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Spine, Neck & Back Pain

Pain in the neck or back is a common condition that can be brought on by a number of causes and may lead to symptoms in other areas of the body. Spine-related pain and discomfort is very common, with lower back pain affecting 80 percent of Americans at some point in their lives.

If you’re experiencing pain in your neck or back and it’s restricting your mobility or interfering with everyday tasks, the orthopedic specialists at Banner Health can help. We’ll assess your pain and work with you to create a treatment plan that fits your needs.

What Causes Spine, Neck and Back Pain?

The complexity of the spine and neck coupled with the number of muscles and tendons in the back can make finding the cause of pain difficult. Back and neck pain can come from several causes, including:

  • Infection
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Muscle tension or spasm
  • Sprain or strain
  • Ligament or muscle tears
  • Injuries or conditions in other areas of the body
  • Overuse

Additional neck and back pain causes include:

  • Degeneration of vertebrae, often brought on by stress on the muscles and ligaments that support the spine or the effects of aging
  • Obesity
  • Protruding or herniated (slipped) disc, which may be pinching a nerve, such as the sciatic nerve
  • Degenerative disc disease – wear-and-tear on the spinal discs that causes chronic lower back pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Systematic problems – diseases, tumors, bone spurs or cysts can cause problems with the joints, muscles or nerve roots in the neck and back

How Are Neck and Back Problems Diagnosed?

Your diagnosis will start with a comprehensive physical examination. Your doctor will also weigh several factors including medical history, genetics, age, occupation and general health.

Medical imaging may be used to look for injury or abnormalities, including:

  • X-rays
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Computed Tomography (CT) scans
  • Ultrasounds
  • Electromyography (EMG) nerve studies, a measurement of a nerve responsiveness

Blood tests may be done to measure general health and management of any preexisting conditions and to look for any developing health problems or infections.

Bone scans may also be performed to identify any suspected compression fractures or possible tumors.

What Are the Symptoms of Neck and Back Pain?

Symptoms related to neck and back pain may include:

  • Dull, sharp or burning pain in the back or neck that can be isolated in one area or spread over a large area
  • Leg pain, numbness or tingling
  • Aches or stiffness that occurs anywhere along the spine
  • Sharp radiating or shooting pain in the lower back that moves down the buttocks and down into the leg
  • Aches and stiffness in the center or lower part of the back, especially when sitting for extended periods of time
  • Arm numbness or tingling
  • Headaches
  • Shooting pain or dull aches in the neck

Spine, Neck and Back Treatment

Often neck and back pain can be treated with self-care. Home treatment may include:

  • Short periods of rest
  • Ice and/or heat
  • Gentle stretching
  • Physical therapy


Many people find relief using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication to relieve or reduce pain.

Chronic pain or stiffness may require a doctor to prescribe medical treatments as part of a pain management treatment plan. These may include:

Pain Medication – Your doctor may prescribe medication to help relax your muscles, promote mobility or weaken the pain signals being sent to the brain.

Epidural Steroid Injections – An injection of a steroid, administered directly to the affected area and guided by an x-ray to ensure its delivery. The goal of this is to reduce pain by reducing the inflammation of a compressed nerve.

Neck and Back Surgery

If neck or back pain is still persistent after non-surgical treatments, especially if there is compression of the spine or nerve roots, surgery may be considered. Some factors to consider before neck or back surgery include:

Ability to Function – Surgery is only recommended for back pain that is causing an inability or limited ability to function and complete day-to-day tasks.

Healing Process Timetable – A back or neck surgery may require a large time commitment to allow for healing and post-operative therapy.

Types of Surgery – There are a number of different surgeries with varying amounts of invasiveness and different healing periods.

Consultation with your doctor and consideration for these factors should weigh into your decision before undergoing any surgical procedure.

Types of Neck and Back Surgery

The most common procedure to alleviate neck or back pain is a surgery to decompress whatever pressure is being put on a nerve root. This may include a herniated disc or bone spur. Other procedures include:

Spinal Fusion – A removal of soft tissue between vertebral bones that is replaced with bone or metal. The two bones, over time, fuse to form one long bone.

Artificial Disc – The replacement of a damaged or degenerated disc with an artificial disc. This operation can often have a much shorter recovery time than a spinal fusion.

Ongoing Treatment

In the early stages following surgery, it is recommended to take time to rest while the spine and surrounding tissues heal. After a determination that the area is healing it is recommended to work with physical and occupational therapists to rebuild strength and flexibility.

Because there are so many variables, work with your surgeon and back and neck specialist to design a recovery plan, catered to your condition and healing progress.

At Banner Health, we offer a comprehensive approach to diagnosing and treating these intricately linked areas of the body. We will work with you to determine the best and most effective options for reducing pain, increasing mobility and returning to a healthy lifestyle.