If you think you have a spine problem (neck or lower back) the first thing to do is consult your primary care physician. You should see your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Neck pain with high fever, chills, and weight loss
- Ongoing numbness, tingling, weakness in the arms or legs
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Loss of balance
- Severe headaches
- Neck pain that persists despite conservative treatment
- No obvious cause for neck pain
- Neck pain that is progressively getting worse, and worsens at nighttime
- Neck pain that persists beyond three weeks
Your physician will examine you, and may order X-rays or MRIs. (see imaging for a description of these tests). Your physician may order Physical Therapy, or prescribe pain medication, muscle relaxers, or low dose steroids to relieve your symptoms. Your treatment plan will be based on your level of pain.: Mild, Moderate, Severe
Is your neck pain or numbness noticeable only during prolonged activities?
Is your neck pain present only during certain activities, but not bothersome enough to discontinue the activity?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your neck pain is classified as mild.
Is your neck pain tolerable most of the time, but becomes severe with specific activities?
Is your neck pain tolerable, with mild numbness and/or tingling, intensified with certain activities?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your neck pain is classified as moderate.
Is your neck pain relieved by bed rest?
Is your neck pain improved only by prescription pain medications?
Does your neck pain increase with movement of your head and/or neck?
Do you have numbness, pain, weakness in either arm or hand?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your neck pain is classified as severe.
If surgery is a possible treatment option, your physician will refer you to an Orthopedic or Neuro Spine Specialist. (see Meet our Doctors for more information about Spine Specialist)
Spine Specialists are surgeons, and split their time between seeing patients in clinic and surgery. Depending on the physician, your appointment with the physician will be scheduled 2 weeks from the time you call the office.
The Spine Specialist will need your most current X-rays, MRI, CT scans, and any other diagnostic test that have been performed.When you obtain your diagnostic test, ask them for a copy of your films when you arrive for your appointment. You will then carry your films with you to your appointment with your spine specialist. For our purposes either the films or the CD are acceptable.
The Spine Specialist will study your diagnostic tests and perform a physical exam. The physical exam is beneficial for the following reasons:•
- Detects nerve or spinal cord compression
- Observe any abnormality in gait, or physical stance (leaning, posture, shoulder or hip discrepancy)
- Different nerves affect different muscles, reflexes, and sensory areas
- Helps determine the cause of neck pain
Following your exam, your physician may prescribe medication, order additional tests, refer you to pain management, or offer you surgical solutions.