acute pain through massage, heat, electro-stimulation, ultrasound and guided stretching.

Should you require surgery for severe back pain, spine surgery can provide lasting relief. It consists either of a decompression, which frees pinched nerves; fusion, which eliminates a herniated disc and locks together the vertebrae above and below; or a combination. Learn more about spine surgery at Northern Westchester Hospital.

At Northern Westchester Hospital, we are able to dramatically reduce chronic lower back pain so you can live a fully normal life. But prevention is the best medicine of all. Don’t avoid seeking care during Covid-19. We are ready and equipped to help you with all our expertise — safely.

 

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