What Conditions Cause Back Pain?
We regularly treat the following conditions that can cause lumbar spine pain:
Back Pain Causes
Degenerative Disc Disease
Disease is a spine condition that occurs when parts of the back — including muscles, vertebrae, ligaments, and intervertebral discs — deteriorate due to years of tension and stress. As a person ages, wear and tear causes natural changes in the spine, particularly in the discs.
What is a disc? A disc has a tough outer layer covering a soft gel-filled pad that acts as a shock absorber and cushion between the vertebral bones. As we age, they become thinner and less resilient, leading to decreased effectiveness as cushions. Sometimes, a disc tears, allowing the soft gel within to leak out into the spinal canal. The exuded disc material (or the bulging of the disc caused by the exuding gel) can then push against surrounding nerve roots, causing pain and other herniated disc symptoms.
Specific injuries that occur with Degenerative Disc Disease include a tear in the disc, also known as a disc herniation, and bulging discs. These conditions result in compression of surrounding nerves of the spinal cord, causing pain. Discs may also lose their cartilage and water content, leading to compression of the vertebrae on either side, causing the bones to rub together. Because the spinal column is filled with nerves, these changes in disc integrity and placement easily result in painful symptoms, which include localized and radiating pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, and decreased motor function.
Dr. Brisson’s philosophy is to fully understand your unique condition then employ the most conservative methods first, such as physical therapy, medication to reduce inflammation, stretching and exercise, all of which can temporarily relieve compression and reduce back pain.
In more severe cases, conservative treatments may not prove to be sufficient or effective, and taking into consideration your coexisting symptoms and how long you’ve been suffering, Dr. Brisson may recommend surgery for Degenerative Disc Disease
Weakness in your spine due to degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis can make traumatic injuries more common.
Traumatic Lumbar Disc Herniations occurs when the intervertebral disc bulges or ruptures because of an injury from
- an accident,
- a sudden jerk or twisting motion
- lifting something heavy
- lifting with incorrect form.
Depending on its location and the nerve roots that are pinched, a herniated disc can lead to pain, numbness, and weakness in other parts of the body. A herniated lumbar disc can cause symptoms in the hip, legs or feet and can impact your mobility.
Correct diagnosis of the nature of the herniated disc (determining whether the disc is bulging or has actually broken open and ruptured) is crucial to determining the right treatment. In moderate cases, herniated disc treatment may involve conservative methods such as physical therapy or anti-inflammatory medication to aid in pain management.
In severe cases, herniated disc symptoms might grossly interfere with your daily life. Sometimes, these severe cases do not respond to nonsurgical treatment, and surgery on the herniated disk may be recommended. Discectomy, which removes the disc material that is pressing on the nerve root, is the most common form of disc herniation surgery.
During your consultation, Dr. Brisson will thoroughly examine your back and ask questions about the type of pain that you are experiencing. He may do tests, such as an MRI or a CAT scan, to identify the issue. If you’ve had scans taken before, please bring them with you to your appointment.
Please note: Dr. Brisson may require additional or repeat scans so that he can better assess your condition.
Dr. Brisson is one of the leading spine surgeons in New York City who specializes in treating spine conditions such as disc herniation.
Spondylosis of the Cervical Spine (Arthritis of the Spine) Spondylosis is a term used to describe a range of symptoms and disorders that result from the degeneration of the spine that can naturally occur as we age. Spinal arthritis is a form of spondylosis, a common back condition treated by Dr. Brisson at our New York City office.
Also known as Osteoarthritis of the spine, degenerative spine arthritis occurs when the cartilage that protects the joints and discs in the neck and lower back begin to deteriorate because of the natural wear and tear of daily life.
In Spondylosis the disintegration of the protective cartilage of the vertebrae leads to increased friction between the bones of the facet joints, which causes swelling, stiffness, and back pain. Some people experience only minor discomfort, while others may experience severe lumbar spine pain that interferes with their daily activities.
Back Bone Spurs
Bone Spurs (osteophytes) In addition to these symptoms, degenerative spine arthritis is also a common cause of bone spurs or excess bone growth from the body’s reaction to increased friction. Bone spurs can impinge upon the nerves in the spine, leading to weakness or numbness in the legs.
Spine bone spurs, contrary to the name, are usually smooth extra bones. In the narrow spinal canal, the extra material can cause wear and tear and pain if it presses upon other parts of the spine, especially if the extra bones are pressing on nerves. Back pain, numbness, and weakness are common symptoms of back bone spurs as the facet joints become inflamed and the surrounding nerves are compressed.
“Dr. Brisson presents himself as a real human being: caring, kind, capable and a smart, dry sense of humor. I’m fortunate to have this surgeon for my spinal problems.”
– E.L. Worth
If you are experiencing mild or moderate symptoms, you may be able to find relief through non-surgical backbone spur treatments. These include anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant, and pain medications, as well as steroid injections to reduce joint swelling and inflammation. As with many spine conditions, Dr. Brisson may recommend physical therapy and exercises for the treatment of spine bone spurs. These rehabilitation therapies attempt to improve flexibility, posture, and strength in the neck and back, which may help alleviate compression on the nerves. Patients whose back pain conditions do not improve with conservative treatment may need to consider surgery for spine bone spurs.
Conservative treatments are always the first option for backbone spur treatment. However, Dr. Brisson may recommend and perform spine surgery, such as a laminectomy, to treat severe cases of bone spurs. These procedures attempt to relieve pain and other symptoms by removing the problematic bone spurs and thickened ligaments.
Another back pain condition we commonly see is Lumbar Spine Stenosis, the abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal which causes pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. Symptoms include
- Tingling sensation
- Loss of motor control in the legs or feet
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
Several options exist for Spinal Stenosis treatment: non-surgical solutions include physical therapy for pain management and steroid injections. However, if the stenosis is severe, and these less invasive treatments do not improve the symptoms, spinal stenosis surgery may be needed. During the procedure, Dr. Brisson removes the damaged parts of the spine in order to enlarge the spinal canal and relieve pressure on the nerves.
The main type of surgery is Decompressive Laminectomy, which involves removing part of the vertebra and thickened ligaments to reduce pressure on the nerves. Sometimes, a Lumbar Spinal Fusion is also needed to stabilize the spine and relieve pain. This allows the patient to move around more easily and helps keep the bones in place, preventing them from further squeezing the spinal canal and restricting the nerves.
Though a skilled Spinal Stenosis surgeon, Dr. Brisson is conservative in his approach to its treatment for what causes your back pain. He always explores non-invasive treatment options first, before determining that a Laminectomy (or other) surgery is needed.
Lumbar Radiculopathy causes pain or other symptoms such as numbness or tingling that radiates from the original site of injury or deterioration. In the case of lumbar radiculopathy, the pain travels down the hips and legs, usually on one side. This can impact your mobility. In common terms, you may know this back pain condition as “sciatica” because the sciatic nerve is involved. Radiculopathy is due to spinal compression and/or inflammation of the nerve root.
Lumbar Myelopathy is compression of the spinal cord caused by a restriction in the back. The constriction might be a result of degenerative conditions of the discs and facet joints (spondylotic myelopathy) or because of bone spur formation (stenosis with myelopathy.)
Lumbar Spondylolisthesis is when a vertebra slips forward and out of its normal alignment, over the one below it. It results from a weakness in the facet joint and the deterioration of the disc and ligaments of the back. It is very common in the lower back (lumbar spine) and for some people causes no discomfort, but when you do have pain it is because the slippage causes compression on spinal nerves. This can impact your legs as well, causing sensations like weakness, heaviness, or numbness. Spondylolisthesis is often part of the natural process of the wear and tear of a lifetime and is often found with spinal arthritis and other degenerative conditions that attribute to back pain causes.
Thorocolumbar Scoliosis symptoms include a curvature of the spine, with possible pain and discomfort. There are three main approaches for scoliosis treatment: observation, scoliosis bracing, and scoliosis surgery. The type of treatment is usually based on the severity of the curve in the spine and the chances of scoliosis getting worse.
Dr. Brisson is one of the top scoliosis surgeons in New York, treating both adult and pediatric scoliosis. His approach to scoliosis treatment is to use non-invasive treatments first and surgery only as a last resort. Your spine curve’s progression, your medical history and genetic predisposition all factor into the treatment that Dr. Brisson will recommend. His goal is to find the best solution to help you move forward with a healthy, pain-free life.
SCOLIOSIS OBSERVATION is appropriate for small curves that are at low risk of progression. Follow-up x-rays are recommended annually for children, and less frequently as patients mature if the symptoms do not worsen.
SCOLIOSIS BRACING is useful for those who have the condition and are still growing. This type of orthopedic bracing aims to keep the curve from progressing as the body continues to grow. Bracing can be effective for children, but for adults who have already achieved full skeletal growth, a brace is likely not an effective solution.
SCOLIOSIS SURGERY is an option to surgically stabilize and realign a curved spine. Scoliosis surgery fuses vertebrae together in order to hold the spine straight. Rods and screws can be used to hold the spine in place while the bones fuse together. Scoliosis surgery can be approached in two ways: from the back with a posterior surgical approach, or from the front with an anterior surgical approach. The surgery method is determined by the location of the spine curve.
NY Spine Care provides education on back pain causes and a variety of lumbar spine care treatments all tailored to meet your individual needs.