With severe back pain we frequently worry about having a herniated disc. If you have back pain and get an MRI chances are you’ll find something. At NY Hospital/Weill-Cornell, 90% of the MRIs of the low back are read as abnormal. But most back pain is diagnosed as “Idiopathic /Non-specific”, referring to sprains and strains of soft tissue such as muscle. But common soft tissue problems are not seen on the MRI so we often incorrectly assume that what we see on the image, such as disc herniaton/bulge, degenerated discs, spinal stenosis, facet arthritis, spondylolisthesis, is the cause of the pain. When we treat these “causes” we have many failures. Actually in some studies more than 50% of the back surgeries are unsuccessful leading to a new diagnosis, Failed Back Surgery Syndrome. Some clinicians recognize that muscles could be a source of the back pain and have attempted to treat the muscle that they have identified by applying pressure (palpation) to the suspected painful muscle. There are a variety of treatments that are offered. I will discuss some of them next time.

~Norman J. Marcus, MD
Norman Marcus Pain Institute, New York NY 
 
“Your New York City Doctor”
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