Neck, Back & Spine - St. Mary's Hospital and Health Care System

Neck, Back & Spine

joint commission seal of approval for spine surgerySt. Mary’s is the first hospital in the Athens area to earn The Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval for Spine Surgery.

Back pain is a serious problem, affecting 8 out of 10 Americans at some point in their lives. It can range from an annoying condition that keeps you from doing some of the activities you enjoy to a serious condition that results in chronic pain and disability.

When should I see a doctor about back pain?

Most back and neck pain will get better with rest, over-the-counter medicines and appropriate exercise. See a doctor if your pain is severe, if it lasts more than a couple of weeks, if you have trouble urinating, or if you have weakness, pain or numbness in your legs or arms. If you experience paralysis, call 911 immediately.

What causes back and neck pain?

The most common cause of back pain is poor lifting technique. Other major causes are automobile accidents, sports injuries and diving accidents. Aging often causes pain as the bones, disks and ligaments that form the spine weaken. Here are some tips to help you prevent back and neck pain:

  • When lifting, use good body mechanics. Use your legs to do most of the work, and keep the load as close to your body as possible. If the object is heavier than you can comfortably handle or an awkward size or shape, don’t do it alone -- use team lifting.
  • At your desk or home, organize your workspace so that the items you need most are easy to reach. Minimize the need to bend, twist or over-reach.
  • Commit to regular exercise. Everyone should get at least 30 minutes a day of moderate cardiovascular exercise such as walking, bicycling or swimming. It’s also important to keep the muscles of your back and abdomen – your body’s core – in good shape. Talk to your doctor or visit St. Mary’s Wellness Center to find out how.
  • If you own or manage a business, St. Mary’s Industrial Medicine can help you assess the ergonomics of your workplace, design processes that minimize the risk of injury, train and educate your employees in safe lifting techniques, and more.
    Call us at (706) 389-2222.
  • Always wear lap and shoulder belts when driving or riding in a car, and be sure infants and small children are correctly secured in an approved, correctly installed car seat.
  • Motorcyclists and bicyclists should always wear approved helmets to minimize the risk of head injury.
  • When playing sports, use appropriate protective gear. Be sure to stay well hydrated to help protect the disks that cushion the bones of your back and neck.
  • Never dive into shallow or murky water. Never dive or jump into water where another person may be swimming.

What are the most common back and neck problems treated at St. Mary’s?

  • Herniated disk:

    When one of the cushioning disks in the spine bulges or ruptures, it can cause severe pain in the back and/or legs.

  • Disk degeneration:

    Usually associated with aging, disk degeneration can pinch the spinal cord and nerve roots.

  • Lumbar spinal stenosis:

    Narrowing of the canal that protects the spinal cord and nerve roots may cause numbness and weakness.

  • Spondylolisthesis:

    A vertebra that slips out of alignment may squeeze the spinal cord and/or nerve roots.

How do you treat back and neck pain?

Treatment options include medicines to relieve pain and inflammation, physical and occupational therapy, and surgery. New developments in back and neck surgery, like St. Mary’s O-arm Multidimensional Imaging System, make this option more effective than ever before. Your doctor will work with you to create the treatment plan that is best for you.

If you are looking for a physician for testing or treatments of any of the above conditions, and are not experiencing an emergency, you can find a local physician by using the find-a-doc feature. Please be aware that both neurological surgeons and orthopedic surgeons provide neck, back and spine care.