Low Back Pain: Questions and Answers

Low Back Pain: Questions and Answers
Dr. Vikas Garg Pain Management Specialist Murray, Utah

Dr. Vikas Garg practices Pain Medicine in Logan and Murray, Utah. Pain medicine is concerned with the prevention of pain, and the evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation of patients experiencing pain. Pain medicine physicians use a broad-based approach to treat all pain disorders, ranging from pain as a symptom of disease... more

Question: What is low back pain?

Answer: Low back pain is a very common problem, and 60 to 80% of the US population would experience an episode of low back pain at some point in their lifetimes. 

Question: Why it is important to treat pain?

Answer: Pain is okay when its acute and is going on for a short period of time, but if it lingers on for a long time it can cause a significant impact physically and emotionally. It can even affect different organ systems in ways like increasing heart rate, nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms, sleep deprivation, healing processes and more. So, treating pain can improve quality of life and can help with a healing process also.

Question: What can be the possible causes of low back pain?

Answer: There can be different generators of pain in the lower back area. The pain can be disc-related pain. This is a soft-cushion kind of material in between the vertebra or joints in between the vertebra called facet joints or z joints called zygopophysial joints. It can be nerve pain, for example sciatica, or pain of the muscles and other soft tissue. Different things which can cause pain can be trauma, auto accidents, falls, and normal wear and tear which is degeneration.

Question: Can back pain be prevented?

Answer: Yes, a number of things can be done to prevent low back pain. And to mention a few: regular exercise, using proper body ergonomics and posture, lifting heavy objects properly.

Question: Would MRI show for sure what’s causing pain?

Answer: An MRI can show what is causing pain, but not always. A number of studies have shown that a herniated disc does not always tell us whether it is causing the pain or not. Sometimes pain can be coming from a different area, so whenever I see a patient, my first aim is to examine the patient, try to find out the cause of the pain or to diagnose the cause of the pain so that treatment can be targeted for that particular cause. Physical examination, MRI and even sometimes diagnostic injections are needed to make a better diagnosis.

Question: What should I do if I have low back pain?

Answer: A lot of back pain problems tend to resolve on their own. Talk to your doctor or a pain doctor if pain is not getting better, if pain is radiating down the legs, if you experience weakness of the legs or if you experience any bladder or bowel incontinence.

Question: If I need to see a specialist, which specialist should I see?

Answer: Usually a pain management specialist can help treat this type of pain. A pain management specialist is a specialty trained physician who specializes in evaluating and treating back pain. Usually fellowship (advanced) training is required these days.

Question: If I need to use medications, will I get addicted to these medications?

Answer: Research has shown that chances of getting addicted are lower if medications are used under the guidance of a trained professional. Also, a number of options are available to reduce usage of pain medications if you get dependent or get addicted to the pain medications.

Question: What do pain centers do?

Answer: In our pain center, we see patients with different pain conditions- the most common being low back pain, neck pain, whiplash injury, headaches, disc disease and neuropathy. Our main goal is to make a good diagnosis with the history, physical examination and diagnostic tests, as we believe that we can treat the condition better if we know exactly what is causing the pain. We generally try to do a multi-disciplinary approach to treat pain conditions which means using a variety of specialists to help you feel better, quicker. Some of these may include physical therapy, medications and non-surgical interventional approaches to reduce the pain. We try to do a treatment plan for that patient depending upon the diagnosis.

Question: What is our main focus of treatment at Pain Centers?

Answer: Our focus is minimally invasive non surgical interventional approaches to reduce pain and improve quality of life. That includes injections like epidural injections, nerve blocks, facet joint injections and radiofrequency ablation or rhizotomy, where a nerve can be killed to help with pain. Newer techniques like spinal cord simulators can be tried, which is an electronic device to mask pain. We use x-ray machines called fluoroscope to do all interventional therapy. Some people believe that injection therapy is like a “pain cover-up.” This is simply not true. Research has shown that injection therapy can improve pain and quality of life.

Question: Are these treatments FDA approved and covered by insurance companies?

Answer: Yes, these are FDA approved and covered by most insurance companies. We use new developments and trends based on latest research. For more information please visit www.utahpaincenter.com