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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Back Pain
July 2002

Q. I am in full agreement with my surgeon's decision for laminectomy to relieve the typical debilitating symptoms I have rather suddenly begun to experience, but I fear for my future capabilities. I have played racquetball three or four times a week for over 20 years, so I am otherwise physically fit. I am 74 and had just been retired two weeks when these symptoms began and my dreams of continuing my active life and lots of golf are being shattered.

Even if the pain is relieved and some mobility returns, what can I do to at least play some golf and return to some degree of fitness programming?

A. Back pain is a common cause of disability and often leads to medical evaluation. I am sure you have had testing to determine the cause of the problem as that will lead to treatment recommendations. Common tests include x-rays to show bone strength and alignment, and also give preliminary information about the discs, MRI which shows soft tissue such as the discs and nerves, and EMG which studies nerve function.

These usually lead to the identification of the location and cause of the pain. A range of treatments is usually available which may include rest, medication, physical therapy, local injection of cortisone, and surgery.The specifics of each case determine the options. Many patients do well in a careful rehab program following surgery and can return to an active lifestyle. (I played golf last week with a retired physician who scored in the 80's despite back surgery last year!)



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