HOUSTON - For some suffering from back pain, the results be debilitating. But could the cause be something other than just a problem with the spine? One doctor says by asking more questions, the source of some lower back pain may be something much different.
"A few years ago less than 1 percent of spine surgeons recognized it, understood it, or felt they understood it," said Dr. Donald Sachs, a neurosurgeon who treats back injuries. "They didn't have a handle on how to diagnose it."
Sachs said some back pain, especially patients who suffer from pain below the belt line and can't pinpoint the source, can be traced back to a patient's sacroiliac joint.
The wedge-like joint sits between the spine and hip, absorbing the weight of the body. It can wear over time or through traumatic injury.
"I see people who are shriveled and sweaty in pain, who are devastated by this pain that doesn't get diagnosed," Sachs said.
Dancer Emily Filuta was one those patients.
"I was desperate and I went to several doctors and a lot of them just told me it's bursitis and you just got to keep doing what you're doing," Filuta said. "They told me just to manage the pain."
Filuta was suffering from terrible, 24-hour, disabling back pain, and she just couldn't accept that diagnosis. That's when she turned to Sachs.
Sachs says the wear of the sacroiliac joint can't be detected by an MRI or X-rays, He says a doctor's failure to think of it is a failure to diagnose it. Sachs uses a minimally invasive procedure to insure triangular pins, which hold the joint together and allows the bones to fuse.
"People are active again," Sachs said. "It really is like a breath of fresh air for people."
It worked for Filuta. She's back in the dance studio and says she's pain free.
"I always felt like there was an answer to my problem," Filuta said. "I found that answer and I feel like I'm back to where I was. That's amazing to me."
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