Four out of five Americans experience back pain at some point in their lives. It can occur from lifting a heavy object, a sports injury or arthritis – or for no apparent reason. What matters most to the sufferer is finding out how to relieve the pain and regain normal function. That’s where Shelley Freimark, MD, of the Brain + Spine Center comes in.
Dr. Freimark is a physiatrist – a physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Physiatrists treat a wide range of problems relating to the musculoskeletal system – from joint pain, muscle sprains and degenerative conditions to back pain and spinal cord injuries. More specifically, the physicians are nerve, muscle, and bone experts who treat injuries or illnesses that affect how you move.
“We’re physicians of function,” Dr. Freimark explained. “We try to restore the patient to function through conservative treatments. The overall goal is to enhance performance and decrease pain without surgery.”
Conservative treatment options
Dr. Freimark’s evaluation for a new patient typically begins with a comprehensive physical exam, which includes a complete assessment of the musculoskeletal and neurological systems to identify the “pain generator.” If further assessment is needed, she may order tests such as X-ray or MRI. She also specializes in EMG (electromyogram) and nerve conduction testing for the diagnosis of neuromuscular disease.
“The beauty of what we offer here is that we get a solid diagnosis,” she noted. “We don’t just send patients to a therapist or pain center with the term ‘back pain’. My specialty is to hone it down to what is causing the problem so that treatment can be very concise.”
Treatment options include physical therapy, joint or spinal injections, or medication use. Dr. Freimark works closely with therapists and other physicians to coordinate a patient’s overall care, and monitors the results. She calls it “one-stop shopping” for getting the best care from the most appropriate team of experts.
“We put all the pieces together and see if we can improve patients’ function and pain through conservative treatment options,” she said. If surgery is indeed the best option for relieving severe pain, Brain + Spine Center neurosurgeons David W. Lowry, MD, and Adam Kremer, MD, are available for consultation.