Spine Advancements

Find the Cause of Your Back Pain

Finding the root medical condition causing your back pain is important. Only then can the pain be treated effectively. IBJI Libertyville/Lake Forest physicians can use the latest diagnostic insights and technologies to find the root cause of your pain and suggest the proper treatments. Causes of back pain include the following:


Ligament sprains – often caused by lifting or twisting improperly – or fractured vertebrae can cause short- or long-term pain. As people age, a condition called osteoporosis weakens bones and can cause vertebrae to fracture. Accidents or falls may also cause back injuries.

Mechanical or structural problems

A structural problem with your spine can cause pain when you move in a certain way. One common condition of this nature is degenerative disc disease, which causes the discs located between the vertebrae to break down and lose their cushioning ability as they age. Other mechanical causes of back pain include herniated or ruptured discs, muscle tension and spasms.

Medical conditions and diseases

Various medical conditions can cause painful inflammation or place pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. These include arthritis, scoliosis (curvature of the spine), spondylolisthesis (slipped disc), and spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column). Other conditions not directly related to the spine can cause back pain. These include kidney stones or infections, pregnancy, endometriosis, and fibromyalgia.

Infections and tumors

Infections and benign and malignant tumors involving the spine are less common causes of back pain. These conditions can irritate nerve endings or put pressure on the spine, resulting in pain.

Is Surgery the Answer – or Not?

Depending on your personal situation, back pain can be solved using treatments ranging from rest to spine surgery.

Before beginning any treatment, IBJI Libertyville/Lake Forest physicians conduct appropriate tests to determine the root cause of your pain.

These tests may include range of motion and nerve function exams to find the area of discomfort; blood and urine tests for infection or other medical problems; and x-rays, CT (computed tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans to view bones or connective tissue. Electromyogram (EMG) may be used to determine if there is nerve or muscle damage.

Once the cause of your pain is found, IBJI physicians consider all non-surgical treatments (including rest, ice or heat applications, medications and physical therapy) before recommending surgery.

Effective Surgical Approaches Relieve Spine-Related Pain

While many patients do not require surgery to relieve back pain, those choosing an IBJI Libertyville/Lake Forest surgeon benefit from effective approaches that can greatly improve outcomes and reduce recovery time.

For disc herniations

Disc herniations located in the lower or “lumbar” section of the spine can be removed through an outpatient procedure called lumbar microdiscectomy. Using microscopic techniques, IBJI spine surgeons work through a one-inch incision to perform this procedure, which usually takes only about 45 minutes and dramatically relieves pain along the sciatic nerve located in the lower back.

Many patients can begin a low-impact aerobic conditioning program the day after surgery and return to non-physical work activity soon after. Most patients return to normal physical activities within six weeks. IBJI spine surgeons have performed hundreds of lumbar microdiscectomies over the past 15 years with a success rate meeting or exceeding national standards of excellence.

For spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis causes bone and soft tissue overgrowth that narrows the spinal column and places pressure on nerve roots and the spinal cord, causing pain. IBJI spine surgeons commonly perform a procedure called lumbar laminectomy to remove the overgrowth, re-expand the spinal column, and relieve pain and cramping in the lower back and legs. Laminectomy usually take between one and three hours to perform. Hospital stays often range from two to four days, and patients resume normal daily activities within six to eight weeks.

For spinal stenosis patients also diagnosed with slipped discs, or spondylolisthesis, IBJI spine surgeons perform lumbar spinalfusion to add stability to the surgically repaired segment. Lumbar spinal fusion may be recommended also for patients with chronic back pain due to disc degeneration.

IBJI physicians are reviewing the effectiveness of using synthetic substances rather than bone grafts during fusion procedures, eliminating the pain and possible complications caused by harvesting bone from another part of the patient’s body. In addition, artificial disk replacement surgery is being reviewed as an alternative to spinal fusion surgery.

For neck pain

IBJI spine surgeons perform anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) to treat neck pain caused by either disc herniations or spinal stenosis. An alternative to ACDF is cervical disc arthroplasty or disc replacement. FDA studies suggest that this procedure can provide equivalent results to ACDF in the short to intermediate term with the potential benefit of the patient maintaining normal neck mobility.

Learn more about spine surgery

For detailed information about various aspects of spine surgery, go to: www.understandingspinesurgery.com