October 31, 2016

Improve Your Function, Improve Your Life

By Dr. Eric Freeman

Low back pain is a condition that affects between 50% and 80% of the population every year. Apart from the significant suffering it causes, spinal pain has an enormous economic impact, with estimated direct healthcare expenditures of $100 billion in the United States annually. When low back pain radiates into one or both legs, it is commonly called sciatica, also known as lumbar radiculopathy. Radiculopathy pain can either begin suddenly as a short-term problem (acute) or persist over a long period of time (chronic).

Acute radiculopathy is most commonly caused by a herniation or bulging of the cushioning pad, or the intervertebral disc, found between the vertebral bones in the spine. When a disc herniates, it can irritate and compress the spinal nerves that are responsible for controlling the functions of the pelvis and legs. When this occurs, it often produces numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs and, if very severe, can also cause loss of bladder or bowel control, in which case one should seek medical care immediately. If back and leg pain are present, a healthcare provider can order an x-ray and/or MRI to confirm whether a disc herniation is the cause of the symptoms.

Fortunately, between 70% and 90% of acute radiculopathies resolve with conservative care within about three months, although severe levels of pain during that time can cause drastic, decreased functioning. However, multiple treatment options are available to improve this pain to allow time for the body to heal itself. These options include the initial approaches of heat or cold, over-the-counter and prescription medications, physical therapy, and modifying activities. Another common treatment is epidural steroid injections, which is a minimally invasive, therapeutic procedure. This procedure, performed by trained pain specialists, places steroid medication in the epidural space as close to the herniated disc as possible. In doing so, the pain can be reduced as the disc heals. Ultimately, if the pain persists, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove the herniated disc.

At Southwest Spine and Pain Center, our entire focus is identifying and treating the cause of pain, which, in turn, improves functioning and quality of life. To accomplish this, we utilize a multidisciplinary approach that involves injections, minimally invasive procedures, medications, and coordinating behavioral health as well as physical therapy. We have eight clinics throughout Utah, with our newest clinic in Provo, where Dr. Eric Freeman and his team employ a compassionate and proven approach to pain management, with the overall goal of improving patient functioning. Dr. Freeman is a board-certified pain physician who was fellowship trained at the Mayo Clinic, and brings with him years of experience in improving patients’ pain and the suffering that accompanies it. If you or someone you know is struggling with sciatica, or any other painful condition, please contact Southwest Spine and Pain Center in Provo to schedule an appointment so you can get back to living life again.

Check out our Southern Utah Health & Wellness Directory at www.stghealth.com.

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