Tackling back and neck problems

Saturday, 2 July 2011 00:36 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Gleneagles and Mount Elizabeth Medical Hospitals Consultant Neurosurgeon and Gamma Knife Centre Singapore Visiting Consultant Dr. Prem Pillay spoke on back and neck problems.

The lecture included causes of back and neck pain, diagnosing the problem, available treatment and when surgery is required as well as provided tips for a healthy back and neck.

Many people suffer from back and neck pain. Some have ongoing pain that gets in the way of their everyday activities. This condition affects not only the physical health of these individuals, but their social and economic wellbeing as well. The pain can disrupt work, routine and other daily activities in which they engage.

In fact back and neck pain are among the most common reasons for doctor visits and are major causes of disability, lost work days and high health care costs, Dr. Pillay said.

There appears to be a silent epidemic of spinal problems and these are related to the modern day lifestyle.

According to Dr. Pillay, these problems are due to having poor posture and sitting for long hours, as well as activities that load the spine like running on the road and high impact aerobics, which can also cause damage to the back and neck.

There are two types of back and neck pain: acute, which comes on suddenly and intensely, and chronic, which can last for weeks or even years.

Causes of back and neck pain

Back and neck pain maybe a symptom of several causes which include muscle strain, degeneration of the discs in the spine causing a slipped disc, spinal infections, spinal stenosis, facet degeneration and osteoporosis and spinal tumours including the spread of cancer.

Treatment is determined by the nature and cause of the problem and its severity. For mild slipped disc problems they can be treated by pain medications and physiotherapy together with lifestyle adjustments.

If the pain is recurrent prolonged or increasing in severity a specialist consultation in necessary and a spine procedure may be recommended.

Dr. Pillay shares that modern spine procedures include spine injection treatments such as epidural steroids, nerve clocks and facet joint blocks. These procedures are mainly for pain relief and do not require open surgery. He adds that newer procedures that will more likely treat the affected parts of the spine are:

  • Annuloplasty (to repair the annulus or outer ring of fibre before a disc herniates)
  • Biacuplasty (to address chronic back pain from a particular disc)
  • Kyphoplasty (to target hunchback)
  • Neuroplasty (to repair nerve tissue)
  • Nucleoplasty (to target herniated disc)
  • Certebroplasty (to target collapsed or fractured vertebrae)

Tips for a healthy back

  • Be sure that your back and neck are properly supported when you sit and that your posture is correct
  • A good pillow with a firm and comfortable bed mattress can reduce stress on your spine during sleep.
  • If your weight is causing excessive pressure to your spine, weight loss can reduce discomfort.
  • Do not lift heavy loads by placing the pressure on your lower back. Always bend your knees so that your arms are at the same level as the heavy object you plan to lift.
  • f you are doing something that causes your back to hurt, rest or stop altogether.
  • Talk to your doctor about combating osteoporosis if you are a female and above 50 years old.

While temporary pain relief may help to soothe your back and neck pain, it is necessary to find out what is causing the pain, what can be done to treat your condition and regain your quality of life.

Hundreds visit ParkwayHealth each year to seek treatment for stroke, brain trauma, epilepsy, sleep disorders as well as neck and spine conditions. This is because there is a team of specialists in neurology, stroke neurology, neurosurgery, radiology and trauma, among others to take patients through their journey to recovery.