What is Lower Back Pain?

According to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke about 80% of adults experience lower back pain at some point in their life. Lower back pain can be classified as acute or chronic. Acute pain occurs when there is a traumatic event such as a car accident. Episodes of pain that lasts longer than three months are considered chronic.

In some cases, lower back pain can limit daily activities. The lower back, or lumbar spine, has five vertebrae (L1 – L5), which support much of the weight of the upper body. As a lower back specialist, Dr. Braxton utilizes advanced diagnostic techniques along with conservative and surgical treatment to help patients suffering from lower back pain.

What Causes Lumbar Pain?

There are many causes of lumbar pain. The vast majority of lower back pain is mechanical in nature. Nerves, facets, disc degeneration, compression, and acute injury can contribute to lumbar pain. Lower back pain may also be caused by referred pain from other structures in the spine.

What Lower Back Pain Feels Like?

Symptoms of lower back pain can range in intensity and location. Some common symptoms include:

  • Sudden, severe or debilitating pain

  • Weakness, tingling or numbness in the legs, buttock, or feet

  • Difficulty walking

  • Pain that is alleviated when changing positions

  • Pain that is worse after waking up and better after moving around

How to Diagnose Lower Back Pain?

The first step to treating low back pain is identifying the exact structure(s) causing the pain and formulating a treatment plan. Dr. Braxton will collect patient history and perform a physical exam, applying light pressure to areas to see if it hurts; he may also ask the patient to perform certain movement and flexibility tests to help identify limitations or pain.

X-rays, MRIs and CAT scans may be used to provide an image of the area. A bone scan or bone density test may also be ordered to rule out osteoporosis or rare issues like infection or cancer. Nerve studies may also be used to help diagnose the injury.

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Does Lower Back Pain Go Away?

There are a number of non-surgical treatment options that can help treat lower back pain. Lower back pain treatment options include:

  • Rest, heat, ice, electric stimulation and ultrasound
  • Activity modification
  • Medications such as pain reliever, anti-inflammatories and steroids
  • Physical therapy such as cardiovascular exercising, strength building, and stretching.
  • Yoga and pilates may also help promote healing
  • Use of a brace to provide support to the back and stomach
  • Manipulation or chiropractic therapy

Severe lower back pain that does not improve after a 6 to 12 week course of nonsurgical treatments may require surgery to alleviate the pain.

When to Have Surgery for Lower Back Pain?

Dr. Braxton works closely with each patient to construct a comprehensive treatment plan. Factors such as the patient’s age, activity level and lifestyle goals are considered when deciding to have lower back surgery. In many cases, non-surgical options are used before surgery is considered.

What are Lower Back Pain Surgery Options?

The exact cause of lower back pain will determine the surgical treatment. Some surgery options include:

  • Computer Assisted Surgery Neuronavigation
  • Lumbar Microdiscectomy / Microdecompression without General Anesthesia
  • Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)
  • OLIF/ALIF Lateral Interbody Fusion
  • Lumbar artificial disc replacement
  • XLIF/DLIF/LLIF Far Lateral Interbody Fusion
  • Spinal Cord Stimulators for Chronic Pain

Dr. Braxton utilizes advanced, minimally invasive, surgical techniques to help patients return to full activity as quickly as possible.

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