Understanding Osteomyelitis: Neck Pain, Back Pain, and Sciatica

by coachz on September 1, 2009

Osteomyelitis is generally the result of a staph infection invading the bone, in adults it usually affects the vertebrae, in children the long bones. However, osteomyelitis may present itself in any bone in the body. The resulting infection may range from a dull ache deep in the bone, to a chronically-acute phase of back pain and/or sciatica. If treated, the prognosis for those suffering from osteomyelitis is quite good. If not, either because the back pain and sciatica sufferer puts off a medical assessment or because of a missed diagnosis, the results can be catastrophic. Ultimately, if ignored, the infection may lead to a significant loss of bone and tissue, loss of a limb, and even death.

What is Osteomyelitis?

Osteomyelitis, as it relates to back pain and sciatica, is an infection of the bone or bone marrow affecting the vertebral bodies of the spine. Osteomyelitis may be debilitating, disabling, and devastating, both physically and psychologically. The infection, usually a staph infection in adults (staphylococcus aureus), may in extreme cases cause death. Osteomyelitis is often difficult to diagnose and may go undetected for weeks, months, and even years. Unless properly diagnosed by a medical practitioner specializing in orthopedic medicine and infectious diseases, usually with blood tests focusing on the sedimentation rate, a bone biopsy to identify the nature of the infection, a radiologic examination to document certain changes in the bone, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) focusing on “hot spots,” the prognosis may not good. Back pain and sciatica associated with osteomyelitis can range from a mild ache to a chronic and/or acute level of pain, completely incapacitating the individual. In this stage, without medical intervention pain relief is impossible.

How Does Osteomyelitis Get Started?

The staphylococcus aureus bacteria may be introduced via a cut or sore on the body, usually in close proximity to bone, or as the result of a compound fracture (bone breaking through the skin). The bacteria may also be introduced during surgery, as the result of a spinal block or some other related procedure, or any other situation or circumstance where staph finds its way into the body. In such cases, it is vital that the patient confer with their medical practitioner to insure that the proper tests are ordered.

Common symptoms of osteomyelitis include:

• Malaise and a general weakness, often mistaken for chronic fatigue syndrome in the early stages.

• Sweating due to fever or chills, particularly “night sweats.”

• Pain deep within the bone, usually an ache or throbbing sensation.

• Increased pain when pressure is applied around the area of injury or when the patient is standing,

• The area adjacent to a fracture or surgery site becomes swollen and inflamed.

• The skin around the affected area turns red and/or pus drains from the wound.

Osteomyelitis often requires intensive and prolonged antibiotic therapy. The antibiotic therapy, most commonly vancomycin, is administered intravenously and helps fight the infection, thus avoiding greater destruction of the bone and relieving the inflammation often at the root of the back pain and sciatica.

Osteomyelitis and Surgery

In severe cases of osteomyelitis, surgery may be required. The surgery is often a debridement, the removal of the infected and dead (necrotic) bone and tissue associated with the infection. In the worst case, osteomyeltitis may lead to the loss of a limb, significant damage to the spine and associated musculature and connective tissue, and even death…as noted above.

When To Seek Medical Attention and the Prognosis

If the staph infection is discovered early enough, the prognosis is quite good. The back and sciatic nerve pain (sciatica) associated with osteomyelitis usually abates. However, if the infection goes undiagnosed and untreated for a long period of time, the back pain and sciatica associated with it may be totally debilitating and disabling. Additionally, if the patient fails to seek medical attention, the damage to the body may be profound and unalterable, permanent. Finally, if you have the symptoms mentioned above, and very often the malaise and night sweats in conjunction with the back pain and sciatica will point you in the right direction…seek medical attention immediately. Why suffer when you don’t have to? Osteomyelitis, and the associated back pain complex, in this case back pain and sciatica, is treatable and the prognosis can be quite good.

For further information, including an awesome book entitled The 7 Day Back Pain Cure, and an intelligent program of treatment for neck pain, back pain, and sciatica, what I refer to as the “back pain complex” click the link below:


For additional resources, articles and videos dealing with neck pain, back pain, and sciatica, including additional treatment plans for continued support…

Go to:


Professor John P. J. Zajaros, Sr., The Bad Back Guy
Skype: johnzajaros1

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jeff November 15, 2010 at 9:25 am

Hello i was diagnosed with Osteomylitis of the spine back in may 2010, I was treated intravenously with antibiotics for around 4 weeks then 10 weeks in tablet form, Also i was in a plaster body cast for the duration of my antibiotics to support my spine during the healing proccess.

I am still a out patient at newcasles freemans hospital in the uk but am getting stronger and fitter by the week i am also back to work after a 6 month lay off, I still get discomfort and moderate back pain but is controlled with strong pain killing tablets.

I have to say i was diagnosed fast and got treatment straight away which is what saved me from more long term pain and complications, i would say to any one suffering the above mentioned to seek medical help asap.

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