Care for Spine Disorders and Spine Injuries
Why Choose Treatment for Spine Disorders and Spine Injuries at University of Colorado Hospital?
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University of Colorado Hospital specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of spine disorders and injuries of all types.
The hospital provides a wide range of nonsurgical and surgical treatment options. Our spine and back doctors use a combination of proven techniques and leading-edge technologies to provide the best in patient care.
What are Spine Disorders and Spine Injuries?
Spine disorders and injuries are serious because the spine is the main support system of the body.
The spine is made up of vertebrae (individual bones), facet joints (cartilage that connects the bones) and discs (spongy tissues that cushion the vertebrae). A problem in any of these parts can cause pain and restrict movement.
Spine disorders are very common. In fact, low back pain affects between 60 percent and 80 percent of the U.S. population.
Patient Education about Spine Disorders and Injuries
Living With Spine Disorders and Spine Injuries
If you experience discomfort in or around your spine, it is important to let your doctor know. Identification of the source of the pain is a key to successful treatment.
You can help to prevent back pain by:
- Maintaining good posture
- Lifting with the legs
- Exercising regularly
- Losing weight
- Eating a diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D to help prevent bone density loss
Getting a Second Opinion about Spine Disorders and Spine Injuries
If the treatment you are receiving is not relieving the pain in your spine or back, you may want to seek a second opinion.
Additional Spine Disorders and Spine Injuries Resources
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Tests and Treatments
Tests for Spine Disorders and Spine Injuries
History and Physical Examination. Your doctor will ask you questions about your daily activities and previous injuries and illnesses. He or she also will test your range of motion and feel the area that is painful to locate the source.
X-rays. An X-ray examination helps to show breaks or defects in the bones of the back and the spine.
Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan. A CT scan shows damage to muscles and other soft tissues.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). An MRI test shows three-dimensional pictures of the muscles and other soft tissues.
Myelogram. A myelogram uses an injection of liquid dye into the spinal column. The dye allows doctors to see the spine and nerves. The test reveals bulging disks, tumors or bone spurs that may be putting pressure on the nerves.
Bone Scan. A bone scan uses an injection of radioactive material, which attaches to the bone. The material reveals spots where bone has broken down or fractured.
Treatments for Spine Disorders and Spine Injuries
Your primary care doctor will treat pain in your back and spine conservatively. Conservative treatments include:
- Ice packs to control swelling
- Medications to reduce inflammation and control pain
- Exercise to strengthen the back muscles
- Heat pads to relieve muscle spasms
If your back pain persists, your primary care doctor may refer you to a specialist for further treatment. These treatments can include:
- Steroid injections. Steroid injections are used to reduce inflammation and pain. However, they do not treat the direct source of the pain.
- Electrical Nerve Stimulation. Delivering a mild electrical current to the nerves can help to relieve pain. Doctors administer the current through electrodes attached to a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) unit.
- Discectomy. A discectomy is the removal of a portion of the disc that has bulged, or herniated, between the vertebrae. The bulge can put pressure on the nerves and cause pain.
- Disc Replacement. Discs that have degenerated can cause chronic pain and may need to be removed. A new procedure allows doctors to remove the damaged disc and replace it with an artificial disc. This procedure is used instead of spinal fusion surgery.
- Kyphoplasty. Kyphoplasty is used to treat spine fractures. The procedure involves inserting a thin tube into the fractured vertebra. The tube is fitted with a small balloon, which the surgeon inflates. This pushes apart the end points of the fracture and creates a cavity. After removing the balloon, the surgeon fills the space with bone cement to stabilize the vertebra.
- Spinal Decompression. Spinal decompression is used to relieve pressure on the nerves caused by narrowing (stenosis) of the spinal canal. The procedure removes bone and soft tissue that create the pressure.
- Spinal Fusion Surgery. Spinal fusion surgery is used when there is too much disc degeneration to allow replacement. The damaged discs are removed and the vertebrae are fused to stabilize the spine. Spinal fusion surgery can also be used to treat scoliosis (curved spine), spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebra) and spine fractures. There are many different types of fusion procedures. Your doctor will choose the one that best fits your condition.
- Vertebroplasty. Vertebroplasty is used to treat spine fractures. The procedure involves inserting a small needle into the fractured vertebra. The surgeon then injects bone cement into the vertebra to stabilize the fracture.
Your Medical Team
Unlike other places, University of Colorado Hospital offers each patient a wide array of skilled providers. They collaborate with you - and each other - to arrive at the most advanced diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation possible for patients with back and neck pain.
Our Back Pain and Neck Pain Specialists
- Family practitioner – a doctor who provides medical care to individuals and families.
- Orthopedic surgeon – a doctor who treats injuries and diseases of the bones, joints and muscles.
- Neurosurgeon – a doctor who performs surgical procedures on the nervous system.
- Occupational therapist – a specialist who works with patients to improve their ability to perform everyday activities.
- Physiatrist – a doctor who diagnoses and rehabilitates physical injuries.
- Physical therapist – a specialist who treats diseases through exercise, massage, water, light and heat.
- Psychologist – a specialist who helps patients understand and manage pain.
- Clinical charge nurse – A registered nurse (RN) responsible for directing and coordinating patient care.
- Medical assistant – staff member who assists the RN in seeing patients during their doctor's visit.
The Spine Center
The Spine Center at University of Colorado Hospital specializes in treating people with back and neck pain using proven therapies and the latest technologies.
At UCH, advanced research and positive outcomes
UCH is always on the leading edge of research and clinical advances. These stories appeared in the UCH Insider, the hospital's e-newsletter.
Find out about free e-mail subscriptions to the Insider.