Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

My Aching Back - Article

“Oh, My Aching Back” Are Bone and Joint Disorders Causing You Pain?
Jeffrey B. Wood, M.D., Spine Surgeon

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
This childhood chant may not hold true when words like arthritis, scoliosis and spondylolisthesis are involved. Unfortunately, bone and joint disorders and deformities are often the underlying cause of serious back pain and can most definitely hurt you. The good news? There are treatments that can help alleviate chronic back pain, including therapies, medication and minimally invasive surgery.

Causes of Back Pain
“Low back pain is among the most common medical ailments,” says Jeffrey B. Wood, M.D., board-certified and fellowship-trained spine surgeon with Methodist Orthopaedic Specialists of Texas. “And there can be many causes behind acute and chronic back pain, including strenuous physical activity, injuries and age. But some back pain is directly related to bone and joint disorders and deformities.”

Some of the more common conditions Dr. Wood sees include:

Arthritis – This joint condition is caused by the breakdown of cartilage, often resulting in painful joint movement. Osteoarthritis of the spine is commonly found in the lower back and neck and involves degenerative cartilage – where the cartilage that cushions bones wears down. If the cartilage wears down enough, the everyday pressure on the joints can start to press on the nerves, creating pain and possible weakness in the arms and legs. Bone spurs may also form in response to the continuous stress and pressure.

Scoliosis – Scoliosis is when the spine develops an irregular curvature. Often diagnosed during growth spurts prior to puberty, the condition is usually mild and may be remedied with the use of a back brace. If left undiagnosed, the spine may begin to twist – cramping the space in the chest and abdominal cavity. Difficulty with breathing and the risk of internal injuries may result. The cause of scoliosis is unknown, but the condition tends to be hereditary.

Spondylolisthesis – This spinal condition stems off of another spinal injury known as spondylolysis. Both are common in athletes who participate in weightlifting, gymnastics or football when extensive stress is put on the spine and lower back. Spondylolysis is diagnosed when a crack or fracture shows in the lower back bones. Should the fracture widen enough that the vertebra shifts, spondylolisthesis results. If enough slippage occurs, the bones may press on the nerves, creating the risk of severe injury.

When to Seek Medical Attention
Rest, ice, heat and/or anti-inflammatory medications often bring relief to people suffering from back pain. When these steps aren’t enough, it’s important to get a thorough medical evaluation. X-rays may be taken to view the position of the vertebra and aid in diagnosis of a bone or joint disorder. Diagnostic tests may also include blood tests and MRIs. Nonsurgical treatment may involve physical therapy and the use of a back brace. In some cases, surgical spinal fusion may be required to improve or correct the condition.

Suffering from Back or Neck Pain?
Check Out the Spine Center

The new Spine Center is located on the Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital campus with easy access off Town Center Boulevard. Patients with primary care physician referrals, as well as those without referrals, are welcome. For more information or to schedule an appointment at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s Spine Center, please call 281-313-BACK (2225).