The Spine & Back Blog

Female with back pain speaking with neurosurgeonBack and neck pain affects thousands of people. Sometimes, the pain is acute; sometimes it chronic back and neck pain. People manage this type of pain in many different ways. Sometimes they rely on non-surgical treatments for back pain like medication--both prescription and over the counter or non pharmacological treatment for pain like heating and cold solutions or stretching. If back pain continues, however, it's important to have it investigated by a physician who specializes in back and neck issues. In fact, your primary care doctor is likely to refer you to a spine specialist if your back pain continues unabated. If you're coping with back pain that will not subside, it's important to visit a spine specialist for help.

Getting to the Root of Neck & Back Pain

Often, people can pinpoint when and why their back and neck pain began. They may have suffered a back muscle sprain or strain after performing yard work or moving furniture. This type of back injury may clear up on its own after a few days or, in some cases, a few weeks. When back pain persists, over-the-counter medications can often be used to treat the issue during the healing process.

Chronic neck and back pain is another type of problem altogether. Your physician may have told you that if your back or neck pain persists for more than 12 weeks, you likely need a different sort of treatment or medical intervention. In many cases, your physician will refer you to a spine specialist like a neurosurgeon who can diagnose the problem and prescribe a remedy.

Your neurosurgeon is likely to discuss the various causes for your back or neck pain such as:

There may be other causes that your spine specialist can point to depending on your specific circumstances.

How Can a Neurosurgeon Help?

A neurosurgeon will review x rays and other tests in order to help with diagnosing back pain. Non-surgical treatments, like physical therapy, acupuncture, traction, and massage, to provide back pain relief are always considered first. Your spine specialist might recommend weight loss or lifestyle changes to help you combat pain and address the root cause of your back pain. If a surgical procedure is indicated to treat your back pain, your neurosurgeon will discuss minimally invasive procedures, stem cell injections, and spine surgery with you.

Dr. William Hunter, back and spine specialist

If you are concerned about back or neck pain you've been experiencing, make an appointment with Dr. William Hunter, spine specialist and neurosurgeon at NSSC Spine Clinic. He has the experience and expertise needed to treat all types of back pain. The NSSC Spine Clinic has been serving Gastonia and the broader Charlotte, NC area including Belmont, Mount Holly, Gaston County, Meckleburg County, and portions of South Carolina for over 20 years.

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There are many different causes for debilitating back pain - muscle spasms, muscle strains, a back injury, disc issues, and arthritic spine changes can cause so much pain. It is difficult to focus and perform even the most basic activities of daily living.  Regardless of the cause of back pain, chronic back pain can become debilitating and keep you from enjoying a happy, healthy life. The good news is, lower back pain relief is often just a few simple back stretches away.

Because back pain can be so debilitating, a lot of people turn to muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory and pain medications to deal with their pain.  However, most back pain can be resolved by lower back exercises to keep muscles that support your spine strong and flexible, as well as, keeping your core strong. Following a daily stretching routine can promote better functioning of the back, decrease back pain and reduce the amount or need for medications.

Why is stretching so effective?

Stretching everyday relaxes tight muscles and improves circulation helping to to alleviate back pain. Stretching also improves muscle strength and agility. Strong muscles in your back and your abdomen will help diminish pain and  lower the chance of future injury. However, in order to get the result you are looking for, it is vitally important to make and keep a daily stretching routine.

Which lower back pain stretches provide the best results?

  • Stretches for back pain: cat camel poses
    Cat-Camel Back Stretch
    Child’s Pose Stretch: Begin on all fours. Sit your hips back while reaching out your arms forward until a mild stretch is felt in the back. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, repeat 5 times.
  • Cat-Camel Back Stretch: Begin on all fours. Arch your back towards the ceiling and hold. Then arch your back towards the ground and hold. Hold each stretch for 5 seconds, repeat 10 times.
  • Trunk Rotation Stretch: Begin lying on the mat with knees bent. While maintaining upper back flat on the ground, rotate legs towards the floor until a stretch is felt. Repeat the stretch on the opposite side. Hold each stretch for 5 seconds, repeat 10 times.
  • Hip Flexor Stretch: Begin by kneeling on a mat. Lean forward towards the bent front knee until a stretch in front of the opposite thigh is felt. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, repeat 5 times.
  • Hamstring Stretch: Begin sitting on the floor with one leg straight, and the other bent. While maintaining a flat back, lean forward by hinging from the hip until a stretch is felt behind the thigh. Repeat on the other leg. Hold each stretch for 10 seconds, repeat 5 times.

When To Stretch

While stretching is one of the most effective ways to relieve back pain, consistency is key. In order for stretching to work, you should plan to stretch at least 2 times every day. Stretching right when you wake up is a great way to start your day.  Stretching in the morning will increase blood flow to muscles and kick start your day. Stretching before you go to sleep will help relax and loosen any tight muscles and promote a good night sleep. In addition to stretching in the morning and night, try to incorporate these lower back stretches at work.

Back pain can keep you from feeling and performing at your highest level. With the right stretches for lower back pain, you can build strength, alleviate back pain, and maximize your performance. So why not give stretching a try!

Not Feeling Relief from lower back exercises?

Or, if you've been doing shoulder and neck stretches and still are experiencing neck and shoulder pain, there are alternatives to open spine surgery. Dr. Hunter at The Spine Clinic at the Neuroscience & Spine Center of the Carolinas specializes in minimally invasive surgery and non surgical treatments for back pain and any back injury. Non surgical treatments include accupuncture, steroid shots, electrical stimulation, and stem cell injections.

If you're in the Gastonia or Charlotte area, or even South Carolina, Dr. Hunter can help. Conservative treatment is our approach, unless you've exhausted all options. You can rest easy knowing you'll be accurately evaluated, and have access to the most cutting-edge techniques and facilities available in the country.

Ready For Your Back Pain Consultation?

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Dr. Hunter, neurosurgeon in Gastonia, NC, celebrates his 20 year anniversary at the Spine Clinic (source: Hunter celebrated his 20th year of practice at NSSC Spine Clinic this past June. Dr. Hunter joined the NSSC Spine Clinic in June, 2000, after working for 2 years at the University of Wisconsin Hospital Department of Neurosurgery. 

Board Certified for over 20 years, Dr. Hunter and his staff strive to provide the most up to date advanced spine surgery techniques and procedures. While providing quality care at Caromont Regional Hospital, Dr. Hunter continues to bring new and innovative spine techniques to his practice. 

“It has certainly been a pleasure to be able to provide neurosurgical care for the past 20 years to the residents of Gaston County and the Charlotte area,” said Dr. Hunter. “A lot has changed at this practice over the past 20 years and I am looking forward to continue to expand our services in the coming years.” 

About The NSSC Spine Clinic

Located in Gastonia, The Spine Clinic of Neuroscience and Spine Center of the Carolina specializes in treatments for chronic back and neck pain, spondylolisthesis, lumbar spinal stenosis, spinal injuries, lumbar degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, as well as issues involving the brain and nerves. We offer brain surgery, carpal tunnel surgery, non-surgical treatment, surgical minimally invasive procedures, stem cell injections, and spine surgery.

Are you suffering from pain and in need of a doctor who can help you with your back pain? Call our office today!

Minimally Invasive Surgery- TLIF

Dr. William D. Hunter performs a minimally invasive TLIF L5-S1 fusion in Gastonia, N.C. Watch as the intra-operative procedure is performed.



This video is reviewing the maximum access transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion. The MRI here shows the boxes are the bones, between the bones the disk spaces, and the white where the nerves are running. The last disk space is shorter in height, and there’s a herniated disk (the black area) pressing on the area white area where the nerves are. This is the plan for attack to perform a fusion surgery. The patient is in the prone position, properly prepped and draped, and then we make small skin incisions the size of a finger to go ahead and place the screws in place. We dilate the muscles. We’re not stripping any muscles, only dilating the muscles. We’re putting the screws in first. We’re putting two screws in at l5 and also s1, and between the two screws is the disk space that we’re going to attack. We use the monitoring system to make sure that when we’re putting the screws in that we’re in the safe zone. Because we’re using the small skin incisions, we use the C arm, the x-ray machine, as well as the monitoring system to make sure we’re safe. Green means we’re safe, and we’re going to go ahead and proceed in placing the screws in the area of where they should be within the vertebral bodies going through the pedicles. So there are pedicle screws being placed. Once the screws are placed - we have two screws in place (one at l5 and one at S1) - we then go ahead and we’re going to take the disc out between the two screws. Once we have the screws in place, we place the retractor and make a skin incision between the two screws, and now we have basically the size of two fingers to put attack the disk space. You can see here drilling down this is exactly what I see in the operating room. Between my drill right there you can see the two screws that are on either side. We drill down the bone. We’re getting down to where the disk space is. The disk space is covered by bone, so we remove the bone, and we’re going to go attack between the two screws where the disk space is. We’re now opening up the space for the nerves to run through. We identify the nerves, and we go ahead and take the disc out that’s causing the pressure. We remove the herniated disc and we’re taking the rest of the disc out. Once we take the rest of the disc out, you can see we have an instrument inside the disc space. Now, the disc space has been removed, and now we have to size up the disc space. We go ahead and put trials in so we can use the correct size, and we can jack that disk space up, which allows the nerves to have more room to run through. Here, we’re tapping in the trial to make sure that we’re all in the correct space and size. We then use the actual graft itself, and we place the graft inside that space. Then once we do that, we go ahead and put the rod between the two screws, torque it, and then we go ahead and remove the retractor system. We close the area up, and we’ve performed our procedure within a matter of minutes, we’ve now performed our fusion. You can see that there are the screws there. The top screw is the l5 screw, and the bottom screw is the s1 screw. There’s the l5, and s1. Between the screws of the rod is the rod, and inside that disk space it’s been jacked up, and we now have a graft inside the disk space, and you can see the hash marks show on the back and the front. That’s the procedure in performing our mass TLIF.