Back Pain

If you’re experiencing back pain, you’re not alone. Back pain, one of the most common medical conditions in the US, can range from a dull, recurring ache to sharp, sudden pain. At Saint Vincent Hospital, we have back and spine care specialists and neurosurgeons to help relieve your back pain.


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Move Better, Live Better

If back pain already affects the quality of your life, consider getting advanced and personalized back pain treatment at Saint Vincent Hospital. Our back doctors in Worcester, MA will work with you to give you a course of treatment and recovery options, focusing on recommending nonsurgical options first.

However, if non-invasive treatment options do not work, we may perform any of our spine surgery procedures suitable for your case. No matter the cause of your back pain, we can help you determine the best plan of action for your back pain through our skilled, hands-on evaluation and diagnosis.

What Causes Back Pain

Back pain may be caused by structural or medical problems that develop in the spine, muscles, ligaments, tendons or discs in the back. Inflammatory and other medical conditions may also hurt a patient’s back. While certain diseases and traumatic injuries can cause back pain, here are the common causes of back pain:

  • Improper Body Mechanics
  • Incorrect Bending or Lifting Techniques
  • Poor Posture
  • Poor Physical Condition 

Our spine specialists use their clinical expertise for a quick, accurate diagnosis to develop a plan of care that fits your needs. We will exhaust every appropriate treatment option before considering surgery. For instance, our interventional specialists treat back pain with nonsurgical approaches such as medication management and injections.

However, there are cases where prescribed rest, exercise, conditioning programs or physical therapy are insufficient. If a surgical procedure becomes the right choice, our team of spine treatment specialists, including orthopedic specialists and neurosurgeons, are trained to effectively correct problems related to:

  • Acquired and congenital spinal deformities
  • Ankylosing spondylolisthesis
  • Congenital changes to the backbone
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Dislocations and subluxations
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Fractured vertebrae
  • Herniated or ruptured disc
  • Inflammatory arthritis affecting the spine
  • Kidney stones
  • Mechanical back dysfunction
  • Osteoporosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis
  • Sprain
  • Strain and contusions
  • Systemic diseases affecting the spine
  • Traumatic and overuse spinal injuries
  • Tumors that develop on the spine or other back parts (rare)
  • Whiplash injuries
  • Work-related back pain

What Is a Spine Specialist Called?

The types of healthcare providers who will be involved in treating your back pain will depend on the cause of your condition:

  • Neurologists: treat conditions and disorders affecting the brain, spine and nerves
  • Neurosurgeons: perform surgery to treat nerve, brain and spinal disorders
  • Orthopedists: treat and perform surgery for diseases affecting the joints and bones 
  • Pain specialists such as anesthesiologists with specialization in the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of various pain types
  • Physical therapists: specialize in strengthening muscles 
  • Primary or family care doctors
  • Rheumatologists: specialize in treating autoimmune disorders and musculoskeletal disease

When Should You See a Spine Specialist?

Depending on the severity of your back pain, you may feel pain only in a specific spot on your back or pain that radiates to your leg, hip or buttocks. You may experience worsening back pain when lifting, bending, sitting, standing or resting. Some people may feel back stiffness upon waking up with pain that lessens with activity. 

You should visit a doctor if your back pain does not improve after a few weeks or if it comes along with fever, difficulty in urinating, unintended weight loss or pain, weakness or numbness in your legs. See a doctor if you feel:

  • Back pain after an injury or fall
  • Severe back pain that medication does not improve
  • Tingling and numbness

Back Pain Treatment

Your doctor may recommend medications to treat your back pain, such as:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs 
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Numbing injections
  • Over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers

You may use cold packs to relieve some back pain and hot packs to increase blood flow in your back’s muscles and tissues to promote healing. As much as possible, avoid bed rest. Limit exercise or activities that cause pain. Increase physical activity at a pace you can tolerate. 

When performing daily activities such as pulling, pushing or lifting, properly move your body. Healthy habits such as relaxation, exercise, regular sleep, quitting smoking and a healthy diet can help prevent back pain.

Physical therapy and exercise may help decrease back pain by strengthening the muscles that support your back and improving your posture, mobility and positioning. Consult with your physician before starting an exercise routine. Here are other alternative and complementary treatments that may relieve your back pain:

  • Acupuncture: Chinese practice that uses needles to relieve pain
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): low-voltage electric currents are used to treat pain
  • Spinal manipulation: to massage and adjust the spine and muscles

What Are the Different Types of Back Pain Surgery?

Back surgery procedures may be recommended to relieve pain. A doctor must thoroughly assess a patient for surgery, as not everyone may qualify. The type of surgery will depend on a patient’s medical history and the cause of back pain. The doctor will walk a patient through back pain surgery's risks and possible benefits. Here are standard spine surgery procedures:

  • Disc replacement surgery: a surgeon replaces a damaged spinal disc with a synthetic one
  • Discectomy and microdiscectomy: relieve pressure on a nerve root or spinal canal by removing part of a herniated disc
  • Foraminotomy: treats spinal stenosis by cleaning out and widening the area where the nerve roots leave the spinal canal
  • Laminectomy: the doctor eases pressure on the nerves of the back by removing the bony spurs of a patient with spinal stenosis
  • Laser surgery: relieves pressure on the nerves by using a laser to reduce the size of a damaged spinal disc
  • Radiofrequency lesioning: prevents pain signals from reaching the spinal cord
  • Spinal fusion: treats spondylolisthesis and degenerative disc disease by joining together the spinal vertebrae that have slipped from their original position

How Serious Is Back Surgery?

Back pain surgery can carry higher risks than other surgery types because this procedure is done closer to the nervous system. A patient with successful surgery may still take a long time to recover. Some patients may lose their flexibility permanently. 

Treatment That Brings Relief

We strive to help you through personalized and compassionate care during your spine care journey. Contact us to receive an appropriate diagnosis on the possible causes of your back pain so we may recommend treatment options that may ease your pain.

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More Information

Dislocation and Treatments

What Is Dislocation?

A joint is an area where two or more bones connect. A dislocation occurs when an external force knocks the bones of a joint out of position. Joints include your jaws, shoulders, fingers, elbows, ankles and knees. A fall, blow or playing contact sports causes joint dislocation.

The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the body. It can turn in many directions, which makes it also the most commonly dislocated joint. Aside from playing sports, studies show that young males and older women are at a higher risk of suffering from a dislocated shoulder joint. Women aged 80 to 90 years old suffer from dislocated shoulders due to falls at home.

How to Tell If Your Joint Is Dislocated?

A dislocation tears ligaments or tendons. For example, the most common dislocation in the shoulders is when the joint slips forward (anterior instability) and the arm bone is moved forward and down out of its joint. Dislocated joint symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Bruising

How to Treat a Dislocated Joint

A dislocated joint is an emergency. While you wait for medical care, you may apply the following initial treatment to the affected joint:

  • Let the joint rest. Do not attempt to move or jam a dislocated bone back. Sudden movement can damage blood vessels, muscles, ligaments and nerves.
  • Put an ice pack on the area around the joint to ease swelling and pain.
  • Take pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Your doctor will perform a process called closed reduction on your dislocated shoulders. The process involves placing your humerus back into the joint socket to stop the pain and put the shoulder joint back in place.

The sore area can benefit from cold compress post-recovery. Your doctor may recommend a sling or other device to immobilize your injured joint for several weeks following treatment temporarily.

Your doctor may recommend rehabilitation exercises for you once the pain and swelling subside to help restore your joint’s range of motion and strengthen the muscles. Dislocation may become a recurrent problem. Wearing a brace can help, but if therapy and bracing fail, your ligaments may need to undergo surgery for repair.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

If you have a dislocated joint, see an orthopedic doctor right away or call 911. It is important to remember that once you dislocate a shoulder or kneecap joint, you’re more likely to dislocate it again. Always wear protective gear to prevent future dislocations if you play contact sports.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons