In this day and age, it’s really rare that you’ll need surgery to alleviate your back pain. As a matter of fact, fewer than 10 percent of patients with back pain of any kind end up under the knife. At the Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI), our physicians pride themselves in their low rate of surgical interventions.
When you come into see a spine specialist at SSI, you’ll undergo a thorough examination, followed by a course of conservative treatments. The SSI spinal physicians try less invasive procedures before even discussing the possibility of surgery. These non-surgical options include:
- Spinal manipulation (i.e., chiropractic treatment)
- Lifestyle changes
- Physical therapy
- TENS treatment
One of the most effective alternatives to surgery to ease your back, leg or neck pain is receiving a spinal injection. Spinal injections are safe, and they’re usually part of a more comprehensive program to treat your back pain. You may be asked to participate in an exercise regimen to help maintain or improve your spine’s mobility. Stretching and strengthening exercises also accompany many spinal injection therapies.
To assure the safety of spinal injections, your spinal physician at SSI often performs them using fluoroscopy or live X-rays. By watching a live feed of the injection, highlighted with a liquid contrast dye, your doctor can verify the exact placement of the medication.
Complications are rare, but could include a headache, bleeding, nausea or diarrhea. The side effects usually are mildly annoying at worst. Still, your doctor takes the time to review your medical history to ensure that you’re a suitable candidate for spinal injections. Poor candidates can include patients with:
- An infection at the site where the injection needs to go
- A bleeding disorder
- Uncontrolled diabetes or very high blood pressure
- An allergy to the contrast dye, steroids or anesthetics
Spinal injections can be used to diagnose conditions as well as treat them, very often through the same injection spot. Once your spine physician identifies the source of your pain, he then can inject numbing medication directly to that spot. There are three main types of spinal injections that can help relieve various kinds of back pain:
- Facet joint injections often are used when your back pain is caused by an injury or a degenerative condition. Sometimes, this pain radiates down your arms, upper legs, shoulders or buttocks. Facet joint injections can treat lower back pain, the middle back pain and neck pain.
- Epidural injections are ideal for leg or arm pain that occurs when you have an inflamed or compressed nerve in your spine. You’ll receive the injection of anti-inflammatory medicine near the nerve that’s affected.
- Sacroiliac joint injections are much like facet joint injections. The sacroiliac joints are located between your pelvic and sacrum. You can feel this kind of pain in your lower back, legs and buttocks, and it’s usually worse on one side of your body.