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

What to Expect After Knee Surgery

Data from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) states that 90% of people who have knee replacement experience significant pain reduction. Therefore, it’s safe to say that you may live a more active, efficient and more comfortable life after going through knee surgery.

If your doctor recommends knee surgery or you’re waiting to have your procedure, this article can help manage your expectations and give you more information about taking care of your “new” knee.

Hospital Stay and Discharge

You may stay at the hospital for one to four days, depending on the nature of your knee surgery (e.g., total knee replacement or partial knee replacement, minimally invasive or traditional). The length of your stay may also depend on the speed of your recovery. Your doctor may declare your discharge once you accomplish the following:

  • Get in and out of bed on your own
  • Eat, drink and use the bathroom
  • Experience tolerable levels of pain
  • Perform recommended home exercises
  • Understand knee precautions advised for proper healing and to prevent injuries
  • Walk with an assistive device if prescribed any (e.g., cane, crutch or walker) and be able to climb up and down two to three stairs

Note: Your doctor may also transfer you to a rehabilitation or skilled nursing center if, after several days, it is not safe for you to go home. Meanwhile, if you have outpatient knee surgery, you may go home the same day of the surgery.

Recovering After Knee Surgery

You may need assistance at home for several days to a few weeks while recovering. If you don’t have a family member or a friend who can be with you upon discharge, we recommend hiring a caregiver or a physical therapist.


It’s normal to experience moderate to severe swelling in the early stages of your recovery. You may also experience mild to moderate swelling for about three to six months after the surgery. Applying ice, slightly elevating your leg or wearing compression stockings can also help reduce swelling.

Please inform your doctor if you notice warning signs of a blood clot which may include:

  • Increased swelling of the foot, ankle or calf
  • Pain in the calf or leg that is not related to the incision
  • Redness or tenderness below or above the treated knee

A blood clot may also go to the lungs and become life-threatening. Please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you experience the following:

  • Chest pain with coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden chest pain

Wound Care

Here are some guidelines that can help you take care of your surgical wound and prevent infection:

  • Change the wound dressing as often as directed by the orthopedic doctor. Follow the instructions given, and keep the wound clean and dry at all times.
  • Ask your doctor when you can take a bath. You may need to wait for a few days after the surgery.

Inform your doctor immediately if you experience warning signs of infection, which may include:

  • Chills
  • Drainage of the wound
  • Fever
  • Increased pain when moving and at rest
  • Increased redness, swelling or tenderness of the wound

Medication, Supplements and Diet

Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics (to prevent infection), opioid and non-opioid pain killers, anti-nausea medications, stool softeners and oral or injectable blood thinners. Please take each of your medicines as prescribed.

Your provider may recommend supplements or foods that are rich in iron or vitamin K. It is also best that you maintain a healthy weight to avoid putting additional stress on your joints.

Resuming Physical Activities

Your doctor may recommend home exercises that can help you gradually get back to doing your normal activities. Here’s a list of the most common physical activities and when you may be able to do them safely.

  • Returning to work – it may take several days to a few weeks before you can safely return to work, depending on the day-to-day physical demands of your job.
  • Driving – you may be allowed to resume driving when you are no longer taking opioid pain pills.
  • Sexual activity – you may resume sexual activity within a few weeks after surgery, although it may still depend on your condition. Please consult your doctor.
  • Sports – please ask your doctor’s clearance before trying or going back to a specific sport. Low-impact sports such as swimming may require less recovery time as compared to high-intensity sports such as football.

Final Thoughts

Every year, about 600,000 people in the United States have knee surgery. Response to surgery varies, and each person heals differently, so talk with your doctor about recovery concerns and going back to your normal activities. Again, if you experience life-threatening symptoms of a blood clot, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.