Many individuals will experience low back pain at some point in their lives. Most who
seek treatment will begin with a conservative treatment plan that typically includes rest, ice,
anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, as well as physical therapy or chiropractic care.
If these are not sufficient, it is likely a radiographic image, CT or MRI study will be viewed by a
radiologist to determine if abnormalities in the lumbar spine may be present.
In the case of radiculopathy, image-guided injections or lumbar decompression spine
surgery are viable options to reduce pressure off a nerve and improve feeling in the legs in
these patients.  Osteoarthritis is a condition that may result in spinal stenosis. This occurs in
older patients more commonly than younger individuals and can also be treated with lumbar
decompression.  Total disc replacement or artificial disc surgery may be an appropriate
procedure for those with degenerative discs that may be causing debilitating symptoms. 1
In case of painful compression fractures refractory to conservative management, a
procedure called vertebroplasty or vertebral augmentation is a safe and effective treatment to
achieve pain relief, reduce disability and improve quality of life. In the case of spinal cancer
surgery will likely be performed with emphasis placed on removing the tumor, controlling or
reducing pain, and fixing or maintaining neurological function and spinal stability. 
With the ability and skills to read multiple types of diagnostic images and offer
image-guided treatments for pain relief, radiologists offer a critical service to help patients get
the necessary treatment to improve their quality of life, and in some cases, save a patient’s life.
Author 1: Braden Stoeger UWSP Biology Major
Author 2: Kunal Patel, MD
Ullrich Jr, P.F, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon. (2004, May 10). “When to See a Surgeon for Low Back
Pain.” Retrieved January 21, 2017, from
Schneider, J. H., MD. (2010, April 1). “Types of Spinal Tumors.” Retrieved January 21, 2017,