Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ's for Patients
How do I know if the SpineCare program is right for my situation?The SpineCare representatives will help you determine whether SpineCare is right for you by asking you a series of questions. These questions will deal with your current symptoms and any treatment you might have received for your present condition. From there a determination will be made if further information is needed or if you would benefit from a referral for another type of treatment.
Why should I seek care for my spine disorder at an academic medical center?” One of the benefits of being part of a leading-edge academic medical center is that we know what works and we have the clinical evidence and research to prove it. Your individualized treatment program is based on this evidence. Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin is recognized for exceptional physicians, research leadership, specialty expertise and state-of-the-art treatments and technology. Our physicians participate in significant national research and help discover new and better treatments.
What makes the SpineCare program unique in treating neck and back pain?Several factors make SpineCare different from any other clinic or practitioner you might have encountered in the past. Bringing together board-certified and fellowship-trained specialists from all the appropriate disciplines in one clinic is the most effective and efficient way to diagnose and treat neck and back pain. Some of SpineCare’s experts include physiatrists, chiropractors, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists and nurse case managers. Our transdisciplinary team (a team composed of different professions cooperating to improve patient care) collaborates to find the cause of your pain and to design an individual treatment plan, all with the patient’s participation. Thus treatments are done simultaneously and supported with close communication between the various specialists that are working together on your treatment plan.
What do each of the specialists on the SpineCare team do to help improve my condition?
- Physiatrist/neurologist: The physiatrist/neurologist will work with you to manage your treatment plan which may include medical management, determining if additional testing is necessary to identify and treat your pain and to monitor your progress throughout the program. This is a non-surgical approach to treating your neck and back pain.
- Chiropractor: The chiropractor will provide spinal manipulation, if appropriate, to restore joint mobility to restricted movement of the spine, thereby alleviating pain and muscle tightness, allowing you to participate more comfortably with your SpineCare program.
- Physical Therapist: The physical therapist will provide treatment to help you learn how to manage your spine condition through education, instruction in specific exercises and postural retraining. The physical therapist will encourage you to embrace lifestyle changes which will promote the health of your spine long term.
- Occupational Therapist: The occupational therapist/Certified Ergonomic Evaluation Specialist identifies risk factors associated with the physical requirements of your work and home tasks and will provide ergonomic recommendations to protect your spine when performing these tasks. An on-site ergonomic evaluation may be requested for a work related injury.
- Pain Psychologist: The psychologist can help you to understand your own emotional and behavioral responses to your ongoing/chronic pain. Additional testing may be useful to help the psychologist to determine treatment options that would focus on coping/management with your chronic symptoms.
- Surgeon: Our surgeons take a conservative approach to ensure that non-operative treatment, if indicated, has been exhausted prior to considering surgery. If surgery is considered, the use of imaging and/or other testing is used to confirm if a surgical procedure is the best solution for treating your pain.
What if my pain does not improve after treatment at SpineCare?Over 97 percent of SpineCare patients get relief from the treatment offered. However, if your condition does not improve, our team will work with you to investigate benefits of alternative treatment, including the surgical options available. If surgery is indicated, your team will work to make your transition through surgery into rehabilitation as seamless as possible with the focus on getting you back to work and the activities you enjoy.
Does SpineCare treat people who are injured at work? Yes. If you are injured at work and currently working, our goal is to keep you working safely. If you are unable to work due to an injury, our goal is to help you to return to work as quickly and safely as possible.
What should I do when I have back pain?Unless your pain is very severe, keep moving. You may continue daily activities such as showering and washing dishes, however, pace your activities. The presence of back pain doesn't necessarily mean you are harming yourself by moving. Brief periods of walking will generally reduce stiffness and soreness. Apply ice for comfort, as needed. Check with your physician or a physical or occupational therapist for further help.
Should I use ice or heat? We recommend ice applications to cool body tissues, minimizing swelling and pain. Ice application is most effective if applied several times throughout the day for 10 to 15 minutes. Heat has the opposite effect, and tends to feel good initially but the therapeutic benefit appears limited.
Will exercise help my recovery? We at SpineCare believe the most important aspect of your recovery will be exercise. An exercise program should be designed for your individual needs. Regular participation in your exercise program will speed your recovery and improve your health. There is no treatment that can take the place of exercise. Research suggests that regular exercise may prevent back injuries from recurring.
When should I seek medical attention for my neck or back pain?Most back pain lasts for a limited time and goes away without special treatment. However, if you have weakness, pain going down your arm(s) or leg(s) and/or pain lasting for more than a few weeks, a doctor should be consulted.
FAQ's for Employers
What risk factors predispose our employees to develop neck/low back pain? Many risk factors have been identified. They include occupational as well as non-occupational factors.
Occupational factors may include:
- Repetitive heavy lifting, twisting, reaching and bending
- Repetitive manual material handling
- Exposure to continuous whole-body vibration
- Prolonged, static posture (especially if posture is awkward or confined)
- Poor job satisfaction
Non-occupational factors may include:
- Poor physical condition (lack of exercise, overweight)
- Poor posture
- Advanced age
- Psychosocial stressors, such as depression, financial factors
What can our company do to reduce low back injuries?
- Train safety personnel and supervisors on proper material handling and lifting techniques so they in turn can train and supervise employees to follow through with proper techniques.
- Provide appropriate equipment for the job (for example, an ergonomic office chair, mechanical assistive device for lifting heavy/awkward objects, cart on wheels to transport objects).
- Keep work area and equipment properly maintained.
- Allow task rotation (for example, moving through different tasks during the day to avoid undue stress and repetition).
- Alternate work tasks between sitting and standing to reduce postural (static muscle) fatigue.
- Set up work area to minimize frequent reaching, leaning, twisting and bending.
- Reduce employee fatigue by allowing stretch breaks.
- Encourage employees to take part in a fitness program and/or provide a wellness program through your company.
Can we prevent long-term disability in employees with nonspecific low back pain?
Yes. The SpineCare team strongly believes the following factors are critical:
- Early intervention (less than 6 weeks after injury).
- Early paced activity and graded regular exercise avoiding deconditioning and reduce anxiety reinjury.
- Timely, regular communication among the treatment team, employer and employee early detection of “yellow flags” by the team that may hinder recovery and return to work, such as depression, anxiety, job dissatisfaction and fear of reinjury.
- Promote early safe return to work with support from employer, supervisors and coworkers such as allow return to work in modified capacity.
- Allow onsite job assessment by SpineCare’s Ergonomic Evaluator Specialist who will assist the patient in integrating learned principals/techniques into work environment.
We have our own safety department to assess an injured employee's work area. How does that differ from a job site analysis by SpineCare?
Our staff works with employees and with safety and human resources personnel to help employees incorporate correct body mechanics and lifting/material handling practices. We can also help identify critical job demands and ways to meet them efficiently and safely. This cooperative approach allows SpineCare and safety or human resources personnel to integrate back protection techniques for successful return to work, and helps employees integrate learned body mechanics and lifting techniques into daily work situations.
How soon can my employee return to usual duty after a spine injury?
This will vary depending on the type and severity of injury. Every person heals differently. Once your employee begins the stabilization program at SpineCare, the SpineCare team will reassess your injured employee's ability to return to work. Clinical research has consistently shown that early return to work (even in a modified capacity) is associated with better overall outcome and lower costs. As back care providers in today's market, we're aware that managing healthcare costs is vital to employers. That's why, for example, we offer a unique "shared risk" global fee package which allows you to anticipate the costs from the outset and meet injured employees' needs.
How do I know the injured employee will not get re-injured upon return to work?
Every employee has the potential for injury. However, your employee's increased knowledge of spine protection and stabilization/strengthening minimizes the risk of reinjury.
What can I as an employer do to facilitate return to work for the injured employee?
To facilitate return to work for the injured worker, the employer can follow the return to work recommendations provided by the SpineCare team. A well thought out and organized modified duty program to transition your injured employee back to work greatly facilitates our goal of early reactivation and return to work, both of which have shown to improve outcomes and reduce costs.
What about complicated cases? I've heard that the minority of back injuries result in the majority of the costs. What about surgery?
It is true that about 20 percent of injured workers account for over 80 percent of the costs for treatment and disability in the workplace. Although we don't have all the answers to this problem, we do have a team of physicians, physical therapists, a clinical psychologist and other staff who work together to identify potentially complicated cases early on so that stakeholders — the employee, employer and treatment team — can work for the best possible outcome.
Internal auditing has shown our surgical rate to be the lowest in the community. However, sometimes surgery is necessary. At SpineCare, we are committed to identifying the need for surgery early to avoid the burdensome additional costs and risks associated with the delay of appropriate care, and to avoiding surgical treatment unless a well-defined need exists.
Last Review Date: May 17, 2013
Online Editor(s): Shannon Krause