Back and Neck Pain

Don’t let stubborn back or neck pain keep you from doing the things you love. At Allegheny Health Network’s (AHN) Spine Center, our experts use the latest technologies to identify the source of your pain. We then develop a personalized treatment plan to manage the pain and get you back to a full, active life.

Back and neck pain symptoms

Almost everyone experiences back or neck pain at some point. Your specific symptoms depend on the cause, location, and severity of the problem.

Back or neck pain may cause:

  • Piercing pain, or a shooting pain that you feel when you move a certain way
  • General aching, similar to a muscle ache
  • Pain that starts in your back and moves elsewhere, such as down your leg
  • Problems moving
  • Reduced flexibility in your back

Conditions that cause back and neck pain

Conditions that may cause back and neck pain include:

  • Arthritis
  • Degenerative spine conditions
  • Herniated disks
  • Pain caused by chronic conditions, injury, or pregnancy
  • Pinched nerve
  • Sciatica
  • Spasticity, a movement disorder caused by cerebral palsy, a stroke, or an accident
  • Spine problems relating to traumatic events
  • Tumors and diseases of the spine caused by cancer cells that spread from other areas of the body
  • Vascular malformations

Diagnosing back and neck pain

When you’re in pain, it’s hard to focus on anything else. At AHN’s Spine Center, you’ll get a prompt appointment with one of our specialists. Our physicians first ask you about your medical history and perform a physical examination, checking your flexibility, walking abilities, and muscle strength and reflexes. This evaluation helps us determine the source and cause of your symptoms.

A physical examination may be enough for physicians to recommend treatment options for you. Sometimes, physicians may perform imaging tests to learn more about what’s causing your back or neck symptoms:

  • X-rays show the bones in your spine and can alert doctors to tumors, fractures, or other bone abnormalities. At AHN, we also offer provocative discogram, an advanced diagnostic X-ray test that measures how increased pressure on a vertebral disk affects your pain level.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computed tomography) • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computed tomography) images show finer details of the spinal cord’s soft tissues, such as cartilage and nerve roots. These tests often help physicians pinpoint the location or cause of back and neck pain.
  • Vertebral motion analysis uses fluoroscopy (a type of X-ray testing) to capture real-time images of the spine while we guide you through a range of motions. This technology is ideal if we suspect you have instability of the lower lumbar spine.

Get personalized spine treatment at AHN

Our care teams develop a course of treatment that’s unique to you. We consider multiple factors, such as your level of pain, abilities, age, and lifestyle, before determining which therapies will be most effective for you.

Our team aims to reduce your pain and improve your quality of life in the least invasive way. Your treatment plan may include:

  • Nonsurgical therapies, such as physical therapy exercises and medication
  • Innovative surgical options, including advanced, minimally invasive surgical techniques as well as more conventional surgeries

Nonsurgical therapies for back and neck pain

We work with you to determine whether you may benefit from a nonsurgical treatment:

  • Injection therapies treat various types of back and neck pain, in different ways:
    • Epidural steroid injection treats irritated nerves in your spine. The drugs used may reduce inflammation and help relieve pain for up to a few months.
    • A lumbar sympathetic block is an injection of local anesthesia around the group of nerves in the lower back.
    • A therapeutic caudal nerve block is an injection of anti-inflammatory medicine near a specific nerve or group of nerves where you are experiencing pain.
  • Radiofrequency denervation involves placing extremely thin needles through the skin above your spine to use radio waves on specific nerves. This procedure interferes with the nerves’ ability to transmit pain, providing symptom relief for several months up to two years.
  • Physical therapy: Your care team may recommend physical therapy to treat a back or spine condition. You may also need physical therapy for rehabilitation after spine surgery. AHN physical therapists coordinate with your care team to deliver personalized, hands-on treatment to ease your pain and help you recover.

Surgical options for back and neck pain

At AHN’s Spine Center, our neurosurgeons are pioneers in the use of groundbreaking, minimally invasive surgical techniques. We perform a range of corrective spine surgeries using only tiny incisions.

Advanced tools such as digital mapping, high-definition cameras, and endoscopes help ensure a precise, effective procedure. Minimally invasive surgery takes less time than a traditional spine surgery, and patients typically recover faster with less pain and little or no scarring.

Our highly trained neurosurgeons perform these minimally invasive procedures in AHN’s sophisticated operating suites. Learn more about the benefits of minimally invasive neurosurgery.

We also offer traditional spine surgery for patients who would benefit more from conventional surgical approaches. Learn more about our back and spine surgery options.

Contact us

To schedule an appointment or learn more about AHN neuroscience services, call (724) 228-1414.

If you're an existing patient, you can also call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 in Pittsburgh or request an appointment with AHN neuroscience services.