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Back Pain

Image of man with a glowing spine, stretching before a run to help with back pain

The spine program at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute is well-respected in the central Maryland and Washington regions for the diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of back pain and spine disorders. Our program brings together a variety of skilled specialists with experience in a wide range of spinal conditions, including some of the most complex conditions seen in orthopedic medicine. Our multidisciplinary team includes orthopedic spine surgeons, neurosurgeons, physiatrists (rehabilitative medicine physicians), nursing staff, physical and occupational therapists, radiologists, and an interventional pain management team—and we put all our expertise to work for you, to relieve your back pain and get you back to your active life. Use the following links to learn more about how MedStar Health's orthopedic physicians can diagnose and treat your back pain or spine conditions:

What is Back Pain?

The spine consists of bones (vertebrae) separated by soft cushions (discs). Nerves that travel from the brain to the rest of the body all pass through the spine. When pressure from spinal vertebrae is applied to nerves, pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness can occur. These sensations are not always relegated to the back or spine as back pain; rather, they can occur in many areas of the body, depending on what nerves are pressed, where they originate in the spine, and where they travel to.

No matter how sharp, or how long it lasts, back pain often limits our ability to feel active and productive. The top priority for anyone suffering is simply to eliminate the pain. Common causes include:

  • Aging
  • Too much activity that strains the back muscles
  • Being out of shape or overweight, allowing extra weight to strain the back

Arm and leg pain can arise from spinal issues or injuries. Experiencing serious pain in our arms and legs can make even the simplest tasks feel very difficult.

Pain is identified two different ways: acute and chronic. Most people with back or neck injuries suffer from acute pain, which lasts four to six weeks and can stop without medical treatment. Chronic pain lasts for more than three months and requires medical treatment. 

Treatment of Back Pain

Treatment generally depends on how severe your pain is and the underlying cause. Common non-surgical options may include:

  • Prescription and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or pain medications
  • Injections of steroids or anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy, including applying heat or ice, massage, and strengthening exercises
  • Braces

If non-surgical treatment does not relieve your pain, you may need surgery. The orthopedic surgeons at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute have extensive training in the most advanced and innovative surgical procedures to treat back pain, including minimally invasive back surgery and motion sparing surgery.


When you arrive with back pain and spine pain, our orthopedic teams will thoroughly review your medical history and symptoms and may perform a range of physical and laboratory examinations—all with the goal of making the most accurate diagnosis so we can give you the best treatment. The most common screenings to pinpoint the source of your pain or associated pain includes the following:

  • X-rays show the alignment of your bones and whether you have a degenerative joint disease or possible tumors.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scans can reveal herniated discs or problems with muscles, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, or blood vessels.
  • Myelography uses dye to show areas where your spinal cord may be getting pinched by the vertebrae in your back.
  • Bone scans detect bone tumors or compression fractures caused by osteoporosis.
  • Electrodiagnostic studies can confirm nerve compression caused by herniated discs or spinal stenosis.
  • Discograms determine any damage to discs.
  • Electromyography (EMG) assesses nerve or muscle damage

Understanding your back pain is the first step in relieving it. Once an accurate diagnosis is reached, your orthopedic physician can discuss with you the specifics of your condition and determine a treatment plan that will meet your individual needs.

Conditions That Cause Back Pain

Degenerative Disc Disease: Flattening of the discs in between the vertebrae as a natural part of the aging process, causing the spaces separating the vertebrae to become smaller, which can affect the stability of the spine.

Facet Syndrome: This condition is caused by inflammation of one or more of the facet joints. Facet joints are pairs of running on either side and in between each of the vertebrae. These structures allow for movement of the spine and provide stability. These joints can become inflamed and cause pain in that area. Physical therapy and other non-surgical treatments such as spinal injections are often used to rehabilitate the spine.

Muscle Strain or Spasm: Pulled muscle or overworked muscle

Osteoarthritis: Cartilage surrounding the spinal vertebrae gradually erodes, causing bone to contact with nerve.

Osteoporosis: Bone density is lost, causing vertebrae to weaken, fracture, or collapse, putting pressure on spinal nerves causing pain.

Sciatica: Occurs when a herniated disk puts pressure on or damages the sciatic nerve, which supports the muscles and controls sensation in the leg and foot. Those with sciatica often feel leg cramping, burning, weakness, numbness, and tingling as well as experience bladder control problems

Call Us Today

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a back, neck, and spine specialist, please call:


Learn More

  • Learn more about treatments for back pain.
  • Learn more about back pain from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.