The spine is a critical part of our skeletal structure for the way it supports our weight, helps us move, and protects our central nervous system from damage. For all these reasons, it’s important to keep the back strong and stable, but from poor exercise posture to the simple, unavoidable creaks that come with age, we’re always doing things that cause back pain.
Sometimes that pain is minor and dissipates with time and a little ice or heat, but in many cases, a visit to a medical doctor or chiropractor is in order, and when that happens, you could be looking at a period of in-office treatment or even a surgical procedure.
The goal of HealthCost is to help you understand your options in the healthcare marketplace. That means you can search for the exact cost of individual healthcare procedures, compare how pricing for the same procedure changes from facility to facility, and soon lock in prices for what you need, and for those suffering from serious back pain, we now have 30,000 chiropractors whose services and prices you can review and compare.
There are dozens of back problems you might be experiencing, but these three are among the most common. Continue reading to learn more about them and the various procedures you might pursue in order to obtain some much-needed relief.
Strain or sprain
These typically occur when you’re lifting something heavy, performing a physical activity your body isn’t used to, or getting hit hard in the lower back area, usually during sports or something similar. Chronic strain may develop over time due to poor posture, but like most strains and sprains, pain may only flair up if you aggravate it due to exertion.
The difference between a strain and a sprain relates to the tissue that tears or stretches. The former involves the muscles in the lumbar (lower) area of the back. (That’s why a strain is also known as a pulled muscle.) The latter occurs when ligaments, which connect the bones, are stretched or torn. To diagnose, a doctor may order an X-ray or MRI, in addition to performing a routine physical. These tests can be costly, depending on where you have them performed and by whom, and the HealthCost marketplace can help you find the best and most affordable choice near you.
More serious than a strain or sprain, a herniated disc occurs when the outer fibers of a spinal disc are damaged and the soft material inside the disc ruptures out, sometimes into the spinal canal. The human spine has 24 discs, and they’re separated into three sections – from top to bottom, the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar.
Herniated discs most commonly occur in the lumbar, and when they do, they tend to cause shooting pain down your leg. An imaging test will be performed to detect herniated discs. Notably, x-rays don’t detect them, but they may still be performed to rule out other causes of back pain, such as an infection, tumor, spinal alignment issues, or a broken bone.
After diagnosis, you may be advised to see if the pain goes away on its own, but surgery – more specifically, a laminectomy or discectomy, both of which you can price with HealthCost – is needed in some cases to repair the disc.
While herniated discs in the thoracic section of the spine are less common than lumbar ones, surgery to treat them is more common. These herniated discs tend to be marked by problems urinating or defecating. A transthoracic decompression will be performed in most cases. This procedure involves removing part of the problem disc and decompressing the spinal cord.
Spinal nerve compression
This condition can affect all three sections of the spine and occurs when the nerves in your spine are pinched or pressure affects them in a way that causes local pain and numbness in your extremities.
The most common cause of spinal nerve compression (or spinal cord compression) is osteoarthritis, which means this condition tends to develop gradually and is most common with men and women over 50. More acute cases of spinal nerve compression can occur due to a spinal tumor, infection, or scoliosis.
To diagnose spinal cord compression, your healthcare provider will ask you questions about your symptoms and do a complete physical exam. After a physical exam and consultation with your physician, he or she may order an x-ray, MRI, or CT scan to diagnose. Treatment will vary depending on the cause of the compression. Physical therapy to strengthen the back, as well as the affected extremities, is common, while surgery is sometimes also necessary in order to lengthen the amount of space between vertebrae, which should relieve the pressure on the nerves.
Check out HealthCost’s search tool to learn more about your options and find the lowest-cost, highest-quality of these and other spine and back procedures in your area.