If you suffer from neck or back pain, you’re among the estimated tens of millions of Americans who will deal with these types of issues during their lifetime.

“Neck and back pain are very common problems, and the vast majority of patients have causes related to wear and tear or simple injury,” said Dr. Hussein Alahmadi, a neurosurgeon with The Ayer Neuroscience Institute at The Hospital of Central Connecticut. “We also see people with issues involving the anatomy of the spine, which can also cause chronic pain as well.”

Dr. Hussein Alahmadi
Dr. Hussein Alahmadi

Dr. Alahmadi said if someone is suffering from pain or discomfort and over-the-counter medications are not helping to alleviate the symptoms within 5 to 7 days, it’s time to see a doctor. “A primary care physician will use conservative measures, such as medications, physical therapy or steroids,” said Dr. Alahmadi. “If those aren’t working and the symptoms are not getting any better, that’s when the person would be referred to someone like me and we would do advanced imaging, such as an MRI, to get a closer look at the situation.”

Dr. Alahmadi said herniated discs are one of the most common issues he sees. The bones that form the spine in your back are cushioned by round, flat discs, which keep the spine flexible. If those discs become damaged, they may bulge abnormally or break open – causing a herniated or slipped disc “This causes a pain in the neck that can shoot down to the arms or pain in the back that shoots down the legs. Either situation can cause numbness and weakness in the extremities,” said Dr. Alahmadi.

Spinal stenosis, another common diagnosis, is the narrowing of the spinal canal – usually seen in people over age 60.

“This is something that progresses over time,” said Dr. Alahmadi. “Symptoms include pain or weakness in the legs when the patient is standing or walking and can impact someone’s endurance.”

Dr. Alahmadi says when it comes to these issues, and others, treatments may include therapy, seeing a chiropractor or interventional pain procedures, such as injections or nerve blocks. If the pain persists, that’s when surgery becomes an option to help improve quality of life.

“Surgery can be minimally invasive in an outpatient setting where the patient goes home the same day,” said Dr. Alahmadi. “For more advanced issues, we do more complex surgeries using image-guided or robotic technology. The sooner we can see someone, the better their recovery will be. People shouldn’t be living with pain – there are ways to treat it.”

He adds that pain associated with neurological deficits needs to be addressed because it can cause long-term disability if left untreated.

Dr. Hussein Alahmadi is a neurosurgeon with the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group. For more information, call 860.223.0800 or click here.