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Herniated Discs Respond To Treatment
By Lois Thomson

The good thing about herniated discs, according to Dr. David Provenzano, is that 90 to 93 percent of people who have them will respond to conservative treatment. And the even better news is that Dr. Provenzano, Executive Director of the Institute for Pain Diagnostics and Care (IPDC) at the Ohio Valley General Hospital, can provide that treatment.

Discs are located between the vertebrae in the spine and help to cushion the bones. However, as Dr. Provenzano explained, the outer wall of the disc can become weak, and part of the jelly-like inner portion can rupture out. When that happens it can cause extreme pain, and that's the time to turn to the IPDC.

"There are many treatments we can do," Dr. Provenzano said. "They include medications to help with the pain and could consist of anti-inflammatories, oral steroids, or stronger pain medications to help them during the acute phase."

He said he also get patients involved in physical therapy to help them with back care exercises, as well as to help them understand which activities put them at higher risk for hurting the disc. "We also perform epidural steroid injections. That's when we do an injection under an X-ray machine and specifically guide medication right where the herniation is, to help quiet the area where the person is having pain."

What causes herniated discs? Dr. Provenzano said some of the risk factors include a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, or frequently lifting heavy objects. "And then there are some people who just unfortunately develop herniated discs while others don't," he said, adding that symptomatic disc herniations are seen in all age groups, but have their peak in patients between 35 and 45 years of age.

However, not all back pain is the result of a herniated disc. Dr. Provenzano said statistics show that between 60 and 80 percent of people experience lower back pain during their lives, but the IPDC can discover the source. "We help these people determine the cause of their lower back pain. We do a physical examination, and if we need to, we get imaging studies, such as an MRI, to help with the diagnosis."

Dr. Provenzano, who has been with IPDC since 2006, is an authority on the subject. He is also President of the Board of Directors of the American Chronic Pain Association, and was recently promoted to the Research Committee of the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine.

He concluded by saying, "If people have a fair amount of pain, it's good for them to seek care early, and that's where I think a pain treatment center really comes in at an advantage. We can design a conservative care plan to help them deal with the healing process and to help them with the natural course of the disease. But while the body is healing we can make them much more comfortable, and we can also accelerate that process."

For more information or to make an appointment at the Institute for Pain Diagnostics and Care, call (412) 777-6400 (West location) or (412) 847-7550 (North location), or visit www.ifpdac.org

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