by Annette Pinder

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that up to 23% of the world’s adults suffer from chronic low back pain, and have a one-year recurrence rate of 24% to 80%. Lifetime prevalence of back pain is as high as 84% in the adult population. Locally, John Pollina, MD sees patients for conditions like herniated disk, spinal stenosis, spinal instability, spinal tumors and infections, with symptoms ranging from a dull constant ache to a sudden sharp pain that shoots down the leg.

Knowing the importance of determining the cause of back pain to effectively treat it, Dr. Pollina is excited about UB Neurosurgery’s (UBNS) new EOS medical imaging system that provides full high-quality body scans of patients in less than 20 seconds. “EOS gives us a personalized and precise view of each patient’s musculoskeletal system, using very low dose radiation and two small X-ray beams that can also scan a specific region of the body,” says Dr. Pollina. The only medical facility in New York to provide EOS imaging, UBNS makes the technology available to all adult and pediatric patients regardless of where they are seen routinely. “It’s a great option, especially for women of child-bearing age and pediatric patients because of its lower dose of radiation, compared to the traditional X-ray.”

“What is really exciting about EOS is its ability to identify pathologies of the spine, and calculate and measure the body’s alignment with the anatomical structure of the entire body. We can then take this information and see what it looks like through computer modeling when considering surgery. Once we are satisfied that we have chosen the best approach, we can then use it in the operating room,” says Dr. Pollina.

Dr. Pollina is particularly concerned about patients having to wait too long to be diagnosed and treated for their pain. As a result, he and his team have become primary care physicians for spine conditions. He says, “With surgery as a last resort, we often diagnose pain intervention techniques, bariatric, and nutrition consultations. We’d rather treat patients at the beginning, rather than having them endure pain and the possibility of a more serious issue. It’s more cost-effective to have a patient get a series of injections rather than surgery, and have us put them on the right pathway to relief.”

So, when should you be seen for your pain? Dr. Pollina says, “If you have back pain, numbness in your leg, acute back pain associated with fever and chills with history of cancer, weakness in the extremities and bowel and bladder disfunction, visit an urgent care center for evaluation. If you have back or leg pain that persists for more than two weeks absent these other issues, make an appointment to see a spine specialist or pain interventionist, rather than your primary care physician.”

John Pollina, MD is Director of Spine Surgery at State University of New York and Co-Director of the Advanced Orthopedic Spine Center at Kaleida Health. Learn more at, or call 716-218-1000 for an appointment.