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Woodbury Spine

by Amanda Hamm Hengel

SPINE SPECIALIST: Woodbury Spine’s Dr. Evan O’Brien


Chronic aches and pains can be hard to live with, especially when it involves your upper or lower back or spine. Knowing when it’s time to consult a physician about the pain can be difficult to determine, so we spoke with Dr. Evan O’Brien of Woodbury Spine about whether or not there is a good time, and what people can do to prevent future back pain.


As a spine specialist, Dr. O’Brien, along with the other physicians at the pain management practice, offers comprehensive care for the most basic back pain, as well as advanced surgical treatments for all types of spine disorders. They know how reluctant some patients are of finally seeking treatment, so they provide friendly, caring service in a convenient and accessible location, making it virtually impossible for anyone to turn down the help they may need.


When should someone consider an appointment with a specialist?

<BR>If a person has significant, life altering pain that lasts more than six weeks, he or she should see a specialist to figure out what’s going on. That’s if they’re just experiencing back pain or pain with radiation into the legs or arms. There are times when someone should seek attention sooner. For example, if there is a neurological problem, or progressive weakness, severe pain that prevents them from functioning and certainly any changes in bowel or bladder functions, more immediate attention is required. But generally if it’s neck or back pain, we give it six weeks to resolve on its own, or to be treated with anti-inflammatory medication.


Are there a lot of people who have problems and don’t seek treatment?

<BR>Most Americans at some point in their lives will experience back pain. And while roughly 80 percent of the population will have significant pain, not all of them need treatment. Of course, if a patient is suffering, they shouldn’t be afraid to see a doctor. We have many things to offer other than invasive surgery. Most of the time it’s just a matter of getting on the right medications, and modifying activities.


Can headaches be an indicator that something is wrong?

<BR>There is a specific type of headache—posterior occipital, or cervical radicular headache—that can be an indicator. It starts in the upper part of the neck and radiates into the back of the head. They tend to radiate forward, sometimes all the way to the frontal region. If someone has severe neck pain and headaches, we can certainly help them. There are medications that we will start with, including anti-inflammatory medications. There are also injections that we do. If the patient has more severe symptoms, there are more advanced techniques such as spinal cord stimulation, but it’s rare that patients require that type of treatment. There are also disk herniations and other problems that can result in posterior neck pain and headaches. We can also resolve those with certain injections and surgery.


What can people do to prevent further back problems?

<BR>We recommend gentle range of motion therapies for the neck. For the lower back, we recommend maintaining good core strength. There are certain prescribed exercise programs we recommend, but there are also programs like yoga and Pilates that concentrate on core strength. Patients with severe back pain sometimes can’t do these exercises without aggravating the back and specialized physical therapy is needed. For the upper back, extension exercises help chronic pain.


What do you suggest for a back problem that comes on suddenly?

<BR>If a patient has sudden upper or lower extremity weakness, they should definitely get to the ER for evaluation and consultation with a spine specialist, like me. Sometimes that requires urgent surgical intervention. Most people don’t have that type of emergency and can get into the doctor’s office for consultation. If we have a patient with an urgent problem, we will make room for them that same day.   


Woodbury Spine 1225 N. Broad St., #3


<BR> (856) 845-0707

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Published (and copyrighted) in <B>Suburban Family Magazine</B>, Volume 4, Issue 9 (November, 2013).

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