Back Pain Is Common – And Often Disabling

  • October 15, 2023

Back pain can be frustrating and keep you from living a normal life. It’s also a top reason people visit their health care providers. Back pain can range from a dull, annoying ache that comes and goes to pain so bad that you can barely move. And it’s surprisingly common: between 8 and 9 out of 10 people in the United States will have back pain at some point. 

Not only is back pain painful, but it can also cause disability and lost wages for an extended time. Every day, 2 out of 100 of people in the U.S. have such intense back pain they’re disabled and unable to perform daily tasks.

At Natividad, Neurosurgeon Dr. Peyman Tabrizi sees a wide range of causes for back pain. He says work-related injuries tend to be the most common cause of chronic back pain requiring surgery. He said this often strikes people in their 40s and 50s. As you age, you’re more likely to have back pain.

Many minor injuries, such as muscle strain, get better on their own with icing, heat, rest and over-the-counter pain medications within a few weeks. Sometimes, physical therapy is helpful. However, if your pain is longer lasting, or you don’t know the cause, you may need specialty care. For example, wear and tear on the spine, including degeneration, disc herniations and disc protrusions, can require surgery.

So, what to do if your back pain won’t go away? If you have back pain that hasn’t improved after about a week of at-home treatment or if it’s constant, intense or causes numbness or tingling in the legs or other symptoms, make an appointment with your health care clinic, primary care provider or family doctor. They’ll usually be able to help figure out the cause of your back pain and diagnose it. 

Then, your doctor may order one or more tests, such as an X-ray, MRI or CT scan. From there, they can refer you to specialists. Sometimes, that includes a neurosurgeon like Dr. Tabrizi, who specializes in
spinal surgery.

“When I meet with patients for the first time, we talk about the procedure and the risks, which are typically low. We talk about success rates, which are typically high,” Dr. Tabrizi said. “I also answer as many questions as possible.”

Dr. Tabrizi stresses that it’s important that patients have a good understanding of their case and treatment options. Once you have surgery, you may need to spend some time in the hospital. After that, you’ll be required to follow up with studies as needed in two, three or four weeks. You’ll also need to commit to
physical therapy.

For those wishing to avoid back pain altogether?
Dr. Tabrizi said there’s no silver bullet; the best thing people can do to reduce their risk of back pain is to improve their core strength. He also recommends stretching regularly.

When to Get Emergency Care for Back Pain

Call 911 for emergency medical help or have someone drive you to the emergency room if you think you need emergency care. For example, you may need emergency care if:

  • your back pain is severe and happens after a fall or accident
  • you are unable to move an arm or leg or have associated numbness or tingling 
  • your back pain accompanies new bowel or bladder control problems

Peyman Tabrizi, MD, FAANS, FACS

Dr. Tabrizi is a neurosurgeon at Natividad D’Arrigo Family Specialty Services. He specializes in spinal surgery, surgery for brain tumors and peripheral nerve damage needing surgery, including carpal tunnel or ulnar nerve release surgery. Dr. Tabrizi frequently helps patients find relief through spinal surgery for disc protrusions, disc herniations or degenerative changes involving the cervical, thoracic or lumbar spine.

Find out more about D’Arrigo Family Specialty Services  or call us at (831) 755-4156.