What to Expect When You See a Back Pain Specialist

December 8, 2022 | New Year's Resolutions for Your Business Emily Burns, ARNP – Back Pain Clinic, Spine Center, The Iowa Clinic,

There are 33 vertebrae in your spine and 46 muscles in your back and neck. Anything that’s inflamed, out of place or out of whack can send pain anywhere from your head to your toes to your fingertips.

“Early intervention is key. The faster you’re seen for neck or back pain, the faster you can relieve it and avoid a chronic issue,” says Emily Burns, ARNP, a back pain specialist at The Iowa Clinic’s West Des Moines campus. “The goal of a back pain assessment is to get you the right treatment at the right time.”

A lot of things can cause back pain: poor posture or core strength, lack of exercise, excessive or improper lifting, trauma or a spine condition. Sometimes, there’s no clear cause at all. A physical examination, starting at the top of the spine and working down to the tailbone, can find the answer. This exam checks your vital signs, reflexes, and strength. Your provider will use this information to make a diagnosis. With all this information, your back pain specialist puts the pieces together and makes the diagnosis.

Even with an accurate diagnosis, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to resolving neck and back pain. And it’s unlikely that you’ll get immediate relief — especially if you have chronic pain.

“As much as we’d like to give you a pill to make the pain go away, that’s not going to be the case,” Burns says. “Pain relievers only offer shortterm relief. We’re treating the cause of your pain to make sure it goes away and stays away.”

Your treatment plan will vary depending on your diagnosis, medical history, pain tolerance and interventions that have or have not worked in the past. You may receive anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, pain management treatments, or home programs.

“People often think that their pain will always be there or that the only way to fix it is through surgery,” Burns says. “But back pain, even chronic pain, can be improved over time by trying out different treatments to see what works best for you.”