Back Pain: What Happens with Degenerative Changes?

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Back pain can have many causes – and many treatments. Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network physical therapist Dan Fisher explains why evaluation by a physical therapist can help treat the pain you may be experiencing. 

Q: What are some of the common conditions associated with back pain?
The most common musculoskeletal conditions associated with back pain that I’ve seen over the years are degenerative changes. This includes arthritis, degeneration of the disk and spinal stenosis, which is narrowing of the spaces where the nerves exit the spinal column.

Disk herniation can vary in severity and may or may not lead to compression of the nerve root, leading to lower extremity symptoms including burning, numbness, tingling, and/or weakness.

Spondylolysthesis occurs when one vertebra slips forward or backward due to fractures in the vertebra.  Based on the severity, it is be graded from 1 to 4. Typically this can be managed conservatively, but in more severe cases it may require surgery to stabilize.

Q: Tell us about some of the advanced surgical options available to patients with back pain.
The major new technology is the use of robotics in spine surgery. This allows for the surgeon to plan the implant procedure on a computer before surgery. During the surgery, a robotic arm guides the surgeon to correctly position the implant. The advantage of this is improved accuracy and reduced complications and soft tissue injury during the procedure.


Q: What are some of the nonsurgical treatment options?
An important for step is obtaining a good physical therapy evaluation. This helps the therapist guide the spine rehabilitation. This typically includes exercise to increase core strength, stretching exercise, hands-on/manual therapy and education.  Another option could be oral, injectable or topical medication in combination with physical therapy.

Learn more about your back pain options at a FREE community education class on Tues., June 26 at 5 PM in New Britain. For more information or to register, call 1.855.HHC.HERE (1.855.442.4373).

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