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Flatback Syndrome

When the proper curves in the spine that support an economical stance requiring minimum energy to stand or walk fail, the result is a condition called Flatback syndrome.

Symptoms

Some of the symptoms include having trouble maintaining a proper posture, low back pain and thigh pain. Since the person has trouble maintaining proper alignment, the symptoms might increase throughout the day due to fatigue. Patients might also have upper back and neck pain due to constantly trying to realign themselves. These symptoms can often develop to be very painful and leads some patients to having to take medications.

Causes

Flatback syndrome was originally used to describe Harrington rods recipients (1960s- early 1990s) due to the fact the rods sometimes flattened the normal sway of the spine.  This was due to the rods extending down into the lower part of the spine. The rods were unable to follow the natural curve of the lower back, which caused the spine to unnaturally straighten out. This unnatural movement helped advance the degeneration of discs in the spine. New advancements in modern scoliosis technology have been credited it making flatback syndrome a much less common problem.

Degenerative Disc Disease can contribute to the person having trouble maintaining upright posture. This disease is from normal wear on the intervertebral discs.

Other conditions that may cause flatback syndrome include having collapsed vertebrae. Arthritis can also contribute to flatback syndrome and cause inflammations in the spine, which may cause pain and stiffness.

Diagnosis

Most patients with flatback syndrome will complain of having trouble maintaining a standing upright posture. If the doctor determines you might have flatback syndrome, he or she will order a full-length X-ray of the spine. An MRI or CT scan might also be taken to help the doctor better understand the health of the spine and discs.

Treatment

Patients diagnosed with Flatback syndrome will initially be treated with an individualized physical therapy program and anti-inflammatory medication. If all non-surgical options have become exhausted, it may be necessary to perform surgery.


TriCities Spine in Bristol, TN is a by-product of discussions with case managers, rehab nurses and managed care experts on a local and national level who believe that spine care can be improved through a multidisciplinary team approach. TriCities Spine includes a board-certified neurosurgeon who specializes in spine, Dr. Jim Brasfield, teamed with a pain management specialist and spine-specialized physical therapy. TriCities Spine physicians already see a variety of complex cases from across Eastern Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky. TriCities Spine emphasizes a nonsurgical approach to back pain, recognizing that in most cases spine surgery should be the last card to be played after nonsurgical options have been tried. About half of patients are referred to TriCities Spine by other doctors in the region. TriCities Spine also cares for those who injure themselves at the workplace. The strength of TriCities Spine lies in the medical expertise brought in by a variety of specialists who complement each other, including experts in physical medicine and neurosurgery. An internal pain specialist is often able to relieve some back and neck pain symptoms with special injections that enable a patient to bridge to therapy. Dr. Fred Terry specializes in pain relieving lumbar spinal injections and as well as myelograms, which may reveal the amount of damage in the spine. Therapists who specialize in spine use customized hands-on treatments to relieve pain symptoms, along with special exercises to help make the back stronger, more flexible and resistant to injury. If nonsurgical treatments are not successful, Dr. Jim Brasfield is trained and proficient in the latest techniques in minimally invasive spine surgery. Because of the minimally invasive techniques used by Dr. Brasfield, many patients are able to have their spine surgery and then return home the same day to recover in the comfort of their own home.