by Erica Brecher

It’s something nearly everyone deals with – back pain. According to Dr. James Behr, an interventional pain physician with Excelsior Orthopaedics, 90% of people experience back pain. Dr. Behr says it’s the third most common reason for surgery, and the second most common reason for missed work, after the common cold.

So, what can you do about something that has such significant potential to affect your everyday life? Dr. Behr says relief and even full recovery are possible with a range of treatments that DON’T necessarily resort to surgery.

Seeing an interventional pain physician like Dr. Behr starts with an evaluation, a review of your personal and family history, a physical exam, and testing to identify the underlying cause of pain. You may also get an injection to alleviate the pain. “The back is incredibly complex and there are numerous potential causes of back pain, and understanding the root of the problem is essential,” says Dr. Behr. From there, the path to relief can involve different therapies, such as bracing, physical therapy, injections, medications, or chiropractic care.

With medications, most of us have taken over-the-counter NSAIDs or anti-inflammatory drugs, like Advil, but they’re not a long-term solution. “If you take them for too long, they can affect your stomach, kidneys, and even your heart,” Dr. Behr says. “So, these need to be used carefully.” Prescribing muscle relaxants or nerve pain medications work well for some people. They can be effective, but don’t expect immediate relief, as these drugs can take weeks to work.

“The more we stay active, the better off all of us are,” Dr. Behr says. That’s why physical therapy is a healthy option. Physical therapy helps keep your back strong and moving by developing core strength, restoring endurance, and promoting functional movement and exercise. “These are the most important things you can do, not just for your back, but for your overall health,” he says.

There are also non-invasive procedures, such as epidural steroid injections, radiofrequency ablations, and even spinal cord stimulators that can help relieve pain. These procedures are performed under a live X-ray, ensuring their accuracy, safety, and effectiveness. Epidural steroid injections can alleviate back and leg pain by placing anti-inflammatory medications next to the nerve and disc. Radiofrequency ablations cauterize the nerves to the facet joints, providing up to a year of relief. A spinal cord stimulator uses a battery-operated pain signal inhibitor, inserted into the back, to relieve pain, and has been more successful than other treatments.

Preventing back pain is not always possible, but it can be managed and alleviated through proper diagnosis and treatment. To get that relief, call Excelsior Orthopaedics at 716-250-9999 to schedule an appointment at one of our convenient Western New York locations. We’ve got your back!

Erica Brecher is a communications expert and marketing professional at Excelsior Orthopaedics.