Neck and back pain (NBP) can be among the most debilitating conditions from which people suffer. Since 1995 we’ve been helping people with NBP recover from their injuries and reduce or alleviate their pain non-surgically, even people who have already had surgery and still have pain. A complete discussion of the causes of, and treatments for, NBP could fill an entire book and is beyond the scope of a brief web page discussion, but there are some basic things that we can outline before offering options for treating neck and back pain in Glastonbury, CT at Valley Sports Physicians & Orthopedic Medicine.
Perhaps one of the most important things to note is that the spinal disc causes pain only in a very small percentage of cases. Physicians in general, and spine surgeons in particular, love to focus on the disc. But far more commonly NBP comes from the extradiscal structures, such as the facet joints & capsules, muscles & tendons, ligaments, and nerves.
In addition, damage to extradiscal structures can refer pain to more distant areas. For example, sprains or arthritis involving the facet joints can cause pain not only around the spine but also can refer pain to more distant areas. Consider the pain referral pattern from the L4-5 facet joint, one of the small joints in the low back. As you can see in the accompanying image, the L4-5 facet classically can cause pain in the hip, buttocks, groin, front of the thigh, and down the back of the leg mimicking sciatica!
Similarly, look at the pain referral pattern from the ligaments that support the sacroiliac joint at the base of the spine. It looks very similar to the pattern from the L4-5 facet!
This among the many reasons why diagnosing the cause(s) of NBP can be challenging. And of course, nothing says that you can’t have more than one cause of your pain!
In our practice, we use a combination of the patient history, a comprehensive physical exam, supported by careful and judicious use of x-rays and MRIs to help with diagnosis. We also frequently utilize various diagnostic Novocain injections to help identify pain generators. By numbing a structure temporarily you can often get a good sense as to whether it’s causing pain. We then can employ more specific strategies to treat the problem more permanently.
What about “pain management” injections?” Many patients we see have gone through a litany of invasive pain management procedures, including epidural steroid injections, facet injections, and medial branch blocks, sacroiliac joint (SI joint) injections, nerve blocks, and even procedures to “kill” the nerves (known as radiofrequency ablation). While all of these have a role at some point in the diagnostic workup, virtually NONE of them actually fix the underlying problem. And many pain management practices love doing these injections over and over because they are reimbursed well by insurance companies!
In our practice, we don’t simply want to “manage” your neck or back pain. We want to FIX your neck or back pain when possible! Using strategies such as Regenerative Medicine treatments (prolotherapy, Prolozone, PRP, stem cell treatments, etc) we often can reduce or even eliminate chronic neck and/or back pain in many cases. While every person and condition is unique, and there are never any guarantees, we have a great deal of success in helping people with chronic pain.
By the time a patient experiencing neck and back pain walks into Valley Sports Physicians, they usually have a lot of questions for our team. Fortunately, we’re always ready to take the time to explain anything a patient is curious about so they can be well informed throughout the treatment process. Below, we’ve answered some of our most common NBP questions, and you’re always welcome to call and ask about anything we haven’t covered here.
With most doctors, they will have the patient do a few exercises and take some X-rays to determine what is causing their pain. While these methods can be informative, they often miss the root source of a patient’s problem. That’s why at Valley Sports Physicians, we rely on diagnostic ultrasound. This allows us to look beneath the skin at the structures of the neck and back and see how they work while in motion. This way, whether the pain is due to a nerve, ligament, tendon, or muscle, we can easily spot it and modify our treatment accordingly.
For most, neck and back pain treatment is an ongoing process. Some patients may be able to resolve an acute issue in a matter of weeks with a few injections and activity modification, while for more chronic problems, treatment may require several months. The timeline is influenced by several factors, such as a patient’s starting point, the type of treatment used, and how often it is implemented. When you come to see us for a consultation, we’ll go over all these details so you can know exactly what to expect when it comes to your recovery.
At Valley Sports Physicians, we don’t have a “one-size-fits-all” type of neck and back pain treatment, so the cost is always different from patient to patient. We offer several methods that can address these common problems, and what we recommend for a patient will be based on their needs, budget, and schedule. Generally, stem cell therapy offers the quickest and highest quality results, but it is also the costliest option. So, many patients opt for PRP therapy, prolotherapy, or one of our other regenerative techniques, which still offer fantastic results, but over a longer time (and for a lower price). We’ll talk about your options and the associated costs when you come to see us for a consultation so you can make the best decision for your situation.
While most health insurance plans will cover traditional methods of treating neck and back pain (namely prescriptions and surgery), they typically will not pay for the regenerative treatments offered here at Valley Sports Physicians. Thankfully, we accept numerous payment options that can make stem cell therapy, PRP, prolotherapy, and similar treatments very budget-friendly. On top of this, we’re always willing to file claims with our patients’ insurance carriers to cover things like exams, X-rays, and follow-ups.