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August 31, 2022

Could I have a spinal condition? It’s a scary question to ask, but an important one to get answered

The orthopedics team at Rothman Orthopaedics at Jefferson Health provides some insight on back pain and possible spinal conditions

Adult Health Orthopedics

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Back pain can be debilitating. Ask anyone who has ever struggled with this issue and they’ll agree emphatically. In this critical, central area of the body, the presence of pain simply can’t be ignored. It impacts other parts of the body and every single movement. And when back pain begins to impact their everyday quality of life, patients start to ask, “could I have a spine condition?”

As one of U.S. News & World Report’s top ten hospitals in the nation for Orthopedics, Rothman Orthopaedics at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals advises you to not make assumptions or rush to conclusions. Back pain can be present without the existence of any damage or injury to the spine itself. There are many potential reasons you may be experiencing pain, so before you blame your spine, let’s back up and get all the info.

Let’s Talk About Back Pain

The most common complaints we hear involve cases of what is reported as “neck pain” or “lower back pain” but back pain can vary across the board. For some, it comes on slowly, while others complain of a sudden onset or a “throwing out” of their back. Once it presents itself, the pain may be intermittent or constant. It may feel like a sharp stabbing pain or like a low, dull, ache.

The good news is that in most instances, back pain actually resolves itself in just a matter of weeks - and often without any treatment at all. In some cases, conservative, nonsurgical treatments are used to relieve pain. But for the most part, surgery is not required.

Could I Have a Spine Condition?

Depending on the underlying condition causing your neck or lower back pain, a variety of other associated symptoms may present themselves. If the issue originates in the spine, symptoms may include:

• Pain that extends into the buttocks and legs
• Numbness and tingling (in the hands and feet)
• Pain that is worse when bending
• Trouble with finger coordination
• Weakness or balance problems

In order to answer the question, “Could I have a spine condition?” we encourage you to set up an appointment with a qualified spine physician to be evaluated.

When pain inhibits your ability to turn, bend, stretch or perform other everyday movements, it is time to see a spine specialist to identify the root cause of your pain and to discuss possible treatment options.

Answering the Question on Your Mind

When you see a spine physician, they will perform a thorough physical examination, review your entire medical history ask you questions about your symptoms. In many cases, this initial evaluation may be enough to diagnose the issue, but if your doctor needs more information in order to answer the question, “Could I have a spine condition?” then they will order one or more of the following tests.

• X-ray or CAT scan: An x-ray will show some of the most obvious causes of back pain, such as broken bones and deformities in the spinal curve. For a more detailed look at potential bone problems, a computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan may be requested. This serves as a sort of 3D x-ray.

• MRI: In order to look at possible issues related to muscles, nerves and discs, a magnetic resonance imaging test may be used.

• Bone Scan: If your physician suspects (or wants to rule out) a more rare condition, such as cancer or infection, they will evaluate you with a bone scan.

• Bone Density Test: Osteoarthritis is one of the most frequently observed causes of spinal fractures. A bone density test will reveal whether your spine has succumbed to the onset of this condition.

Possible Spine Conditions

If you suspect that a spinal condition is causing your back or neck pain, it may be time to research some specific conditions to find out if your symptoms match up. Below are a list of some of the most common spine problems that bring patients in to see orthopedic specialists:

• Herniated Cervical Disc
• Herniated Lumbar Disc
• Spinal Cord Injuries
• Spinal Tumors
• Sciatica
• Spinal Infections
• Spinal Osteoarthritis (Spondylosis)
• Scoliosis and Spinal Deformities
• Whiplash

As stated earlier, it’s best not to make an assumption that your back pain is the result of a spine condition. Instead, make an appointment with a specialist at Rothman Orthopaedics at Jefferson Health.

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