When to Seek a Spinal Evaluation


Harvey E. Smith, MDThe spine is an interesting and unique structure, one of the most important parts of your body. It is instrumental to the support, strength, flexibility and range of motion our bodies have. The spine also protects the spinal cord, which carries signals from the brain to other parts of the body.

Arthritis and degenerative wear-and-tear problems can significantly affect the spine and can lead to back or neck pain, numbness and weakness. Issues with your spine can also impact your hands, arms legs and feet.

So, how do we know when that pain in the back or neck is something that needs to be checked out?

Warning Signs

Trauma. If you’ve had any type of traumatic injury, such as a fall or were involved in a motor vehicle accident, you want to have your back or neck pain checked out by a doctor.

Fever. If you are dealing with back or neck pain, it is important to keep an eye on any type of fever you have. When a fever doesn’t break and is accompanied by pain in the back or neck area, it may be a sign of an infection.

Numbness or Tingling. If you’ve dealt with numbness or tingling for some time and traditional over-the-counter medication has not worked, you could have nerve irritation or damage caused by a herniated disc, spinal stenosis or other disc diseases.

What type of doctor should I see?

Man with back pain

When dealing with chronic pain of the spine or the aftermath of an injury, many types of physicians can help you manage pain, repair damage and, in many cases, regain a comfortable range of motion.

The Penn Orthopaedic Spine Service treats patients suffering from arthritis, degenerative wear and tear problems affecting an individual’s joints and disks, as well as abnormalities that cause pain, numbness and weakness in the back or neck area.

Harvey E. Smith, MD, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, sees patients with a range of spine and back conditions. When asked about his philosophy of care, Dr. Smith offered the following: “Our role is to help patients understand their diagnosis and the treatment options available, which usually include – both - operative and non-operative. We will never push patients one way or another. We simply try to educate them as much as possible and work with them to decide which option is best for them. The patient really needs to comfortable and confident with their decision.”

The Penn Spine Center

The Center brings together clinicians from numerous specialties, including orthopaedics, neurosurgery, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and pain medicine. This team-based model of care creates a seamless, integrated patient experience and the most efficient process of diagnosis and appropriate treatment for patients experiencing back and neck pain.

“I truly believe that Penn Medicine provides the highest level of care for those suffering from spine and neck injuries or disorders,” said Dr. Smith.

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