If you’re experiencing nerve pain in your back, you’ve probably thought a lot about how to get rid of that pain. You might have wondered what caused it. But you may not have considered that the cause of your pain may offer clues about the best way to relieve your pain.
For example, if your pain is caused by a tight or pulled muscle, or osteoarthritis, your primary care physician or an orthopedic specialist, such as an orthopedic spine surgeon, may well be able to treat and resolve your pain.
However, if your pain is caused by a pinched nerve (a condition called radiculopathy)or a damaged nerve, your best bet for relief may be a spine neurosurgeon. A neurosurgeon can have many options for nerve damage. At Neurosurgery One, our Denver spine specialists are experienced not only at diagnosing the source of your pain, but treating and relieving pain caused by damage to the nerves.
Like bundles of electric wires, nerves transmit signals, including pain signals, to the brain. Irritation, such as with a pinched nerve, can disrupt the way those signals are transmitted, and the result can be ongoing and even intense nerve pain in the back or neck.
Pinched nerves can be caused by:
- Repetitive motion
- Inflammation or pressure on a nerve root
- Pinched nerves can cause nerve pain in the neck or lower back, and pain that radiates from the neck into the shoulder and arm.
Nerve pain in the back has several characteristics that differentiate it from other types of pain. Those include:
- Tingling, sharp, pins-and-needles feeling
- Chronic lasting pain
- Radiation down arms and hands or legs and feet
Differences between neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons
Both spine neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons are trained and qualified spine surgeons; however, not both specialize in nerve pain in the back. The primary differences between them is the duration and type of training each receives as well as the systems each is trained to assess and treat. Neurosurgeons, such as Neurosurgery One’s Denver spine surgeons, are trained in caring for the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system, which is made up of all the nerves that branch off from the spinal cord and extend to all parts of the body. Orthopedic surgeons, on the other hand, are trained to treat the musculoskeletal system, which includes your bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and connective tissues.
After earning a medical degree, neurosurgeons complete a seven-year residency focused on the surgical treatment of neurological conditions, including nerve pain in your back or neck. The residency program for a neurosurgeon is long and difficult, because we are learning about the complex workings of the nervous system and advanced techniques in neurosurgical operations. Some of us complete an additional fellowship in a particular area of study following the residency, although all neurosurgeons have performed hundreds of spinal surgeries during their residencies, beginning the first month of their training.
Neurosurgeons are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders involving:
- Spine and spinal cord
- Intracranial and intraspinal blood vessels
To achieve certification by the American Board of Neurological Surgery, even further criteria must be met. Neurosurgery One’s Denver neurosurgeons and physiatrists are board certified.
Orthopedic surgeon training
After finishing a medical degree, orthopedic surgeons complete a five-year surgical residency focused on the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. Orthopedists diagnose and treat bone and joint disorders, such as:
- Spinal disorders
- Sports injuries
- Bone tumors
- Total joint replacement
Treatment for pain caused by damaged nerves
At Neurosurgery One, unless it’s an emergency situation, we only consider spine surgery for nerve pain in the back after nonsurgical pain relief treatments have been tried and failed.
When surgery is necessary, we can ease your symptoms with decompression surgery to relieve the pressure on the compressed nerves in your neck or lower back.
When a pinched nerve is causing symptoms, the most common surgical procedures remove pieces of bone such as abone spur or soft tissue, such as a herniated disc— or both. This relieves pressure by creating more space for the nerves to exit the spinal canal. There are several different types of decompression spine surgery, including laminectomy, laminotomy, microdiscectomy, facetectomy, and foraminotomy.
Whether it’s through surgery or other treatment, if you have persistent nerve pain in your back, arms or legs, a neurosurgeon has the training and expertise to work with you to relieve that pain.
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