Back and Neck Pain

Back and neck pain are common conditions that affect people in the middle to advanced ages. Dr Coceka Mfundisi Neurosurgeon at Busamed Modderfontein Private Hospital discusses the possible causes and symptoms as well as what to expect when seeking medical treatment for back and neck pain with a neurosurgeon.

“There are a number of causes of back and neck pain and an assessment by a clinician may assist to establish the cause and direct treatment options,” explains Dr Mfundisi. Neurosurgeons commonly treat problems emanating from degeneration of the spine.

“Often patients suffering from back pain will indicate that the pain is aggravated by certain positions or the pain is felt in parts of the body such as between the shoulders, in an arm in the case of cervical spine and buttock, down the leg to sole of foot in the case of lower back problems. In some cases, patients report a feeling of pins and needles which may be accompanied by the feeling of numbness and this too tends to have a particular distribution dependent on the level of the problem.”

When in the advanced stages back pain may result in difficulty doing certain activities such as overhead activities, lifting objects, writing and even sitting becomes unbearable. Other related symptoms may include poor grip functions and foot drop as well as problems related to bladder and bowel movements.
If back pain is associated with unintentional weight loss, it may suggest the presence of other diseases.

Some of the causes of back and neck pain may include:

  • Overuse and strenuous activity such as heavy lifting
  • Degeneration of vertebrae
  • Abnormal growth such as a tumour or bone spur
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Disc Herniation
  • Spinal Osteoarthritis
  • Vertebral Compression Fracture

If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above for a prolonged period seeking advice from a medical specialist would be recommended.

Medical treatment from a Neurosurgeon

The neurosurgeon starts off with a thorough history aimed at understanding the nature of the problem and to rule out any other causes of similar pain that may mimic degenerative spine conditions or spine tumours.

“Once satisfied that the problem stems from the spine, your neurosurgeon will request an X-ray and possibly an MRI to assess where the pain may be coming from.”

These tests further assist the neurosurgeon to crystallise the nature of the problem and determine a diagnosis. The imaging results will assist in answering questions related to the source of the problem i.e. does the problem stem from the joints of the spine, is it due to a disc that has come out of place and is pressing nerves or is there something else causing the pain such as a tumour or bone spur.

Once a clear picture is established, the neurosurgeon will, together with the patient find ways for the most sustainable and suitable relief of their symptoms. Dr Mfundisi adds that not all degenerative spine problems require surgery and injections to relieve the pain may be sufficient in some instances.

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