Not Every Spine Needs A Big Gun

Law enforcement officers have arguably the most taxing job of all of our civil servants. Because of the nature of their profession, things such as extended sitting, extended standing, late night hours, duty belts, apprehension of criminal suspects, and the overall stress of the heroic work they do can lead to significant strains on the back.

Back pain originates from one of three components:

  • muscular strain,
  • pressure,
  • injury to a disc,
  • or arthritis of the bony elements.

The key to the appropriate management and treatment of any patient is to individualize the approach. Every spine is different. Some causes of back pain, particularly muscular problems, can be managed with rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and activity modification. For example, if a duty belt weighs more than ten to twelve pounds, some attempt should be made to either reposition or to remove some of the weight-load, even just for periods of time.

The problems associated with sitting for long periods of time in a poorly cushioned seat may be alleviated by using one of the more advanced back supports and cushions that are commercially available. Other causes of back pain, such as disc herniations, or what is commonly known as sciatica, which lead to pain in the back and the legs, may respond well to an epidural injection, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy.

Similarly, bony arthritis may respond well to physical therapy, particularly strengthening the abdomen and the lumbar spinal musculatures, which can be supervised by a physical therapist or trainer, to offload the strained body part. For the accurate diagnosis and management of any of these conditions, we need to individualize the care via a close examination, a close look at the history, as well as a look at the diagnostic studies. In more advanced cases, when something interventional or aggressive needs to be done, the pathology may be treated with a minimally invasive procedure, or sometimes may necessitate a more classic approach.

At The Center for Musculoskeletal Disorders, we stand by the motto, “We got your back!” With that in mind, we will attempt to individualize your care, paying close attention to your particular history of complaint, and individualize a care regimen just for your spine, since no two spines are alike.

Jonathan Lewin, MD