neck & spine

About Back & Neck Pain

Spine care at the University Orthopaedic Center provides a unique and collaborative approach to addressing adult and pediatric spine conditions. This is done by combining spine surgeons, physiatrists and physical therapists in the diagnosis, treatment and care of our patients. Whether your spinal problem is a recent occurrence, a long term issue or if you suffer from spinal disease, we provide the highest level of care for the full spectrum of spine conditions.

Our physicians are also faculty within the University of Utah Department of Orthopaedics and have been ranked in the top 20 programs nationwide by US News & World Report.  Our active research mission allows patients access to clinical trials for cutting edge treatments for both traumatic and degenerative conditions.  Our orthopaedic resident and fellow program has cultivated doctors who now serve patients with the latest knowledge in spine care across the globe.

Contact Us

(801) 587-5451

spine

Specific problems we treat in both adults and children:

Low Back Pain

What is low back pain?

Low back pain can range from mild, dull, annoying pain, to persistent, severe, disabling pain in the lower back. Pain in the lower back can restrict mobility and interfere with normal functioning.

Low back pain is 1 of the most significant health problems facing society today. Consider these statistics from the National Institutes of Health:

  • Eight out of 10 people have back pain at some time in their life.

  • Back pain is a common cause of activity limitation in children and adults of all ages.

What causes low back pain?

Even with today's technology, the exact cause of low back pain can be difficult to determine. In most cases, back pain may be a symptom of many different causes, including any or several of the following:

  • Overuse, strenuous activity, or improper use (for example, repetitive or heavy lifting, or exposure to vibration for prolonged periods of time)

  • Trauma, injury, or fracture

  • Degeneration of vertebrae (often caused by stresses on the muscles and ligaments that support the spine, or the effects of aging)

  • Infection

  • Abnormal growth (tumor)

  • Obesity (often caused by increased weight on the spine and pressure on the discs)

  • Poor muscle tone in the back

  • Muscle tension or spasm

  • Sprain or strain

  • Ligament or muscle tears

  • Joint problems (such as, spinal stenosis)

  • Smoking

  • Protruding or herniated (slipped) disk

  • Disease (for example, osteoarthritis, spondylitis, or compression fractures)

Can low back pain be prevented?

The following may help to prevent low back pain:

  • Practicing correct lifting techniques

  • Maintaining correct posture while sitting, standing, and sleeping

  • Exercising regularly (with proper stretching before participation)

  • Avoiding smoking

  • Maintaining a healthy weight

  • Reducing emotional stress which may cause muscle tension

How is low back pain diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for low back pain may include the following. However, during many initial assessments and examinations, specialized tests are not necessary:

  • X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of bones onto film.

  • Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan). A diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

  • Radionuclide bone scan. A nuclear imaging technique that uses a very small amount of radioactive material, which is injected into the patient's bloodstream to be detected by a scanner. This test shows blood flow to the bone and cell activity within the bone.

  • Electromyogram (EMG). A test to evaluate nerve and muscle function.

Treatment for low back pain

Specific treatment for low back pain will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Diagnosis

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Activity modification

  • Medication

  • Physical rehabilitation and/or therapy

  • Occupational therapy

  • Weight loss (if overweight)

  • No smoking

  • Following a prevention program (as directed by your doctor)

  • Surgery

  • Assistive devices (for example, mechanical back supports)

Low back pain rehabilitation

Generally, there are 3 phases to low back pain rehabilitation. These include the following:

  • Phase I: Acute Phase. During this initial phase, the physiatrist and treatment team focus on making a diagnosis, developing an appropriate treatment plan, and implementing the treatment regimen to reduce the initial low back pain and source of inflammation. This may include any or all of the items listed above and/or the utilization of ultrasound, electrical stimulation, or specialized injections.

  • Phase II: Recovery Phase. Once the initial pain and inflammation are better managed, the rehabilitation team then focuses on helping the patient to restore working function of the body. This includes returning the patient to normal daily activities while implementing a specialized exercise program that is designed to help the individual regain flexibility and strength.

  • Phase III: Maintenance Phase. The goal of this phase of low back pain rehabilitation is 2-fold — educating the individual on ways to prevent further injury and strain to the back, and helping the individual to maintain an appropriate level of physical fitness to help further increase strength and endurance.

Anatomy of the Spine

The vertebral column, also called the backbone, is made up of 33 vertebrae that are separated by spongy disks and classified into 4 distinct areas. The cervical area consists of 7 bony parts in the neck; the thoracic spine consists of 12 bony parts in the back area; the lumbar spine consists of 5 bony segments in the lower back area; 5 sacral* bones; and 4 coccygeal* bones (the number of coccygeal bones can vary from 5 to 3).

(* By adulthood, the 5 sacral vertebrae fuse to form 1 bone, and the 4 coccygeal vertebrae fuse to form 1 bone.)

 

Darrel S. Brodke, M.D.

Darrel S. Brodke, MD is a board certified spine specialist with expertise in the care of neck and back problems, including disc herniations, spinal stenosis, degenerative conditions, deformities and trauma of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. Dr. Brodke received his MD at the University of California, Sa... Read More

Specialties:

Degenerative Spine Surgery, Orthopaedic Spine Surgery, Orthopaedic Surgery, Spinal Deformity Surgery, Spine Trauma

Locations:

University Orthopaedic Center (801) 587-5451

Joseph G. Cunniff, D.O.

Joseph G. Cunniff, D.C, D.O., received his B.S. from the University of the State of New York in 1984 and his D.C. from Western States Chiropractic College in 1987. After 10 years of private practice he returned to academics and received his D.O. from the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2002. Following... Read More

Specialties:

Foot and Ankle, Non-operative Musculoskeletal Disorders, Osteopathic Care, Pain Medicine, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Spine, Spine Evaluation

Locations:

University Orthopaedic Center (801) 587-7109

Richard W. Kendall, D.O.

Dr. Richard W. Kendall holds board certifications from The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation with a sub-specialty certification in pain management. Dr. Kendall's focus is on rehabilitation treatments and diagnosis of back and neck pain using interventional spine procedures, electrodiagnosit... Read More

Specialties:

Back, EMG, Electrodiagnosis, Neck, Non-operative Musculoskeletal Disorders, Osteopathic Care, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Spine, Spine Evaluation, Sports Medicine

Locations:

University Orthopaedic Center (801) 587-7109

Brandon Lawrence, M.D.

Dr. Lawrence is a Board Certified Orthopaedic Surgeon specializing in adult and pediatric cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine disorders. Dr. Lawrence focuses his practice in degenerative and traumatic conditions of the spine including disc degeneration and herniation, spinal stenosis, spinal deformity, spinal ... Read More

Specialties:

Degenerative Spine Surgery, Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery, Orthopaedic Spine Surgery, Orthopaedic Surgery, Spinal Deformity Surgery, Spine Arthroplasty, Spine Surgery, Spine Trauma

Locations:

University Orthopaedic Center (801) 587-5451

Jason T. Montgomery, PA-C

Nationally Certified Physician Assistant who joined the Department of Orthopaedics in July 2010. He completed his training at Jefferson College of Health Sciences, Roanoke, Virginia, and then completed in internship with Central Utah Clinic Cardiology. His undergraduate work was done in the field of behavioral h... Read More

Specialties:

Orthopaedic Spine Surgery, Orthopaedic Surgery, Physician Assistant

Locations:

University Orthopaedic Center (801) 587-7109

David J. Petron, M.D.

Dr. David Petron, Assistant Professor (clinical) is a primary care orthopaedic/sports medicine specialist. He originally trained in family practice and then completed a fellowship in primary care orthopaedics and sports medicine at Michigan State University. Dr. Petron is the Director of Primary Care Sports Medi... Read More

Specialties:

Family Medicine, Foot and Ankle, Shoulder, Spine Evaluation, Sports Medicine

Locations:

UUHC - Park City Ski Clinic (435) 655-7970
University Orthopaedic Center (801) 587-7109

William Spiker, M.D.

Dr. Spiker treats conditions of the neck and back such as disk herniations, spinal stenosis, cervical myelopathy and deformities of the spine. He believes in the thoughtful use of new technologies, including minimally invasive surgery and image-guided techniques. As an Assistant Professor in the Department of O... Read More

Specialties:

Degenerative Spine Surgery, Orthopaedic Spine Surgery, Orthopaedic Surgery, Spinal Deformity Surgery, Spine Trauma

Locations:

South Jordan Health Center (801) 213-4500
University Orthopaedic Center (801) 587-7100

Pamela A. Hansen, M.D.

Dr. Pamela A. Hansen is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine, specializing in musculoskeletal sports and spine rehabilitation. Dr. Hansen's clinical interests include rehabilitation of musculoskeletal problems, interventional spine procedures, and electrodiagnostic testing.... Read More

Specialties:

Acupuncture, Back, Cancer Rehabilitation, EMG, Electrodiagnosis, Foot and Ankle, Neck, Non-operative Musculoskeletal Disorders, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Spine, Spine Evaluation, Sports Medicine

Locations:

Huntsman Cancer Institute (801) 587-4585
University Orthopaedic Center (801) 587-7109
University Orthopaedic Center 590 Wakara Way
Salt Lake City, UT 84108
Map
801-587-7109
South Jordan Health Center 5126 W. Daybreak Parkway
South Jordan, UT 84095
Map
801-213-4500
clinics & locations