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The Back Doctor - What You Should Know

Pictured: Back doctor giving diagnosis


Back pain, neck pain, numbness, and weakness, are reasons patients regularly visit our back doctors in Nashville, TN. In this guide, we discuss symptoms, causes, and treatments for a few of the most common conditions we see and address several questions about when to see an  orthopedic doctor for your back pain.


Common Conditions That Cause Back Pain

Herniated Disc



The leading cause of a herniated disc is from natural degeneration due to aging. Herniated discs can also arise from genetics and injuries. If you are older and have been injured, it is more likely that you will develop a herniated disc.


Most of the time, a herniated disc will go away on its own with the help of rest and medication for pain relief. If symptoms do not go away or lessen after multiple weeks, your back doctor may recommend injections, physical therapy, or in very few cases, surgery.


Spinal Stenosis



There are a variety of conditions that contribute to spinal stenosis. Aging is one of the primary causes; as we age, conditions like osteoarthritis and overgrowth of the bone can occur, causing the nerves to compress. Other conditions that can contribute to spinal stenosis include:


There is no cure for spinal stenosis; however, there are several measures you can take to help manage back pain and prevent your condition from worsening.

Depending on the severity of your condition, your spine specialist may recommend different options.

The first treatment your back doctor may recommend for mild spinal stenosis is anti-inflammatory or over-the-counter pain relief medications. In addition, they may recommend exercise or physical therapy to help strengthen the muscles and improve mobility.

If pain worsens, your spine specialist may recommend cortisone injections to provide temporary pain relief.

If your spinal stenosis pain is not manageable, your spine specialist may recommend surgery. There are various surgeries to treat this condition, if you are concerned that you may need spinal surgery, talk to your spine surgeon about the best options for you.


Pinched Nerve

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels




Most often, a pinched nerve will heal itself with time and preventive measures such as rest and avoiding overuse. If symptoms do not resolve on their own, you may need to discuss treatment options with your back doctor such as steroid injections, physical therapy, or even surgery.


Signs You Need to See a Back Doctor

If you have been experiencing back pain or neck pain, you may need to seek help with an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine surgery. Here are 5 common signs that you may need to see an orthopedic back doctor:

1. You Are Experiencing Numbness or Tingling

If you are experiencing numbness or tingling, especially in your arms or legs, it may be a related to your nerves. This can mean that you have a nerve condition such as a pinched nerve.

2. You Have Pain That Will Not Go Away or Worsens

If you are experiencing pain in the legs, it may be due to a herniated disc or a compressed nerve. If this pain will not go away or worsens, see a back specialist near you.

3. You Are Having Difficulty Walking

If you are feeling off balance or are having difficulty walking, it may be a sign that you have an issue related to a nerve or a spinal disc problem.

4. You Are Experiencing Significant Weight Loss

If you have not made changes to your lifestyle, but you are losing weight, this may be a sign of a tumor. If you are experiencing weight loss combined with other symptoms, seek help from an orthopedic back doctor near you. 

5. You are Experiencing Bladder Loss of Control

Loss of control over your bladder can be caused by injury or spine trauma. If you are experiencing this symptom, schedule an appointment with a back specialist.


Treatment Options for Back Pain

There are variety of treatment options for back pain ranging from rest to surgery. Here are some nonsurgical and surgical treament options your back doctor may reccomend:

Nonsurgical Treatment

If your condition does not go away on its own, you should seek help from an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine surgery about your diagnosis and treatment options.

Depending on the severity of your condition, there may be non-surgical treatment options to alleviate pain and prevent your condition from worsening. Your back doctor may recommend:

Surgical Treatment

When seeking help from one of our back doctors, they will evaluate non-surgical options first. If surgery is necessary, our spine specialists will use minimally invasive techniques whenever possible to reduce recovery time and pain.

Surgeries Your Back Doctor May Recommend:


What Kind of Doctor Do You See for Back Pain?

If you are experiencing back pain, neck pain, tingling, or numbness that is limiting your daily activities, come see one of our award-winning back doctors in Nashville and Franklin, TN. If you are not living in the Tennessee region, seek help from someone who specializes in the back near you.

It is important to seek help from someone who specializes in the back or spine. Our spine specialists have been fellowship trained, meaning they have extra training specifically for spine surgery.



Spine Specialist vs Chiropractor

Spine specialists and chiropractors are both doctors and often see similar patients; however, they offer different treatment options for spinal conditions and back pain.

Differences in Treatment

Chiropractors treat back conditions by adjusting vertebrae in the spine. A chiropractor does not perform surgery or prescribe medication. Sometimes they treat pain through injections or advise their patients go to physical therapy.

An orthopedic spine specialist performs surgery and prescribes medication, only when necessary. Like a chiropractor, our back doctors suggest more conservative treatment options such as over the counter medication, physical therapy, and injections before considering surgery.

Should I See a Spine Specialist or Chiropractor For My Back Pain? 

Both spine specialists and chiropractors want you to get back to normal life as efficiently and effectively as possible. Whether you need to see a back doctor or a chiropractor will depend on your condition, you may even benefit from seeing both.


3 Questions to Ask Your Back Doctor

1. Am I at Risk for Back Pain?

One of the primary reasons that patients develop back pain is age. Other risk factors may include being overweight, genetics, improper lifting techniques, and living a sedentary lifestyle.

2. What Non-Surgical Treatment Options do I Have?

If your condition does not go away on its own, you should seek help from an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine surgery about your diagnosis and treatment options.

Depending on the severity of your condition, there may be non-surgical treatment options to alleviate pain and prevent your condition from worsening. Your back doctor may recommend:

3. Are You Fellowship Trained?

All our orthopedists at Elite are fellowship trained. This means that they have completed additional training in an orthopedic subspeciality of their choice. It is important to see a doctor with the subspecialty you are wanting to treat to ensure the best care.

Dr. Chris Glattes completed his fellowship in orthopedic surgery of the spine at Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis, MO.

Dr. Colin Crosby completed his fellowship in orthopedic surgery of the spine at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.


5 Stretches to Prevent Back Pain

Taking a small amount of time every day to stretch you back can have a massive impact on your spine health.

An exercise program and physical therapy can help to relieve pain from conditions like spinal stenosis. Here are 5 stretches you can do from your desk chair at work or at home to help prevent and relieve back pain:

  1. Chest Opener Stretch

  2. Neck Rotation Stretch

  3. Upper Body Stretch

  4. Trunk Rotation Stretch

  5. Hamstring Stretch


3 Ergonomic Tools That May Help Avoid Back Pain

Photo by TheStandingDesk on Unsplash 

According to Merriam Webster, the definition of ergonomics is “an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact the most efficiently and safely.”

Working at an office job daily can have a negative impact on your back health and can lead to many spine conditions. Luckily, implementing ergonomics into your routine can help!

1. Ergonomic Chair

There are a variety of ergonomic chairs on the market to choose from. When it comes to choosing a chair that will help prevent your back pain, find a chair that supports your lower back, has adjustable height and angle, and has enough padding.

2. Adjustable Sit-Stand Desk

Being sedentary for 8 hours straight can have a negative impact on your health, especially your back. Try a desk that allows you to stand throughout periods of the day. This will help to improve your posture and relieve back and neck pain.

3. Make Sure Your Screen is at Eye Level

This is a simple tip that many people forget. Looking up or down at your screen can cause pain in the neck. Make sure that your screen(s) is set directly at eye level. Eye level may change depending if you’re standing or sitting at your desk, so keep that in mind when adjusting your monitor.


Orthopedic Back Doctors in Nashville, TN

Dr. R. Christopher Glattes

Dr. Glattes is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in surgery of the spine. He has been with Elite since 2008 and has been named a Castle Connolly Top Doctor three consecutive times, making him one of the best back doctors in Nashville, TN.

Here is what Dr. Glattes told us patients can expect working with him:

You can expect me to listen to you and try my best to put myself in your shoes. If your condition is not related to the spine, you can trust that I will send you to one of my partners for the best care.  


Dr. Colin Crosby

Dr. Crosby is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in surgery of the spine. He was named a Castle Connolly Top Doctor in 2020, making him one of the best doctors in Nashville, TN.

Here is what Dr. Crosby told us patients can expect working with him:

Healing spinal problems can be life-changing. I always start with the most conservative and minimally invasive techniques. If things do not get better, then we will discuss surgery. Surgery is always a last resort, and I will try to get you to where you need to be without it.  


Success Stories from Our Patients

Elaine – Dr. Glattes Patient

Shortly after finding out that she had a growth in her spine, Elaine was paralyzed from the waist down. She then came to see orthopedic spine specialist, Dr. Chris Glattes, and he believed he could help her.

After her first surgery with Dr. Glattes, she began to regain movement in her legs and he diagnosed her with a disease that made her bones very brittle.

Elaine then had another surgery to put longer rods in her legs. After her surgery, she worked very hard in physical therapy and is now able to do all of the things she wants to do. Elaine states, “I am not happy this happened to me, but I’m happy for all the wonderful people that I’ve met and what I’ve been able to overcome”.

Amy – Dr. Crosby Patient

Amy began her journey at Elite after being diagnosed with a bulging disc. Her condition was limiting her active lifestyle and preventing her from doing normal day-to-day activities.

Dr. Crosby has helped Amy get back to where she wants to be while also listening to her needs. She states, “I don’t like taking meds, so he has worked with me to offer treatment to ease the pain, but doesn’t rely solely on medication”.

Amy has been able to return to almost all activities again.

Christopher – Dr. Glattes Patient

Christopher began experiencing back pain that was interfering with his daily activities. He experienced back pain just from getting out of bed in the morning.

After having surgery with Dr. Glattes, Christopher is feeling better, and walking with a cane. Christopher states, “My quality of life has changed dramatically since coming to Elite.”


Book an Appointment with a Back Doctor Near You

If you are experiencing back pain, neck pain, tingling, numbness, or other symptoms, book an appointment with a spine specialist near you.

Our orthopedic spine specialists, Dr. Glattes and Dr. Crosby, treat patients in Nashville, TN and Franklin, TN.



Bjerke, B. (2019, November 25). What is spinal stenosis? Retrieved May 06, 2021, from https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/spinal-stenosis/what-spinal-stenosis

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, August 21). Back pain. Retrieved May 06, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/back-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20369906

Norris, T. (2019, March 7). 9 Remedies for a Pinched Nerve. Retrieved May 6, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/pinched-nerve-remedies

Marina von Rutenberg Marina is the Marketing Coordinator for Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics. She has been writing and reviewing medical content since 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/marina-von-rutenberg/

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