LiveSmart: Lifestyle Choices, New Technologies Can Help with Lower Back Pain

[This piece was written by Thomas J. Lovely, MD, St. Peter’s Hospital Spine & Neurosurgery, St. Peter’s Health Partners Medical Associates.]

Back pain is an all-too-familiar problem for many Americans. It can come on suddenly from a fall or lifting something too heavy, or develop slowly due to arthritis or other age-related changes to the spine. Chances are, if you don’t have it now, you will eventually.

Back pain becomes more common with age. It is one of our society’s most universal medical problems. Although anyone can have back pain, age, fitness and diet are significant factors that impact the likelihood of hurting your back.

The most common source of pain is a strained muscle or ligament. Either can result from under-conditioning, overexertion, or forcing your back into a position it’s not designed for. Daily exercise and stretching go a long way towards avoiding back pain for many people, as well as proper body mechanics when bending, lifting, and even laying down.

But what options exist for those already suffering from back pain? First time treatment for chronic lower back pain is usually non-surgical in nature, with a goal of managing the pain through medications, physical therapy, and injections.

When those approaches don’t bring relief, surgery is usually the next step. The good news is, technology has advanced to where many back surgeries can now be accomplished with minimally-invasive procedures with greatly improved outcomes.

One common source of chronic back pain is known as Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Dysfunction. The sacroiliac joint transfers weight from the upper body through the pelvis to the legs. Because the SI joint provides stability for the pelvis and bears the load of the upper body, when it begins to wear and fail, the impact on the individual’s quality of life is significant.

A new technology, known as the iFuse Implant System allows physicians to provide pain relief to individuals suffering with SI Joint Dysfunction. Through a minimally invasive surgical technique, three triangular titanium implants are placed across the SI joint, offering immediate stability and long-term fusion of the SI joint. The implants are coated with a porous titanium plasma spray that is similar to that used in total joint replacement surgery.

A recent randomized controlled trial published in the journal Neurosurgery found the iFuse Implant System was more effective than non-surgical management at one year in relieving pain, improving function, and improving quality of life in patients with SI joint dysfunction.

St. Peter’s Hospital Spine & Neurosurgery is a multi-disciplinary surgical practice providing the most advanced treatments for the care of spinal, brain and peripheral nerve conditions, including the iFuse Implant System to treat SI Joint Dysfunction.

Conservative treatment options include physical therapy based care and image-guided spinal injections. In more complex cases, surgical procedures such as the iFuse, discectomy, laminectomy, cervical fusions or lumbar fusions, and artificial disc replacements are available. Surgical services are provided in state-of-the-art surgical suites at St. Peter’s Hospital.

For more information, call St. Peter’s Hospital Spine & Neurosurgery at 518.713.5400, or visit us at


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