Back pain is a common complaint for many of us. But how do you know when it’s time to see a physiatrist? Here are questions and answers from our expert, Dr. Casey Keating
If you don’t experience back pain, it’s likely you know someone who does. Experts have noted 80 percent of people will experience some kind of back pain in their lives, even if they maintain perfect health. How can physiatry help alleviate back issues? Dr. Casey Keating with Renown Medical Group – Physiatry is here to tell us more.
First, tell us, what is physiatry?
Physiatry aims to restore functional ability and quality of life to those with physical impairments affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons.
A physiatrist focuses on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease or injury. Physiatrists have completed training in this area and are different because instead of a focus on a cure, we have the goal of maximizing patients’ independence in activities of daily living and improving quality of life. We design comprehensive, patient-centered treatment plans, and we use new and time-tested treatments to maximize function and quality of life for patients.
How do you know when it’s time to see a care provider for back issues?
I see a lot of patients with back pain. Pain might just be in your back, or you might feel a pain that goes down your legs. You might feel muscle ache, a shooting or stabbing pain, or have limited flexibility or range of motion due to the pain. Most back pain will gradually improve with self-care. However, if you experience these symptoms and they are not improving, you should see your care provider so they can individualize a treatment to your particular problem. You should also see a care provider if you start having back pain for the first time if you are over the age of 50, have a history of cancer, osteoporosis, steroid use, or drug or alcohol abuse.
Conditions commonly linked to back pain are:
- Muscle or ligament strain
- Bulging or ruptured disks
- Skeletal irregularities
What kind of treatments for back pain are available?
Physiatrists don’t perform surgery, but have many procedural opportunities for diagnosis and treatment. A treatment plan may include medications, physical therapy, spinal injections and active therapeutic exercise. While the goal is always to use the most minimally invasive treatment to reduce pain, sometimes we need to use more aggressive treatment, like injections. A treatment I often use for back pain is one of the image guided procedures available, which are being used as a nonsurgical, pain-relieving intervention.