Temple Health uses a team approach to battle back pain

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- These days, cancer patients usually see a team of specialists, not just one doctor. Now Temple Health has begun using a team approach for a very common problem, back pain.

The spine has 26 bones, 120 muscles, and 31 pairs of nerves, together they send more people to doctors than any other region of the body.

Nearly everyone has had back pain. And some reports claim complaints went up 30-percent last year, with so many Americans working from home.

Dr. Sam Wu, a physiatrist at Temple Health, said that while back pain often goes away with time, long-term problems aren't unusual.

"The majority of patients I see have back pain with neck pain that has lasted for weeks, and sometimes months," he said.

Those patients often see many different doctors, physical therapists, and other specialists, seeking relief. To simplify and streamline care, Temple Health has created a "universal back pain program." It includes Dr. Wu's specialty, physical medicine and rehabilitation.

"Along with orthopedic spine surgeons, and neurosurgeons who specialize in spine, as well as interventional radiologists who are experts at injection, as well as anesthesia pain management," he said.

The first step:

"What is the cause of this pain? Many times it's because of muscles, sometimes because of the nerves," he said.

The team assesses the impact of the pain on the patient's life, and develops a treatment plan.

"How can we help the person regain the ability to work, to care for their family, to take care of things in their home, and also hopefully to find some enjoyment in life," he said.

Dr. Wu said there's definitely a need for a comprehensive back pain program. He created a similar one at a previous hospital after noting 8,000 new back pain patients in just one year.
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