Temple Health's universal back pain program offers new approach for addressing chronic back pain

Chronic back pain keeps many from taking part in the life they want.
NORTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Back pain is the most common reason people see a doctor.

And chronic back pain keeps many from taking part in the life they want.

Harry Cassel found the solution to his decade of problems a few blocks from his home at Temple Health

Cassel vividly recalls his first bout with back pain 10 years ago.

"Like someone stuck a needle in my back and pulled it out real quick," he says, adding, "No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't stand. It hurt too much."

Although that episode went away in about a week, the pain returned again and again.

Cassel was losing time at work and with his family, till he went to Temple Health's universal back pain program.

The back pain team includes pain management, physical therapy, and other specialists.

The goal is to find the source of the pain and reduce it, so patients can deal with it.

"We help them regain their function so they could get back to doing the things they have to do in life, and hopefully, also the things they like to do," says Dr. Sam Wu, the chair of physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Dr. Wu says the foundation of the treatment approach is thorough, detailed patient history.

"Find out when things got started, how does it affect your daily life, and then we go into some of their current function status as well as some of the previous function status and see if there is a difference," says Dr. Wu.

There are also thorough exams of bone and muscle systems, and if nerves are involved, a complete neurological exam.

Once Dr. Wu's team has a working diagnosis, they'll zero in on the problem with x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and nerve tests.

For Cassel , the test yielded a surprise.

"It wasn't until the X-ray came back is when I realized that there's actually a little broken bone in my back," Cassel recalls.

And he also realized that the injury probably stemmed from gymnastics in his youth.

"Several times....on certain wall backflips, I'd fallen on my back very hard," he says.

With targeted exercises and knowledge of how to use his back, Cassel is moving freely again.

"I'm not hurting my back anymore. And I know down the road - now I know what it is. So I feel more comfortable," he says with a smile.

Dr. Wu says back pain doesn't always start in the back. It may be a hip issue, or another joint throwing off a person's gait.

And neck pain is often rooted in misalignment of the shoulders. So that thorough evaluation is essential.
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