WHO DO YOU CALL WHEN YOUR ACHING BACK IS TELLING YOU TO SEE A DOCTOR?
IU Health North Spine Program
11700 N. Meridian St. Carmel, IN 46032
With 80 percent of Hoosiers experiencing acute or recurring back pain at some point, Indiana University Health North Hospital recently launched its new Spine Program with a focus on conservative care of back and neck pain. Studies show that people who pursue more conservative treatment for back pain tend to have fewer complications than those who end up rushing into MRIs, X-rays, epidural injections, narcotics and even spine surgery long before truly necessary.
“We developed the IU Health North Spine Program to provide coordinated care through a multidisciplinary approach for patients in need of services for acute and recurring back or neck pain,” says Sheldon Weiss, MD, MHCM, Chief Strategy Officer for IU Health’s North Central Region (IU Health North Hospital in Carmel, IU Health Saxony Hospital in Fishers and IU Health Tipton Hospital). “What sets us apart from other spine centers in the area is how prompt you’ll have access to our clinicians.”
The Spine Program at IU Health North allows patients to self-refer by calling the center directly. Within 24 hours, a Spine Program Navigator will conduct an initial triage assessment via phone and schedule the patient with a spine program physiatrist or refer them back to their primary care provider. Physiatrist appointments usually take place within two to three business days, and imaging is not required before seeing a clinician.
Patients of the IU Health North Spine Program are under the care of an IUHP physiatrist – or a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR) physician who treats a wide variety of medical conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons. Back and neck pain care is individualized, so the length of time that conservative treatment continues varies by patient and condition.
“Low back pain is the most common condition we see at the clinic. This can include low back pain alone or with the radicular pain that goes down the legs,” says Tiffany Thacker, FNP-BC, RN, BSN, IU Health North’s Spine Program Coordinator. “Conservative care typically starts with physical therapy. It is most appropriate for the patient that has had less than three months of pain or has never sought treatment for their condition. Other therapeutic steps might include a home exercise program, imaging, a short course of medication and of course time.
An estimated 90 percent of back pain episodes will resolve within six weeks to three months, whether it’s the result of an injury or due to a structural or nerve problem. Of course, knowing that fact makes back pain misery only slightly more bearable, so most patients seek treatment strategies to relieve pain and potentially shorten the wait until the hourglass runs its course.
As a general rule, surgery for back pain is considered only after conservative treatments have failed, and the pain persists over an extended period of time. Dr. Weiss stresses, “We are not looking at all patients as a spine surgical patient. We are looking at them with an injury to their back that needs to be treated”