keeping back pain at bay

Find Relief for Back Pain

More Info

help your back work for you

Help Your Back Work for You

More Info

At University of Utah Health Care we are dedicated to helping people of all ages, with a variety back, neck, and spine conditions, lead pain free, healthy lives again. Whether your spinal problem is a recent occurrence or 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. We also have experts that specialize in upper, mid, and lower back pain; spinal deformity;  scoliosis in both adults and children; spine fractures; spinal cord injuries; and tumors of the spine among others. Our goal is to help you decide on the best treatment plan customized to your individual circumstances.

Conditions

Back and Neck 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 and quality of life.

What is neck pain?

Neck pain is pain that occurs in the area of the cervical vertebrae in the neck. Because of its location and range of motion, the neck is often left unprotected and subject to injury.

Pain in the back or neck area can be acute, which comes on suddenly and intensely, or chronic, which can last for weeks, months, or even years. The pain can be continuous or intermittent.

What causes back and neck pain?

Even with today's technology, the exact cause of back and neck pain can be found in few cases. In most cases, back and neck pain may be a symptom of many different causes, including any of the following:

  • Overuse, strenuous activity, or improper use such as repetitive or heavy lifting

  • Trauma, injury, or fractures

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

  • Infection

  • Abnormal growth such as a tumor or bone spur

  • Obesity due to increased weight on the spine and pressure on the discs

  • Poor muscle tone

  • Muscle tension or spasm

  • Sprain or strain

  • Ligament or muscle tears

  • Joint problems, such as arthritis

  • Smoking

  • Protruding or herniated (slipped) disk and pinched nerve

  • Osteoporosis and compression fractures

  • Congenital (present at birth) abnormalities of the vertebrae and bones

  • Abdominal problems, such as an aortic aneurysm 

How can back and neck pain be prevented?

The following may help to prevent back and neck pain:

  • Practice correct lifting techniques

  • Use telephones and workplace computers and other equipment properly

  • Maintain correct posture while sitting, standing, and sleeping

  • Participate in regular exercise (with proper stretching before participation)

  • Avoid smoking

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Reduce emotional stress that may cause muscle tension

Rehabilitation for back and neck pain

A back and neck pain rehabilitation program is designed to meet the needs of the individual patient, depending upon the type and severity of the pain, injury, or disease. Active involvement of the patient and family is vital to the success of the program.

The goal of back and neck rehabilitation is to help the individual to return to the highest level of function and independence possible, while improving the overall quality of life — physically, emotionally, and socially. The focus of rehabilitation is on relieving pain and improving mobility (movement).

In order to help reach these goals, back and neck rehabilitation programs may include the following:

  • Exercise programs to improve range of motion, increase muscle strength, improve flexibility and mobility, and increase endurance

  • Help with obtaining assistive devices that promote independence

  • Patient and family education and counseling

  • Pain management techniques

  • Smoking cessation counseling

  • Gait (walking) and movement retraining

  • Stress management

  • Nutritional counseling

  • Ergonomic assessments and work-related injury prevention programs

  • Vocational counseling

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

Phase I:
Acute Phase

Phase II:
Recovery Phase

Phase III:
Maintenance Phase

During this initial phase, the physiatrist, orthopedist, and the rest of the treatment team focus on making a diagnosis, developing a treatment plan, and starting treatment to reduce the pain and inflammation. This may include some of the items listed above and possibly the utilization of ultrasound, electrical stimulation, or special injections.

Once the initial pain and inflammation are reduced, the rehabilitation team then focuses on helping the patient restore function. This includes returning the patient to normal daily activities, while starting an exercise program that is designed to help the patient regain flexibility and strength.

The goal of this phase is 2-fold: educating the patient on ways to prevent further injury and strain to the back and neck, and helping the patient to prevent further injury by improving strength and endurance.

The back and neck rehabilitation team

Back and neck rehabilitation programs can be conducted on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Many skilled professionals are part of the back and neck rehabilitation team, including any or all of the following:

  • Orthopedist/orthopedic surgeon

  • Neurologist/neurosurgeon

  • Physiatrist

  • Internist

  • Rehabilitation nurse

  • Registered dietitian

  • Physical therapist

  • Occupational therapist

  • Social worker

  • Exercise physiologist

  • Psychologist/psychiatrist

  • Recreational therapist

  • Case manager

  • Chaplain

  • Vocational counselor

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.)

 

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

Edgar C. Goldston, Jr., M.D.

Edgar C. Goldston, Jr., MD is actively involved with the development and implementation of the Comprehensive Spine Program at the University of Utah, which incorporates a multi-disciplinary approach to spine care. His clinical interests are in interventional spinal medicine and spinal diagnostics, as well as the... Read More

Specialties:

Neuro Spine Surgery, Neurosurgery, Pain Surgery, Spine Evaluation, Trauma - Neuro Critical Care

Locations:

Clinical Neurosciences Center (801) 585-6065

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

Sara McEvoy, M.P.A.S.

Receiving her MPAS in 2007, Sara is excited to return to the University of Utah to join the comprehensive spine care team at the Clinical Neurosciences Center. Prior to her arrival in 2012, Sara spent the previous five years working in internal medicine at the 4th Street Homeless Clinic. With her strong interest... Read More

Specialties:

Neuro Spine Surgery, Neurosurgery, Physician Assistant, Spine Evaluation

Locations:

Clinical Neurosciences Center (801) 585-6065

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 Surgery, Physician Assistant, Orthopaedic Spine Surgery

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

Locations:

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

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

Amy L. Whipple, APRN

Amy has been with the University Neurosurgery Spine Team since early 2012. Prior to joining the University System she had been working as a Nurse Practitioner in a local urgent care clinic providing both acute care and primary medicine. When she first graduated from NP school she worked with the local homeless ... Read More

Specialties:

Family Nurse Practitioner, Neuro Spine Surgery, Neurosurgery, Spine Evaluation

Locations:

Clinical Neurosciences Center (801) 585-6065
Parkway Health Center (801) 585-6065

Erica F. Bisson, M.D.

Erica F. Bisson, M.D., is a neurosurgeon who specializes in treatment of spinal disorders. Dr. Bisson obtained her medical degree from Tufts University. She also completed a fellowship in spine surgery at the University of Utah in 2008, and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at... Read More

Specialties:

Neurosurgery, Neuro Spine Surgery, Pain Surgery, Trauma - Neuro Critical Care

Locations:

Clinical Neurosciences Center (801) 585-6065
Parkway Health Center (801) 585-6065
South Jordan Health Center (801) 585-6065

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:

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

Locations:

University Orthopaedic Center (801) 587-5451

Andrew T. Dailey, M.D.

Andrew T. Dailey, MD treats patients suffering from spinal cord injury, spine trauma, and cervical degenerative disease. Dr. Dailey originally came to the University of Utah in 1998, but left after five years to practice at the University of Washington in Seattle. He returned to the University of Utah in 2006 to... Read More

Specialties:

Neurosurgery, Neuro Spine Surgery, Skull Base Surgery, Trauma - Neuro Critical Care

Locations:

Clinical Neurosciences Center (801) 585-6065

Robert S. Hood, M.D.

Robert S. Hood, MD is the second-ever resident of the Department of Neurosurgery and has since returned as faculty in September 2010. Prior to joining the department, Dr. Hood built a reputable career in private practice and was well-known for his skill in minimally invasive spine surgery and overall patient car... Read More

Specialties:

Neurosurgery, Neuro Spine Surgery

Locations:

Clinical Neurosciences Center (801) 585-6065

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

Joel D. MacDonald, M.D.

Joel D. MacDonald, MD has a broad clinical practice and research interest. His focus is on vascular disorders of the brain, along with skull base tumors and complex spine pathologies. Dr. MacDonald is also Past Vice President and Treasurer of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and the Past President and treas... Read More

Specialties:

Neurosurgery, Neuro Spine Surgery, Neurovascular Surgery, Skull Base Surgery, Trauma - Neuro Critical Care

Locations:

Clinical Neurosciences Center (801) 585-7575

Meic H. Schmidt, M.D., M.B.A.

Dr. Meic H. Schmidt is a neurosurgeon with specialized expertise in neuro-oncology and spine surgery. His main clinical focus is on management of patients with tumors and injuries to the brain, spine and spinal cord. In addition, because of his expertise in minimally invasive and endoscopic surgical techniques h... Read More

Specialties:

Neurosurgery, Brain Tumors, Endoscopic Surgery, Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery, Neuro Spine Surgery, Neuro-Oncology, Radiosurgery, Spinal Cord Tumors, Trauma - Neuro Critical Care

Locations:

Clinical Neurosciences Center (801) 585-6065
Huntsman Cancer Hospital (801) 585-0262

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:

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

Locations:

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

University of Utah Campus

Clinical Neurosciences Center 175 N. Medical Drive East
Salt Lake City, UT 84132
Map
Appointments
(801) 585-7575
University Orthopaedic Center 590 Wakara Way
Salt Lake City, UT 84108
Map
Appointments
(801) 587-7109

Community Health Centers

South Jordan Health Center 5126 W. Daybreak Parkway
South Jordan, UT 84095
Map
Appointments
(801) 213-4500
clinics & locations