Back pain relief without surgery

A fluke accident while jumping off the back of a trailer sent shooting pains up Vikki Shearman's spine, and Dr. Craig Morton, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at the Center for Orthopaedics, said this type of accident is common.

"I've seen people sneeze and have a disk herniation," said Dr. Morton.

Shearman said, "As soon as my heels hit pain jolted all the way up."

She hobbled, hunched over in pain and rushed straight to the doctor. She had a herniated disk which is as Dr. Morton explains: "The disk has a cartilage ring and there's a jelly in the middle. A lot of times that ring will kind of crack or fracture or break and that gel oozes out."

Adding to her pain the disk hit a nerve and caused muscle spasms to contort her vertebrae into the shape of a C. Dr. Morton wanted first to try conservative treatments to avoid surgery. He administered epidural injections to help the swelling and improve her pain.

Some people, he said, have higher rick factors for this type of injury. Smokers top the list.

"It's been shown that people who smoke have a higher chance of having not only back pain, but they have a harder time healing," explained Dr. Morton.

Obesity is another risk factor and low flexibility can cause it too.

"When your hamstrings are tight or your calves are tight, it puts a lot of stress on your back and that worsens the problem," said Dr. Morton.

After four months Shearman is upright and with continued physical therapy she will be back to all of her normal activities soon.

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