VIRGINIA BRAIN & SPINE CENTER
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Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Neurosurgeon?
A neurosurgeon is a doctor who specializes in the surgical treatment of neurological problems. A neurosurgeon spends at least four years in medical school and at least six years in residency training. Although more commonly known as a "brain surgeon," a neurosurgeon is also an expert on the surgical care problems involving the spine and nerves. A neurosurgeon is different from a neurologist which is a doctor who specializes in the medical treatment of neurological problems. A patient is often sent to see a neurosurgeon when they have a neurological problem that may benefit from surgery. If surgery is not deemed necessary, the neurosurgeon can still offer nonsurgical treatment options for the management of certain neurological conditions.
How do I get an appointment?
All new patients must have a referral sent directly to our office from a qualified medical care provider (even if it is not required by insurance). Talk with your medical care provider about the problem you are having and they will decide whether a neurosurgical consultation is recommended. If they agree that a consultation warranted then they can send a referral to our office.
What causes neck and back pain?
Back pain may have one or more causes. Most often back pain is due to a type of generalized arthritis known as spondylosis. Sudden trauma as well as chronic degenerative changes can put stresses on the joints of the neck and back that will cause pain. The neck and back often feels stiff. This joint pain is often worse in the morning and with inactivity. It may improve throughout the day as the joints "loosen up." This pain will often trigger muscle spasms and lead to a positive feedback loop-spasm will cause more tension on the joints, leading to more pain, then more muscle spasm, and so on. Anti-inflammatory pain medicine and muscle relaxers often help to bread this cycle of pain. This type of back pain does not improve with surgery.
Back pain may also be due to degeneration of the intervertebral discs and abnormal motion in the spine. The most extreme example would be an acute trauma with a fractured spine and spinal instability. Degenerative changes over time can also lead to abnormal motion. This back pain is often accompanied with pain the the arms or legs due to pressure on the nerves as well. This type of back pain may benefit from surgery.
Why does my arm hurt if the problem is in my neck?
The nerves that travel down the arm all originate from the spinal cord within the neck. A bone spur or disc herniation in the neck pay push on the nerve where it exits from the spinal cord (the nerve root). This pressure will irritate the nerve and may lead to pain, numbness/tingling, or weakness in the distribution of that nerve.
Why does my leg hurt if the problem is in my back?
The nerves that travel down the leg all originate from the spinal cord and travel within the spinal column in the lower (lumbar) spine. A bone spur or disc herniation in the back may push on the nerve where it exits from the spinal canal (the nerve root). This pressure will irritate the nerve and may lead to pain, numbness/tingling, or weakness in the distribution of that nerve.
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