Back Pain Treatment

Back Pain Treatment

Conservative Options for Lower Back, Middle Back, Upper Back, and Neck Pain

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Most people will experience some type of back pain at some time in their lives, whether due to an accident, injury, or the normal process of aging. We know your ability to be active is an essential factor in your quality of life, and low back pain, upper back pain, or neck pain can inhibit your ability to remain active. Duke back doctors use advanced techniques and tools to increase or restore your functionality. Depending on your condition and lifestyle, this may include improving your ability to stand or walk for longer periods, care for family members, perform work tasks, or participate in recreational activities.

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Nonsurgical Treatments

Several medications are available to help with back pain, including over-the-counter and prescription anti-inflammatory medications as well as muscle relaxers and nerve-pain medications. We will work with you to find appropriate medication(s) that address your pain while minimizing your risk for side-effects, dependency, or other unwanted reactions.

Physical Therapy
A trained physical therapist guides you in exercises and stretches designed to reduce pain, improve range of motion, and strengthen supporting muscles. 

Chiropractic Care
A skilled chiropractor manipulates or adjusts your spine and other joints, reducing pain and improving function. May also include soft-tissue therapies, exercises, and daily activity instruction.

Depending on the type and cause of your pain, your doctor may inject anesthetic agents or steroids directly into your back, neck, or spine. In some cases, the doctor uses fluoroscopy (a type of X-ray imaging) to guide the needle to the exact location.

Our Locations
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Radiofrequency Ablation / Radiofrequency Denervation
The doctor guides a needle into the correct nerve in your back and then applies radio frequency energy. This creates a lesion on the nerve that blocks pain signals to your brain.

Electrical Stimulation
A TENS unit (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator) sends mild electrical current through your skin to stimulate nerves and reduce pain.

Behavioral Pain Management
A clinical psychologist can help you understand the mental and emotional aspects of pain, develop skills and strategies to cope with it, and improve your quality of life.

Traditional Chinese medicine technique in which fine needles are inserted into the skin in specific places to reduce pain.

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Allow your doctor to look at the bones and joints in your spine. X-rays can help identify fractures, tumors, dislocations, bone spurs, or other potential causes of pain. 

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

Creates detailed pictures of your spine, including views of your discs and nerves. Can help identify disc damage or whether your nerves are “pinched.”

CT Scan (Computed Tomography)

Another option for imaging bones and soft tissues of your back, neck, and spine. May be used if you aren’t able to have an MRI due to metal implants in your body.

Electromyogram (EMG)

Checks the health of your muscles and the nerves that control them by measuring electrical activity.

Nerve Conduction Study

Measures how fast electrical signals move through your nerves, to identify nerve damage.

What to Consider When Choosing a Back Doctor

Our Team of Back Specialists
Our team includes physiatrists (physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors) who specialize in spine care, a chiropractor, orthopaedic physician assistants, and physical therapists. We work together to ensure you get comprehensive care.

Committed to Improving Your Symptoms 
Treating back pain, as well as spine conditions that cause back pain, is our expertise. Our goal is to find the most-effective, least-invasive treatment option that manages your pain and maximizes your ability to function.

Nonsurgical Options
There are many medications and injections available to treat back pain. Other approaches include spinal manipulation, physical therapy, and acupuncture. Our back doctors will recommend the most appropriate, targeted therapies.

When Conservative Treatments Aren't Effective
If conservative treatments don’t improve your symptoms or functionality, our back doctors may refer you to the Duke Spine Surgery team. Our spine specialists offer the latest surgical techniques, including minimally invasive spine surgeries that use smaller incisions for faster recovery, less pain, and fewer complications; and spinal cord stimulation, in which a pacemaker-like device is implanted under your skin to control pain signals.

Best Hospital for Orthopaedics, Neurosurgery in NC
Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital’s nationally ranked orthopaedics, neurology, and neurosurgery programs were named best in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report for 2019–2020.