Back and Neck Pain

Leaders in Research at UCSF Imaging

Our techniques at UCSF Imaging are helping tens of thousands of patients around the world with cancer by identifying more aggressive cancers determing whether a treatment is working. The goal is to improve our understanding of what causes diseases and then come up with new ways to treat cancers. We have developed biomarkers that enable us to confirm that we've delivered a drug to the tumor. There is very interesting biology coming out that is telling us what is driving these tumors and how they might be targeted in a very specific way.

Joint Degeneration Research

Sharmila Majumdar, PhD, Vice Chair of Research and Director of Musculoskeletal Quantitative Imaging Research, talks about her lab's research on joint degeneration and how to reduce join replacement for lower back pain.  Dr. Sharmila Majmudar discusses her research with her lower back pain and what causes such pain. By finding the causes of the pain her teams goal is to reduce the number of joint replacements by using imaging to find identifiers of joint degeneration. Which could inform the physician about the status of the joints.

Head and Neck Cancer Treatment at UCSF - Meet Dr. Glastonbury

Dr. Christine Glastonbury, MD, Professor of Clinical Radiology, Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, and Radiology Oncology at UCSF, works to improve the care of head and neck cancer in patients. She also works to prevent radiology errors during diagnosis.

Headache Pain

UCSF Radiologist Dr. Chin explains into detail cervicogenic headaches, possible causes and symptoms.

Cervicogenic Headache

  • 0.4%-2.5% general population
  • 15-20% pain management patients
  • Overlaps primary HA disorders—tension, migraine
  • Reliable indicator: pain starts in neck radiating to frontotemporal; provocation w/neck motion

Cervicogenic Headache: Facet

What can be done to relieve intractable headaches?

Interventional diagnosis
  • Anesthetic block
  • Botox injection
  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • Surgery
    • Fusion/arthrodesis
    • Nerve release/neurolysis (treating pain by killing the nerve that is causing it)
  • Spinal cord stimulator
    • Place subcutaneous next to occipital nerve
  • Headache and buttock pain can be spine-related

Non Surgical Options for Sciatica

UCSF Radiologist Dr. Chin describes the different non surgical procedures to treat sciatica.

Understanding Sciatica

UCSF Radiologist Dr. Chin goes over how problems with sciatic nerves can be a cause of back pain.


Sciatica: Compression or irritation of one of five spinal nerve roots that give rise to each sciatic nerve or compression of a sciatic nerve  

Back Pain Related to the Coccyx

UCSF Radiologist Dr. Chin explains how the coccyx can be a source of back pain and what the treatment options are.

Coccyx is vestigial tail bone that can be vulnerable to trauma, as seen in fractures during childbirth and with repetitive trauma to truck drivers or equestrians.  Also, seen in patients who like winter sports (snowboarding or skiing).

Back Pain Related to Tarlov Cysts

UCSF Radiologist Dr. Chin explains how to diagnose back pain caused by a Tarlov Cysts.

Tarlov Cysts are probably incidental since 5-9% patients may have Tarlov cysts. How do we know it? Is it symptomatic or not?

The cysts can be addressed surgically because they can be fenestrated, oversewn, and collapsed with flap which is helpful and can eradicate the cysts that are symptomatic. 

Pain Not Typically Related to the Spine

UCSF Radiologist Dr. Chin goes over body areas that previously would have not been considered cause of back pain and that could be used for treatment.
Patients that come in which intractable pain that’s quite debilitating in. It is the cranial and caudal aspect of the spine. They have headache and they can’t sit due to pain. Where is the pain coming from?