Spine Injury Program
The Spine Injury program at Carle Neuroscience Institute offers expertise in conditions and injuries impacting the back and neck. Our multidisciplinary team of providers – including physicians, advanced practice providers, physical therapists and other ancillary providers – works with nurse practitioners and physician assistants to evaluate your head and neck problems. Our physicians are board certified in a wide range of specialties including neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, and physical medicine and rehabilitation (PMR).
Our program’s location includes an open MRI scanner, x-ray, injection suite with fluoroscopy, EMG testing, specialty trained spine physical therapists and a therapy gym to maximize patient convenience. Our focus is on non-surgical intervention, but if more intensive treatment is required then surgical options will be explored as appropriate. Worker compensation injuries can be treated within the Spine Injury Program. Our case manager will assist patients with work comp approval for diagnostic tests, treatment, and scheduling appointments. Returning patients to the work force is a priority.
Most back and neck pain resolves without surgery or injections in 6-12 weeks. Physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians, known as physiatrists, are trained to diagnose and treat back and neck pain. These spine specialists prescribe physical therapy, injections, and medications - alternative options will be explored as needed. Our specialty-trained doctors work closely with the physical therapists, finding optimal nonsurgical treatment for your spine problems. When our PMR doctors identify problems that need more advanced testing they will offer an appropriate referral for possible invasive treatment.
Since all these special services are in one location, with MRI and physical therapy, patients can find assistance in dealing with their pain at one stop. We are easy to find, just a short distance off interstate I-74 in Urbana, Illinois. The Spine Injury Program is located within the Carle Neuroscience Institute location on North Lincoln Avenue, adjacent to the Heart and Vascular Institute, and is completely handicapped accessible and all on ground level. Free parking is onsite, next to the building. Our spine specialists also have office hours in Danville, Mattoon, Effingham, Decatur and Monticello, Illinois.
Each person has a unique combination of genetic and physical spine attributes. Focusing on individualized treatment allows our providers to maximize your health. Protocols guide your medical care, but treatment is modified according to a specific patient’s needs and abilities. Our providers keep current with medical developments by sharing the latest information with each other and attending medical conferences each year.
Our providers include:
- Physical therapists that are specialty trained for back and neck problems. Their focus is on functional activities that reduce pain and help return the patient to their work, home and leisure activities. Finding an appropriate exercise program that can be done at home is a primary goal. The physical therapy program focuses on moving from symptom control to strengthening, flexibility and conditioning activities. An aquatics/pool exercise program is available at our therapy pool in Urbana.
- PMR interventional physicians who offer injections for neck, back, and joint pain. These fellowship trained doctors can assist patients in reduction of painful spine conditions. Using fluoroscopy (x-ray) to localize the injection site significantly reduces the discomfort of injections. Epidural steroid injections, facet medial branch nerve blocks and ablation, and joint injections are used selectively for diagnosis and treatment.
Non-surgical options are explored and tried before consideration of surgery. Our neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons are board certified and specially trained in the latest spine surgery interventions. Each surgeon selects the appropriate surgery for the patient to minimize the number and extent of surgeries and to maximize outcomes. Our surgeons optimize surgical outcomes by working with specialists like dieticians and medical specialists to reduce the surgical risks due to other medical problems.
Prevention of back and neck problems
Research has shown that certain conditions and activities predispose people to back and neck pain. Here are specific recommendations:
- Avoid prolonged sitting. Get up and stroll around, fetch a drink of water, go to another floor to the bathroom. Gentle stretching, forward, backward, sideways will help relieve stress on your spinal discs, nerves, and ligaments. Use a chair that can be changed, for instance the seat height and angle, back angle; and change the settings frequently, or sit in a variety of chairs. Placing a small pillow or rolled towel at the back can help. Using a standing desk or moving your computer or task to a standing height will help.
- Use a medium to firm mattress with a foam topper to make your back more comfortable when sleeping. Roll forward partially onto a large pillow, but avoid long periods of lying on your stomach.
- Avoid repetitive motion of the spine. Place items on an elevated pallet or chair, or change jobs frequently to avoid doing the same motions over and over. Vibration can cause the spinal discs to deteriorate faster. Use a seat cushion to minimize vibration from a truck or heavy equipment engine.
- Wear cushioned and supportive insoles if you do a lot of walking. Stay in good physical condition for both sitting and active job tasks.
- During lifting activities, avoid a fully flexed or bent spine, and rotate up and down using the hips. Keep the load close to the center of the body, near the abdomen. Break loads into smaller portions, instead of lifting 45# once, lift 15 # three times. Avoid repetitive bending, lift the 15# now, then do another activity and return to lift the next load, change activities, then lift the last load.
- Avoid twisting the spine. Move your feet and turn the entire body to the side rather than twist the back.
- As you sleep and sit your spinal discs absorb water, and when you awake in the morning or after sitting, they are full of fluid. That means they are at greater risk of injury. Avoid spine exercises and lifting for the first 30 minutes after waking or prolonged sitting. Walking is a good warm up activity before lifting.
- Avoid repeated overhead activities, such as reaching into an overhead cabinet, painting a ceiling, looking at a computer monitor placed above eye level. Use a step stool when reaching overhead to place yourself at the height of the shelf or cabinet. Set up your work station to keep activities in front. Using single vision glasses rather than bifocals can reduce neck movement that causes pain.
- Smoking is correlated to deterioration in the discs of the spine.
- Obesity contributes to back pain. Start working on your weight today.
Strategies for mild and short lived back and neck pain
- Walking is good for treatment and prevention of back pain. Walk on even ground at a moderate pace for at least 20 minutes per day. Wear comfortable and supportive shoes.
- Pool exercises, such as water walking, hanging with a floatation device in deep water, and water aerobics are good for unloading the spine. These exercises must be done 3-4 times per week for maximum benefit.
- Use Acetaminophen or over the counter anti-inflammatories (Ibuprofen or Aleve) in the smallest dose possible unless your physician has told you that these are hazardous for you. If these medications are needed longer than 3-4 days, contact your physician for guidance.
- Ice and heat can be helpful. Some people do well with 20 minutes of heat, off 20 minutes, then 20 minutes of ice, repeat.
- Massage can often relieve back pain. Find a certified massage therapist that you like and trust.
- A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) is a non-invasive device to help control spine pain. These are available for purchase without a prescription at many drug stores or via the internet, and can be used intermittently or continually for pain management.
Symptoms of more serious spine problems
See your family doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if you develop and of these symptoms:
- Severe back or neck pain
- Pain that goes into the arm or leg
- Inability to feel that your bowel or bladder are full
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Weakness in arms or legs
Exercises that can help your aching back and neck
There is no substitute for formal physical therapy with an experienced physical therapist. In order to maximize the effect of an exercise program, a therapist needs to assess the individual’s strengths and deficits, and our therapists will design an individualized exercise program. If any exercises increase pain, stop doing them immediately.