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Spine Clinic

It seems like a simple concept — people with uncomplicated, acute back pain or neck pain want:

  • To get an appointment right away with a spine specialist
  • To start getting appropriate care at that first appointment
  • To be able to function again as quickly as possible
     James Babington, MD, reviews common spinal pain points with Anna Wright, PhD
James Babington, MD, reviews common spinal pain points with Anna Wright, PhD

Yet when Virginia Mason designed a system to make these things possible, the concept was so innovative that hospitals across the country are now striving to follow in our footsteps.

What “uncomplicated but acute back pain” means
How the Spine Clinic is different
Misconceptions about spine surgery
What about “non-acute” back pain or neck pain?

To learn more about the Spine Clinic or to schedule an appointment with a specialist, call (206) 41-SPINE or (206) 417-7463.

What “uncomplicated but acute back pain” means

“Acute” means something that has recently occurred. While the meaning of the term varies in medicine, it typically means anywhere from the first day of onset to around six weeks.

Uncomplicated, acute back pain or neck pain is usually unexpected — you bend over to pick up a ball and feel a sharp pain, or chronic low-grade pain suddenly escalates. Uncomplicated pain is not associated with red flags of back and neck pain. This pain is acute, and is only called “uncomplicated” because not a lot of interventions have been tried yet to help it.

Treating acute back pain right away — and appropriately — can get you back to your life much sooner.

How the Spine Clinic is different

In most of the country, someone who has an episode of acute back or neck pain is typically given numerous tests, usually including an MRI. Then finally — about 80 percent of the time — they are referred to physical therapy.

At the Spine Clinic, we have turned this process around:

  • At your appointment, a physical therapist specially trained in back issues will ask several questions and do a thorough evaluation.
  • At the same appointment, a physiatrist will come in, discuss your issues with you and the physical therapist, and do any further evaluation needed.
  • If physical therapy is determined to be the best treatment for you, your first therapy session will begin right then.

A physiatrist is a physician who specializes in rehabilitative medicine. At the Spine Clinic, our physiatrists focus on what may be limiting your ability to do your normal activities and develop a plan to help you become as functional as possible.

A team of multidisciplinary specialists who make up our Spine Conference reviews many spine cases individually. This group includes physiatrists, interventional specialists and surgeons who all have the same goal: trying to find the best solution, to be applied at the best time, for each patient.

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Misconceptions about spine surgery

There is a common misperception that severe back pain usually leads to some type of back surgery. The opposite is actually true: Most back issues can be resolved without surgery.

At Virginia Mason, we focus on helping patients make the right decisions about their care at the appropriate time. If physical therapy alone is not enough, other treatment options are available. In some cases, spinal injections of medication help in getting you on a good road to recovery.

If you are a candidate for surgery, you will be scheduled to meet with a spine surgeon. Your spine surgeon will make the most appropriate recommendation for your individual circumstances. At Virginia Mason our board-certified spine surgeons are highly experienced in all types surgical treatments for spine pain.

What about “non-acute” back pain or neck pain?

Chronic back pain can have a debilitating affect on your quality of life. Our team can schedule an appointment for you with one of our physiatrists for a thorough assessment and treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Depending on a person’s specific situation, self-care, physical therapy and surgery — or some combinations of treatments — are all available for treating back pain.

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