HELP FOR THOSE "ACHING BACKS"
Back pain is second only to the cold as the most common health problem in the United States. Some 80 million Americans suffer from acute back pain, and more than half miss work as a result. To provide treatment for back pain sufferers, UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine (SOM), Stratford, opened the region's first comprehensive back pain center in September 1998.
Manual medicine is a cornerstone of osteopathic treatment. It includes massage and manipulation of the spine back into alignment, relieving painful muscle spasms, and the traditional "cracking of the spine." The cracking is really only a small component of manual medicine, says Richard Jermyn, DO, director of the center. The cracking sensation can be related to muscle spasms, or may be a reflex or movement of a tendon. Manipulation is particularly helpful in treating medical conditions to augment or replace medication. Many people can't tolerate the side effects of medications.
Jermyn sees many elderly patients with osteoporosis, which is more painful than many people realize. Contrary to popular belief, osteoporosis is not just a women's disease. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, of the 10 million Americans suffering from this condition, more than 1.5 million are men.
"The pain from osteoporosis is not only debilitating, but is also difficult to treat with medication, because many elderly people don't tolerate pain medications well," explains Jermyn. "Manual medicine usually helps relieve their pain, with the added advantage of having no unpleasant side effects."
Jermyn, who also directs a pain center for HIV patients, is considering enrolling geriatric patients suffering from osteoporosis in clinical trials to evaluate the effects of manual medicine in the geriatric population. He will also be looking at the effects of manual medicine on headaches.
The University Back Pain Center is staffed by four osteopathic physicians, who treat a variety of problems, including trauma, motor vehicle and sports injuries, and chronic diseases. Their approach is comprehensive. They provide diagnostic services and utilize manual medicine to treat back pain. When necessary, patients are treated with medications. The third component of the treatment is rehabilitation, teaching patients back-strengthening exercises they can then do at home, or referring them to physical therapy.
Jermyn, who is also assistant clinical professor of rehabilitation at SOM, says the majority of patients coming to the center are self-referred. "We know we are filling an important need in the community because we've been fully booked since we opened," he says.
For more information about the University Back Pain Center, call (609) 566-6920.
The magazine of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey