Nonoperative Spine Care

MedStar National Rehabilitation Network’s Pain Management Program offers state-of-the-art evaluation and treatment of back, neck and spine pain. The goal is to arrive at a specific diagnosis, and formulate the most effective treatment plan.

How We Work

The MedStar Spine Center at Chevy Chase offers a full-range of outpatient treatments, tailored to the specific needs of each individual.

 Upon arriving at our center, you are evaluated by one of our highly trained, board-certified physiatrists as the first step toward an accurate diagnosis. As part of that process, you may also need imaging studies to look for abnormalities, with X-rays and MRI imaging available on-site for your convenience.

 Fortunately, most patients can be helped through a combination of medications, injections and other minor procedures to relieve inflammation and pain, along with physical therapy to help you safely return to the activities you enjoy and prevent reinjury.

 An on-site fluoroscopy suite lets patients receive image-guided epidural injections, sympathetic nerve blocks and other treatments on the spot. For the less than 10 percent who see little or no improvement, the physiatrist will schedule a consultation with one of our spine surgeons at the Chevy Chase site.

 Should surgery be the answer, procedures are performed at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, with the vast majority—8 out of 10—eligible for a minimally invasive procedure.  In fact, MedStar Georgetown uses minimally invasive spinal surgery (MISS) for more conditions than any other hospital in the area. 

 Evaluating Your Pain

Our goal is to relieve your back or neck pain and restore your ability to enjoy your favorite activities. One of the best ways to ensure you get the most successful back and spine treatment is to describe your pain accurately and in detail—where it is, when it starts, what helps to relieve it. This way, our back and spine doctors and therapists can understand what you are dealing with. Consider the following questions when thinking about describing your pain:

  • When does the pain happen?
  • How long does it last? Does the pain come and go? Or is it there all the time?
  • Is this pain new? Have you ever had this pain before?
  • Does it hurt in more than one place?
  • Does it feel like it's on the inside or on the outside of your body?
  • Does the pain keep you from doing certain things?
  • Does pain interrupt your sleep? Does it change your mood? Affect your appetite?
  • What makes the pain better? What makes it worse? What have you tried to relieve the pain?

Associated Pain

The spine consists of bones (vertebrae) separated by soft cushions (discs). Nerves that travel from the brain to the rest of the body all pass through the spine. When compression due to a herniated disc, facet joint cyst, or spinal stenosis is applied to nerves, pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness can occur. These sensations are not always relegated to the back or spine; rather, they can occur in many areas of the body, depending on what nerves are pressed, where they originate in the spine, and where they travel to.

Common causes of associated back and spine pain include

  • Degenerative disc disease (flattening of the disc)
  • Facet syndrome (inflammation or degeneration of facet joints)
  • Herniated Disks (Disks slip out of place or rupture and leak, pressure is applied to nearby nerves)
  • Infection
  • Muscle strain (pulled muscle) or spasm (overworked muscle)
  • Osteoarthritis (Cartilage in the spinal joints gradually erodes)
  • Osteoporosis(Bone density is lost, causing vertebrae to weaken, fracture, or collapse)
  • Scoliosis (abnormal spine curvature)
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of spinal canal, compressing nerves)
  • Spondylolisthesis (slippage of one vertebra over another)
  • Spondylolysis (Fracture of the pars interarticularis of the vertebrae)
  • Tumor

Arm and Leg Pain

Experiencing serious pain in our arms and legs can make even the simplest tasks feel very difficult.  Arm and leg pain can arise from the common causes listed earlier, but also from the following spinal issues or injuries:

  • Brachial Plexus Injury: The brachial plexus is a group of nerves that transmits messages from the spine to the hand, shoulder, and arm. Inflammation, a tumor, or a serious shoulder injury can damage the brachial plexus and cause arm and shoulder pain, as well as numbness, weakness, or paralysis in the arm.
  • Sciatica: Sciatica occurs when a herniated disk applies pressure to the nerve roots of the spine that control sensation and motor function in the leg and foot. Those with sciatica often feel leg cramping, burning, weakness, numbness, and tingling.

Back Pain

No matter how sharp, or how long it lasts, back pain often limits our ability to feel active and productive. The top priority for anyone suffering from back pain is simply to eliminate the pain. Common causes of back pain include

  • Aging
  • Too much activity that strains the back muscles
  • Being out of shape or overweight, allowing extra weight to strain the back

Neck Pain

Common causes of neck pain include:

  • Poor posture, especially while using a computer or watching television
  • Quickly moving or twisting your head
  • Sleeping in an improper position

Learn more about rehabilitation at MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital