Back Pain

Spine Center

Appointment New Patient Appointment or 214-645-8300

At UT Southwestern Medical Center, our experts specialize in both nonsurgical and surgical treatments for back pain.

Our multidisciplinary team approach gives patients access to neurosurgeons, orthopaedic spine surgeons, pain management specialists, and physiatrists – all with one call. Our goal is to partner with our patients in their care, get them back to health as soon as possible, and help them achieve the best outcomes.

Back Pain Treated with a Multidisciplinary Approach

Back pain has a wide range of causes – from injuries, pinched nerves, and herniated discs to spinal fractures and conditions such as arthritis and spondylolisthesis. Regardless of the cause, back pain can greatly diminish patients' quality of life.

Our multidisciplinary approach helps us coordinate, facilitate, and expedite patient care, saving our patients’ time

Symptoms of Back Pain

Back pain can manifest in a variety of ways and can be divided into two categories: acute and chronic.

  • Acute back pain rarely lasts more than three weeks and usually resolves on its own. This type of pain often results from heavy lifting, awkward movement, or a minor sports injury.
  • Chronic back pain typically lasts more than three months and often requires medical intervention. Chronic back pain often cannot be traced to a single cause.

Back pain is often described as one or more of the following:

  • Burning sensation
  • Dull, aching pain
  • Sharp, stabbing pain

Pain may extend into the buttocks or even as far as the upper legs. Depending on the cause or causes, it can range from mild to extreme.

Diagnosis of Back Pain

When patients come to us with back pain, we’ll conduct a physical examination and order spine imaging and other studies to determine its cause. Tests, procedures, and studies used to evaluate and diagnose back pain might include:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan, which uses X-ray technology to create detailed images of body parts
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a precise technique that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of body parts
  • Myelography, which reveals problems in the body through a combination of X-ray or CT scans and a contrast dye
  • Nerve conduction studies and electromyography to measure electrical activity generated by muscles and nerves
  • X-ray, or radiography, which creates images of the body by focusing a small amount of radiation on the affected area
  • Bone scan, which uses nuclear imaging to detect bone disease

Treatment for Back Pain

After diagnosis, we make sure the patient sees the right experts to treat their specific symptoms. We also create a care plan that minimizes the number of visits a patient needs to make, while also providing all the support needed.

Our doctors treat back pain with a complete spectrum of multidisciplinary therapies, including:

  • Anti-inflammation drugs, which are often effective for conditions such as arthritis or sciatica
  • Cortisone injections, which are steroid shots that can target different pain generators that can reduce inflammation and pain
  • Procedures such as nerve blocks and radiofrequency ablations that can help decrease pain generated from the spine
  • Physical therapy (PT), in which the patient is taught stretching, strengthening, and conditioning the parts of the body that support the spine and back
  • Surgery might be recommended when other methods of recovery have not been sufficient or in the case of a medical emergency. Minimally invasive surgery, in which an endoscope is used to gently enter the spine, is often effective for conditions such as herniated discs or mild spinal fractures. Traditional open surgery may be recommended when the problem is more advanced or if a patient has had previous surgeries. Conditions that may require open surgery include severe disc degeneration, severe scoliosis, or spinal trauma.
  • Biofeedback, a technique that uses electrical sensors to learn about what’s happening in the body

More than 90% of back and spine problems can be managed or cured without surgical intervention. Exercising consistently, maintaining a healthy weight, and following recommended pharmaceutical and physical therapy regimens can help patients overcome most instances of back pain.

Some patients also experience positive results from safe alternative therapies such as:

  • Electrical stimulation: In this treatment, a qualified medical professional applies electrical current to loosen muscles in the abdominal area or spine.
  • Myofascial release: This method uses deep soft tissue massage to loosen muscles that may be compressing nerves in the spine.

Clinical Trials

UT Southwestern conducts clinical trials aimed at improving the diagnosis and treatment of back pain. Talk with our doctors to see if a clinical trial is available.