Possible treatment options for spine disorders
The wide variety of spine disorders means that treatments vary too. It is also true that any two people with the same disorder may be managed differently because of differences in severity of symptoms and other medical factors that are unique to each person. In fact, tailoring treatment options to the individual is an important part of managing spinal problems.
So, what treatments may be recommended? The following list represents the most commonly used methods. It is important to emphasise that only a minority of people with spine disorders require surgery.
Often, simply understanding your condition is enough to relieve anxiety and enable you to see how to best manage the problem yourself.
Time is the best healer. Many acute conditions of the spine resolve themselves in a matter of weeks, regardless of other treatments used. Again, reassurance is the key.
Rest is the natural response to pain, but it is beneficial for only a few days. After that, gentle activity prevents atrophy of muscles and a negative cycle of pain and weakness setting in.
General fitness and weight control are always beneficial to well being. Walking and swimming are good ways to keep fit with back and neck problems. In some instances, concerted exercise programs are advised.
Physiotherapists provide their own assessment and management programs. In general, they choose between local modalities (massage, manipulation, ultrasound, traction etc) and exercises for mobility and strength of the spine and related joints. Some physiotherapy practices use heated pools to promote muscle strength with the soothing and supportive effects of water – hydrotherapy.
Simple pain relieving and anti-inflammatory agents are best. There is a wide choice of such agents to suit different people. Sometimes it is necessary to use specific medicines directed at nerve-derived pain.
Injections of cortisone
Pinched nerves and arthritic joints in the spine cause pain through inflammation. In some cases it is possible to inject cortisone around the affected structure in order to reduce inflammation. This can be used to treat symptoms in chosen situations and confirm the source of pain. Such injections are best done by radiologists or pain specialists using x-ray equipment to guide the needle to the right spot.
Braces and splints
These are most commonly used after injuries. Soft neck collars or elasticised lumbar braces may help simple neck or back pain for limited periods.
Again, surgery is appropriate for only a small percentage of those with spine problems. Usually, it is used to relieve unremitting pain from pinched nerves or loss of function due to spinal cord compression. There are other, important reasons to operate, but these are less common. It must be understood that surgery has limitations and so the expectations of the person undergoing the procedure must match what is possible, rather than a wished for ideal. The important thing is that the decision to proceed to surgery is made after open discussion of the problem and the symptoms are understood from the perspective of the person with the pain.
Minimally invasive surgery
Also known as keyhole or minimal access surgery. Dr Stanford is trained in and uses these techniques when appropriate. A number of spinal conditions requiring surgery may be approached by minimal methods, but others are simply too complicated and can only be treated properly by traditional means.
Should you have any queries before or after your consultation with Dr Stanford, please feel free to discuss these with us, either at the time of your visit or by contacting us.