Affecting 4 out of every 5 Americans, back pain is the most common problem in orthopaedics.

Over time, back pain resolves on its own for many people – but not everyone is so lucky. If you have ongoing or severe back pain, the experienced team at Wisconsin River Orthopaedics can help. We perform thorough evaluations to find and treat the root cause of your back pain, so you get long-term relief.

Back Pain

What is back pain?

Back pain is a common condition that causes a wide range of symptoms. You may develop back pain after a bad fall or lifting something that’s too heavy. Back pain may also develop over time from degenerative changes that occur in your spine as you get older.

For most people, back pain is an acute problem that resolves within a few days or a few weeks. Some people develop chronic back pain, which is pain that lasts three or more months.

No matter the severity, longevity, or cause of your back pain, the experts at Wisconsin River Orthopaedics can help.

What are common causes of back pain?

Sometimes back pain develops without a specific cause, but there are also many conditions that cause back pain. Some of the most common include:

  • Arthritis
  • Compression fractures
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated disc
  • Osteoporosis
  • Sciatica
  • Spinal deformities
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Strains and sprains
  • Traumatic injury
What can I expect during a back pain evaluation?

When you come in seeking help for your back pain, you can expect a thorough exam from the team at Wisconsin River Orthopaedics.

We take a patient-centered approach to care and focus on finding the root cause of your discomfort so we can develop a plan that relieves your pain and restores your life.

Your provider will ask detailed questions about your back pain, including the type of discomfort you feel, when it started, how it’s changed over time, and the activities that make your pain worse or better.

We perform a physical and run various diagnostic tests, such as blood work, X-rays, or MRIs, to find the root cause of your back pain. For your convenience, Wisconsin River Orthopaedics has an on-site open MRI.

How is back pain treated?

Treatment for your back pain depends on the underlying cause, the severity of your symptoms, and your overall health. Initially, the team takes a conservative approach to care and recommends:

  • Limiting rest to no more than two days
  • Exercise program
  • Physical therapy and occupational therapy
  • Medication
  • Injections

When conservative measures fail to provide significant relief from your back pain, the experts at Wisconsin River Orthopaedics may recommend spine surgery. The team uses minimally invasive techniques to treat your spine problem. These include microdiscectomy for a herniated disc, decompression for spinal stenosis, and lumbar fusion for spondylolisthesis.

Degenerative disc disease is often the root cause of painful back conditions like herniated discs and spinal stenosis. If you have symptoms of degenerative disc disease, Wisconsin River Orthopaedics can help. At the practice in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, our board-certified orthopaedic surgeons and physical therapy team provide comprehensive non-surgical options, as well as a range of advanced surgeries to resolve the symptoms of degenerative disc disease.

What is degenerative disc disease?

Degenerative disc disease is a common problem, especially as people reach middle age. Most older people have a degree of degenerative disc disease, but it doesn’t always cause problems.

In some people, however, degenerative disc disease causes back pain and stiffness and may lead to conditions like spinal stenosis and herniated discs.

The discs that cushion your spine sit between the vertebrae, absorbing shock and keeping your spine stable. When you’re young, these discs have a high water content, so they’re plump and spongy. As you get older, the water content drops and the discs start to dry out, becoming flatter and more brittle.

To add to the problem, your body’s natural repair systems don’t work as well as you age. Healing and regeneration slow significantly, which further affects the health of your discs.

The flattened discs alter the alignment of your spine and may compress the nerves, triggering radiculopathy — a common cause of back pain.

What treatments can help with degenerative disc disease?

Wisconsin River Orthopaedics provides a comprehensive array of treatments for degenerative disc disease, beginning with non-invasive measures.
Physical therapy to strengthen the surrounding tissues and improve your posture is often an effective treatment for degenerative disc disease. Anti-inflammatory medication can also help, especially if you find it hard to do your exercises.

Other treatments that can help ease your discomfort include hot and cold therapies, traction, and epidural steroid injections. If these approaches don’t relieve your degenerative disc disease symptoms after 3-6 months, surgery might be necessary.

What surgery might I need for degenerative disc disease?

Degenerative disc disease that causes disc herniation might require surgery to remove herniated material (microdiscectomy), or complete removal of the disc (discectomy).

Following discectomy, Wisconsin River Orthopaedics can either fuse the vertebrae on either side using a bone graft or perform artificial disc replacement. If your degenerative disc disease has caused spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spine), discectomy might be necessary along with laminectomy. Decompression surgeries like laminectomy involve removing part of your vertebra to make more space for the nerves.

Your lumbar, or lower, spine is an area that’s especially prone to injury, causing acute and chronic back pain. If you incur any lumbar spine injuries, Wisconsin River Orthopaedics can help. At the practice in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, the board-certified orthopaedic surgeons and physical therapy team provide advanced treatments for a comprehensive range of lower back pain conditions.

What are lumbar spine injuries?

Lumbar spine injuries affect your lower back, often causing pain and affecting function. Injuries can occur to the vertebrae, the intervertebral discs, the muscles, and the nerve roots where they exit your spine. In some cases, lumbar spine injuries also involve damage to the spinal cord.

Common lumbar spine injuries include:

Muscular problems

Muscle strains occur when you pull or overstretch the tissues. They may develop slowly as a result of repetitive strain from movements like bending. They can also be a result of heavy lifting or using a poor technique when lifting. Muscular problems cause mild to severe pain and stiffness in your lower back.


Severe lumbar spine injuries can occur due to an auto accident, a serious fall from a significant height, or other trauma. Fractures (broken bones) affecting the vertebrae are one of the most likely injuries and carry the additional risk of spinal cord damage.

Herniated discs

A disc is a shock-absorbent circle of tissue that sits between your vertebrae; when a disc herniates, it can cause severe back pain if the tissue presses onto your spinal nerves. During disc herniation, the core (nucleus pulposus) pushes against the disc’s outer covering (annulus fibrosus); sciatica is often due to a herniated lumbar disc.

As well as acute injuries, you may develop back pain slowly from wear-and-tear damage to your spine. Spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, and many herniated discs occur from these chronic lumbar spine conditions.

How are lumbar spine injuries treated?

At Wisconsin River Orthopaedics, our multidisciplinary team can often successfully resolve lumbar spine injuries using non-surgical treatment options:


Exercise strengthens your back muscles, increases spinal flexibility, and helps you avoid future injuries. Being physically active also lubricates your spine.

Physical and occupational therapy

Wisconsin River Orthopaedics has an on-site occupational therapy and physical therapy team that uses a variety of treatments, including heat and ice, therapeutic ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and mobilization, stretching, and strengthening exercises to reduce pain and improve movement.


Anti-inflammatory medications help to reduce swelling and pain, and may make it easier to engage in physical therapy.

Epidural steroid injections

Steroid injections into the epidural space surrounding your spine can be extremely effective in reducing inflammation and easing pain for several months.

Your lifestyle can sometimes take a toll on your back, causing pain and discomfort. Your back pain may be a result of a herniated disc or other back condition; you may need spine surgery.

The team at Wisconsin River Orthopaedics can set you on the path to recovery with a technologically advanced but conservative approach.

How does my spine get injured?

Trauma, aging, structural abnormalities, and unhealthy body mechanics can all harm your spine. This often leads to back pain, leg pain, and other uncomfortable symptoms.

While most spine-related conditions don’t require surgery, in some cases, surgery may be your best option.

Why would I need spine surgery?

Generally, your doctor at Wisconsin River Orthopaedics recommends non-surgical treatments for a period of time before suggesting spine surgery. If non-surgical treatments, such as medications and physical therapy, aren’t giving you relief, it may be time to consider spine surgery.

Your doctor at Wisconsin River Orthopaedics determines if you’re a good candidate for surgery. They may recommend surgery if you have conditions such as spinal stenosis, a herniated disc, spondylolisthesis, or cervical radiculopathy.

What’s the difference between open surgery and minimally invasive surgery?

Traditionally, spinal surgeries involved an open surgery where a long incision was made, giving the surgeon a clear view of the spine. However, this large incision typically meant more recovery time and more pain after surgery.

Now, advances in technology allow the team at Wisconsin River Orthopaedics to treat a broad range of spine conditions with minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS). These types of surgeries call for smaller incisions, giving you a faster recovery and less pain after surgery.

What are the types of spine surgery?

Because your spine is a highly complex system, Wisconsin River Orthopaedics offers a variety of surgeries to treat a wide range of spine-related conditions.

Some of these surgeries include:

  • Microdiscectomy - A minimally invasive surgical procedure to remove a herniated disc and alleviate pressure on a compressed nerve.
  • Spinal fusion - Surgery that fuses the vertebrae; for treatment of back problems including degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, fractured vertebra, or herniated disc.
  • Disc replacement - Involves replacing an injured disc with a man-made one.

If you’ve been troubled by back pain and are considering options such as spine surgery, you can rely on Wisconsin River Orthopaedics to provide a comprehensive treatment plan that’s right for you.

Call us today at (715) 424-1881.