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Could Your Back Pain be Caused by a Slipped Disc?

Back pain is a common complaint of Americans. Sixty to eighty percent of the U.S. population reports they suffer from some kind of back pain and five percent suffer from chronic back pain. It is the most frequent cause of activity limitation for people under the age of 45. A common cause of back pain is often a slipped disc (also called a herniated disc).

That’s what recently afflicted Leandro Carvalho, a fitness trainer to the stars in Manhattan. He had long suffered from leg and lower back pain, but figured it was an occupational hazard. Until one day, while teaching a group class, he felt a sharp pain and fell to the ground, temporarily paralyzed from the waist down.
The first surgeon he visited warned him the operation he needed may leave him permanently paralyzed and that he would never return to his full physical performance. Carvalho’s devoted clientele suggested he get a second opinion from Sean McCance, M.D., co-director of Orthopedic Spine Surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. It was a second opinion that changed Carvalho’s life.

Dr. McCance performed spine surgery to repair severe disc degeneration, a herniated disc and a collapse of the disc space. Today, Carvalho is back in the game – dancing and reshaping the bodies and minds of hundreds of clients. In fact, he says, he is stronger than ever thanks to Dr. McCance.

Dr. McCance explains that a slipped disc happens when the cushiony disc between the vertebrae ruptures or bulges into the spinal canal putting pressure on the nerves, which can cause a great deal of pain. Back and spinal pain doesn’t just afflict those with high impact jobs. In fact, any occupation that requires long periods of time in stationary positions, like sitting or standing, have a very high incidence of people with chronic back pain.

How do you know if you’re experiencing this problem and not just everyday aches and pains?

Symptoms of a slipped disc include:
* Sudden pain in the back or neck
* Pain down the back of one leg, sometimes into the foot
* Weakness and a feeling of “pins and needles”
* In severe cases, foot drop or bowel and bladder problems may develop.

Physicians recommend you seek medical attention for any back problem. For minor back pain, rest, heat and an over-the-counter pain reliever are often prescribed. For more serious back conditions, prescription pain medications and muscle relaxants, injections and even surgery may be in order.

Before a sore back requires surgery, however, Dr. McCance recommends the following ways to help prevent serious back problems, like a slipped disc:

* Exercise regularly and use proper body mechanics. A healthy back and neck exercise regimen includes cardiovascular -- treadmill, water aerobics and recumbent bike are all gentle on the back -- and light weights. Physical therapy is often prescribed

* Work to maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight strongly contributes to lower back pain and nearly every spinal condition.

* Rest after any injury. Waiting for the pain to completely subside can actually make it worse, but walking a mile or two each day while recovering is a low-impact way to keep the spine strong.

* If you smoke, quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Spine patients who smoke have been identified to have a higher risk of back pain. Also, smokers often have a more unpredictable surgery outcome and a longer recovery time after surgery.

For more information on slipped discs and other spinal conditions or to make an appointment with Dr. McCance, visit www.McCanceMD.com. (ARA)

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