Frequently Asked Questions

Although back pain is common, it can often be confusing. Symptoms, treatment options and medication choices are sometimes puzzling. The following are a few of the more frequently asked questions and their answers compiled by our specialists. While this list presents factual information, it is important to always ask your health care provider for more details about your particular case.


Can I take Tylenol if I also take ibuprofen?

Yes. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that works by blocking the inflammatory cascade. Tylenol works centrally in the brain. Since they work with different actions, they actually work well together.

I am scheduled to have a fusion surgery. Will I be able to go up steps after surgery?

Steps after surgery are usually not a problem. However, your surgeon will probably want you to limit bending, lifting and twisting motions after the surgery to prevent increased discomfort and allow the fusion to successfully heal.

I had a microdiscectomy two weeks ago and continue to have numbness in my leg. The pain in the leg is gone, but will the numbness be permanent?

Numbness in the leg usually takes longer to go away than the pain. It can take several weeks to months, and may even take up to a year for the numbness to go away. If the numbness is still there after a year, then it is probably permanent.

I have been told that the cause of my back pain is from "bone spurs." How do they cause pain, and do they need to be removed?

Bone spurs are not a cause of back pain, although they are a marker for degenerative arthritis. As many people who have spurs have back pain and don't have back pain. As the joints degenerate in the aging process, the body tries to decrease the pressure by expanding the surface area. Removing the spurs won't help back pain because they are not a cause of the pain, and the degenerative arthritis will still be present. The only time spurs need to be removed is if they push on a nerve and cause leg pain.

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is an abnormal lateral curve of the spine (backbone). If the spine is very crooked, the ribs or hips may stick out more on one side than the other. In addition, one shoulder may be lower than the other. Scoliosis may begin in childhood but often is not noticed until the teen years. In most cases, the exact cause isn't known. It seems to run in some families and is more common in girls than boys.

How can I tell if my child has scoliosis?

Look at your child's spine to see if it curves; also check to see if one shoulder is lower than the other. Many public schools check for scoliosis in the fifth or sixth grade, but these tests are not always reliable. Your doctor may also check just by looking at your child's stance, or x-rays may be needed for a definitive diagnosis.

Does scoliosis cause any problems?

In most people, the curve in the spine is so small it causes no problems. In fact, it doesn't usually cause back pain. In severe cases, however, the curve may restrict the amount of space available for the lungs and heart to work properly.

How is scoliosis treated in children?

In most cases no treatment is needed. Your doctor will check your child regularly to make sure the curve isn't getting worse. Sometimes a brace is worn to keep the spine from curving more than it already is. The good news is that today's braces are lighter and less bulky and often are not visible under clothing. If the brace doesn't stop the spine from curving, surgery may be needed. During surgery the bones may be moved and joined together to strengthen the spine, or a rod may be placed in the spine to straighten it.

My 10-year-old daughter has scoliosis (42 degree curve in her lower back). I am told she is a candidate for endoscopic surgery. What is known about this surgery?

Endoscopic surgery for scoliosis most often involves "loosening" the spine or performing an "anterior release" at needed levels to allow for ultimate straightening of the spine. Most often, anterior endoscopic approaches are combined with some type of anterior or posterior rod placement. Check with your surgeon, as it is likely that the endoscopic procedure is not the only thing planned for correction of a significant scoliosis (though in some cases this may indeed be the case).