Common questions about back pain

The first step in getting effective spine care is understanding your condition and your treatment options. By playing an active role in your spine care, you can take charge of your health.

What causes neck and back pain?

Natural degeneration is the most common cause of neck and back pain. As we age, the bones (vertebrae) and cartilage (intervertebral discs) of our spine sustain wear and tear. Pain, stiffness and instability are common symptoms of spinal degeneration.

Other causes of neck and back pain include:

Learn more about common spine conditions.

What are the risk factors for back and neck pain?

Age is the most common risk factor for back and neck pain. As we get older, our spine degenerates and makes us more prone to intervertebral disc conditions, sciatica and spinal stenosis.

Other risk factors include:

  • Certain diseases, including arthritis, cancer and osteoporosis
  • Contact sports
  • Heavy lifting
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

Can I relieve neck and back pain at home?

Spine pain can usually be treated at home with a combination of conservative therapies, including:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers

When should I see a doctor for back pain?

If your spine pain becomes progressively worse or doesn’t respond to at-home treatments after several months, it’s time to see a doctor. You can talk with your primary care physician or a doctor who specializes in spine care.

Is back or neck pain ever an emergency?

Rarely. However, you should seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following issues:

  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Loss of feeling in your arms or legs
  • Spine trauma, such as a fracture

What types of back pain treatments are available?

Back and neck pain usually subsides with nonsurgical treatments. In addition to at-home treatments like rest and pain relievers, your doctor may recommend:

Will I need back surgery?

Most people don’t need surgery to relieve back pain. Surgery is typically reserved for issues like severe nerve compression, fractures or structural issues like scoliosis. Learn more about different types of spine surgery.

How is minimally invasive spine surgery performed?

If you do need spine surgery, there are many options for minimally invasive treatment. A spine surgeon will typically make a very small incision (less than one inch) in your back or neck. With a specialized microscope and tiny surgical tools, the surgeon can remove the parts of the vertebrae or intervertebral discs that are causing pain.

Benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery may include:

  • Less pain
  • Quicker recovery
  • Reduced risk of complications
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Smaller scar

Take the next step

If you have persistent back or neck pain, our experts can help. Request an in-person or virtual appointment with a member of our spine care team.

Take the next step

Let us help you schedule an appointment, call (800) 436-7936.


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