What Treatment for Back Pain Is Right for Me?

December 3, 2011

Back pain is one of the most common reasons for doctor visits in the United States. It affects the patient’s quality of life and reduces work productivity. There are many types of treatment for back pain. Pain medication, physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, and back surgery are among the most frequently used treatment options.

Different types of treatment for back pain work differently. But none of them work for all back conditions. So what treatment for back pain is right for you? To answer this question, we need to know the cause of your back pain. Is it a physical injury, disc degeneration, a herniated disc, or something else?

The cause of your back pain can be complex. It may not be possible for you to figure out the exact cause of your pain by yourself. Fortunately, with the help of advanced diagnostic tests, an experienced doctor can help you pinpoint the cause of your back pain. Once the cause is identified, your doctor can then help you choose the treatment that is right for you.

Your doctor may take two steps to identify the cause of your back pain: pain evaluation and diagnostic testing.

During your pain evaluation, your doctor will ask you about your pain history and perform a physical exam. Some commonly asked questions are as follows.

  • How old are you?
  • Where is your pain?
  • How long have you been experiencing the pain?
  • How did your pain start?
  • Besides the pain, do you have any other related symptoms?
  • What makes your pain worse?
  • What reduces your pain?
  • What types of treatment for back pain have you received?

After the initial evaluation and physical examination, your doctor may order some tests to ensure an accurate diagnosis. The following is a list of diagnostic tests frequently used by doctors to identify the cause of back pain.

  • X-ray Imaging: This technique shows the bony structure of the spine. Spine conditions caused by vertebral misalignment or fractures can be identified using this technique.
  • Computed Tomography Scan (CT Scan): A CT scan is a detailed form of x-ray imaging. It takes a cross-section image of the body, and it helps doctors confirm conditions caused by disc rupture, spinal stenosis, or vertebral fracture.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This technique provides doctors with high-resolution images of the spine. Many spine conditions and diseases can be identified using MRI. If back surgery is needed, MRI images can also help doctors plan the surgery.

Depending on your condition and your doctor’s evaluation, your doctor may also order the following tests.

  • Discography: In this procedure, the doctor injects a specific contrast dye into the spinal canal. The procedure can help the doctor identify the disc that causes pain. For patients whose pain has not responded to conventional treatments, discography can help the doctor identify the specific disc that generates pain.
  • Electromyogram (EMG): This test can help doctors figure out if the pain is caused by nerve or muscle damage.
  • Blood and urine tests: These tests are sometimes used to determine if the pain is caused by infection.

Among all the diagnostic tests for back pain, MRI is considered the gold standard. At Atlantic Spinal Care, Dr. Liu offers free MRI reviews to his patients. To request a free MRI review, you may complete and submit the online form. You may also print the form, complete it, and fax it, along with your MRI report, to Dr. Liu’s office at 732-494-1255. If you’d like Dr. Liu to see your original MRI films, you may mail them to his office at Atlantic Spinal Care, 1921 Oak Tree Road, No 103, Edison, NJ 08820.

Remember, an early and accurate diagnosis is the key to choosing the treatment for back pain that is best for you. If you are suffering from back pain, don’t wait, call us today and we’d like to help you.