Back Pain Relief Without Surgery

back neck pain

For 85% of those with back or neck pain, sciatica or pinched nerves, relief is possible without surgery. Penn Highlands Healthcare providers offer several non-surgical treatment options, ranging from steroid injections to rehabilitation.

When should you seek professional help?

“If you are experiencing back or neck pain persisting for several weeks, worsening over time, or hampering your ability to work, it is time to talk with a physician about possible treatment options,” said Ghassan Bejjani, MD, a neurosurgeon with Penn Highlands Neurosurgery.

Schedule an appointment with your physician if you experience these symptoms:

  • Constant or intense pain, especially at night or when lying down
  • Pain that spreads down one or both legs, especially if the pain extends below the knee
  • Weakness, numbness or tingling in one or both legs
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Swelling or redness on the back
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Saddle anesthesia which is a numbness or tingling sensation in the lower abdomen and pelvis

What non-surgical treatments can help relieve back pain?

Physical therapy is often one of the first options your physician will recommend.

“The goal of physical therapy is to alleviate back or neck pain by strengthening the affected area,” said Dr. Bejjani. “A therapist specializing in back pain or neck pain will conduct an assessment to identify areas of weakness. Based on this evaluation, they will design a personalized set of exercises for you to perform every day. These prescribed exercises work to strengthen the muscles, ligaments and tendons supporting the spine.”

Your therapist may also prescribe over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as acetaminophen or naproxen, or prescribe short-term pain medication only if absolutely necessary.

In some cases, you may benefit from procedures that are less invasive than surgery, such as radiofrequency ablation, or epidural steroid injections.

Epidural steroid injections are frequently used to treat spine pain. If your doctor suggests this treatment, they may refer you to a pain specialist who will administer a steroid, such as cortisone, into the epidural space surrounding your spine. By doing so, the steroid helps to alleviate inflammation and soothe nerves, leading to a reduction in back pain or neck pain.

Steroids are not a pain-killing medication. Instead, steroids such as cortisone suppress inflammation and calm nerves, indirectly reducing pain. The steroids do not actually heal the underlying problem triggering the inflammation, but they can provide relief for many patients for months or even up to a year. This relief can provide an opportunity for the spine to heal itself or for physical therapy to help strengthen and stretch your back or neck.

Radiofrequency ablation, also called rhizotomy, is a minimally invasive procedure that uses heat to destroy nerve endings that are transmitting pain signals to the brain. In some cases, pain can be relieved permanently. This procedure is most commonly used to treat chronic pain and conditions such as arthritis of the spine (spondylosis) and sacroiliitis. It is also used to treat neck, back, knee, pelvic and peripheral nerve pain. It can be used with patients who have experienced pain relief from nerve block injections in the past.

Penn Highlands Healthcare offers expert spine care close to home. With clinics throughout Pennsylvania, (DuBois, Huntingdon, Indiana, Greensburg, Monongahela and Uniontown) Penn Highlands’ spine specialists can evaluate your back pain or neck pain, order imaging tests and provide nonsurgical treatment without requiring you to drive very far. And, if you need surgery, it can be performed at the Penn Highlands Brain and Spine Center in DuBois, or in Monongahela, with all your pre- and post-surgery care provided in the clinic closest to you. To learn more, visit