10 Lifestyle Risks for Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back pain affects millions of Americans and is the leading form of chronic pain in this country. It’s more than just an inconvenience, as chronic back pain is a leading cause of disability, impacting many Americans’ ability to earn a living. Certain lifestyle circumstances are risk factors for chronic back pain and, by understanding these risks, men and women can take action to mitigate them and reduce their likelihood of enduring constant back pain.

Working woman with Back Pain

About eight out of ten Americans will suffer back problems at some point in their lives. For most, this is just a temporary situation, but, for others, a long-term problem will develop. Chronic back pain is defined as acute back pain that lasts more than 12 weeks. It can occur even after treatment of an injury or another cause of pain.

It’s estimated that chronic back pain affects about 26 million people per year. By comparison, about 25.8 million Americans live with diabetes and about 11.9 million are suffering from cancer. Chronic back pain has been identified as a leading cause of disability claims, and back pain is a leading cause of lost work days even among those able to work.

Chronic back pain has a huge impact on quality of life. The constant feeling of discomfort can make you irritable, causing mood swings and frustration. Limitations on your physical abilities or your career resulting from lower back pain can result in depression and low self-esteem. Men and women suffering from low back pain can also face an elevated risk of developing substance abuse problems, especially if they self-medicate with opioids and alcohol to dull the persistent pain they are experiencing.

Man with Lower Back Pain

Unfortunately, chronic back pain is on the rise in the U.S. In 1990, a study of the conditions most likely to contribute to mortality or poor health ranked back pain No. 6. By 2010, chronic back pain was ranked as the No. 3 health issue most likely to contribute to mortality or poor health, outranked only by heart disease and lung disease.

Lifestyle Risk Factors for Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back pain has many causes, and our lifestyle circumstances and choices can play a major role in whether you develop this serious health problem. While some circumstances cannot be changed, there are steps you can take to mitigate their effect on your health.

The human spine is intended to carry the body’s weight and distribute loads that occur during activity and rest. When a person is overweight, the spine must accommodate the excess burden. Over time, this can lead to greater wear and tear on the spine and the development of back issues such as sciatica and herniated discs.

Obesity doesn’t just contribute to chronic back pain, it also contributes to other forms of chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and others. Obesity and back pain can create a terrible cycle, as back pain caused by obesity may cause people to shun physical activity, leading to more weight gain and greater back problems.

If you’re experiencing back pain, one of the best favors you can do for yourself is to take action if you’re overweight. If you’re overweight but don’t suffer from back problems, beginning a weight loss plan can help you forestall back problems in the future.

  • Stress – Stress can also contribute to back pain. Psychological issues can have physiological effects. Emotional distress can cause responses in the body, such as restriction of blood flow to muscles and tissues in the back, resulting in pain. If you believe that stress is contributing to back pain, learning some relaxation techniques such as yoga or breathing exercises can help. Consulting with your doctor can also help you find ways to manage stress and its impact on your body.

Woman Holding Hands on Desk

  • Smoking – On top of all the other health risks smoking poses, such as lung cancer and stroke, tobacco use also makes it more likely that you will suffer from chronic back pain. Smokers have been found to be three times as likely to develop chronic back pain than non-smokers. Researchers have discovered that tobacco use results in changes to the nucleus accumbens and the medial prefrontal cortex—parts of the brain that deal with how we handle pain. Smoking also causes the arteries to harden and decreases blood flow to tissues in the back, worsening degenerative spinal problems.
  • Sitting – Many of us work office jobs, or other occupations where we must spend much of the day seated. Long periods of sitting can contribute to chronic back pain, especially if you have poor posture or are seated in a poorly designed chair. Long periods of sitting puts pressure on the discs supporting your back, increasing your likelihood of developing pain or degenerative conditions.

Woman Holding Cup at Desk

While most of us can’t ditch our desk jobs, there are a few things we can do at work to reduce our chances of developing chronic back pain. Getting up to walk around at regular intervals during the day can help. So can practicing good posture and swapping out old, worn-out chairs for ergonomically correct chairs.

  • Pregnancy – Pregnant women often develop back pain as the increased weight of the child they are carrying puts pressure on the spine. Practicing good posture and engaging in doctor-recommended exercises such as swimming or walking can help pregnant women avoid developing chronic back pain. Losing weight after giving birth can also help head off long-term back problems.

Doctors Using Stethoscope on Pregnant Woman

  • Inactivity – Lack of exercise is a major risk factor for chronic back pain. Regular exercise can strengthen the muscles of the back, making them stronger and more resistant to degeneration or injury. A regular exercise routine can also help men and women avoid becoming overweight and adding an additional burden to their spines. Not all of us are meant to become body builders, but, by staying reasonably fit, we can reduce our likelihood of developing back problems.
  • Diet – A diet of foods that work to reduce inflammation can help men and women avoid or mitigate chronic back pain. In general, fruits and vegetables are noninflammatory and can even help to reduce inflammation. Some good choices include watermelon, carrots, beets, and green tea. Some foods to avoid include fried foods, white bread, and sugary snacks.
  • Harmful activity – Too much of the wrong kind of activity can also contribute to chronic back pain. Construction workers, distribution center employees, and other workers whose jobs include lots of lifting, pushing, and pulling are at elevated risk of developing back pain. Using proper safety equipment and following safe lifting and work recommendations can help prevent problems with chronic back pain.
  • Age – While we can’t do much about our age, we can be aware of the aging process’s impact on spinal health and take steps to mitigate it, such as getting proper exercise, avoiding activities likely to cause injury, and working to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Backpack overload – Loading our children down with heavy books and school gear can contribute to back problems later in life. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that backpacks for children should weigh no more than 15 to 20 percent of their body weight.

Working Man with Back Pain

360 Back and Spine Center helps patients suffering from chronic back pain and other health issues related to the spine and back. Dr. Melanie Kinchen has more than 15 years’ experience in spinal surgery and is a Harvard Medical School-trained M.D. who completed her residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital, one of the nation’s most revered medical institutions.

Dr. Kinchen and her staff are dedicated to helping patients overcome the challenges back pain poses to their quality of life. For a free consultation with a highly qualified spine surgeon in Texas, contact 360 Back and Spine Center today.

Source

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4508090/

How Are Spinal Conditions Diagnosed?

At 360 Back & Spine Center, a conservative approach is used to diagnose several spinal conditions including scoliosis and decompression. Through a partnership with our patients, we ensure that no decision regarding comprehensive treatment of all back and neck conditions is made without full patient understanding.

Pain is an unfortunate reality with spinal conditions. However, pain can also help a doctor to make an accurate diagnosis. Prior to the diagnosis of any spinal condition, there are many tasks that a doctor must perform in order to accurately identify the cause of pain and make an accurate determination. There are many types of pain which can indicate a wide array of spinal conditions.

Spine X-ray on Computer

Are You Experiencing Possible Spinal Condition Symptoms?

Knowing your symptoms will allow for better communication with your doctor. Every spinal condition has a different symptom or set of symptoms. Below are some of the more commonly diagnosed conditions and their symptoms.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis has occurred when the spinal nerve roots in the lower back (lumbar stenosis) or the spinal cord in the neck (cervical spinal stenosis) have been compressed. Cervical spinal stenosis is typically characterized by arm or leg pain. Commonly, pain develops slowly over time and comes and goes.

Stenosis pain can occur only during certain activities, such as when standing upright, cycling where the head is held upright, or walking. Usually, any pain triggered by one of the above activities is relieved when sitting, lying down, or flexing forward.

Scoliosis

Scoliosis is commonly encountered by North Dallas spine centers in which the spine curves sideways. Although most cases are mild, some cases will require bracing or surgical intervention; otherwise, they will be disabling. Typically, scoliosis presents no symptoms until the curvature of the spine has progressed to a moderate or severe level.

Often, in moderate cases, stenosis can be evident in ill-fitting clothing which hangs unevenly or doesn’t fit properly otherwise. The spine can appear to be crooked, or the ribs can appear to protrude.

Herniated Disc

Another very common spinal condition is a herniated disc. This condition, also known as “slipped disc” typically occurs as the result of the natural aging process. Years of wear and movement causes the spine to deteriorate gradually, which makes disc material—the cushion between the vertebrae in the spine—more vulnerable to displacement.

Man with Upper and Lower Back Pain

However, a herniated disc can be caused by other factors, such as direct injury to the spine, family medical history of spinal problems, and repetitive strain injury, to name a few. Some cases of herniated disc will exhibit no symptoms. Other cases may involve numbness in the extremities, radiating pain, or muscle weakness.

Physical History

Making the determination of the presence of a spinal condition will require you to provide a complete physical history. A doctor may ask you to complete a form that asks questions about your pain. The more information you are able to provide, the more effective the diagnosis of your particular condition will be.

Once you’ve completed the form, a doctor in your south Texas spinal clinic may need additional information. This might include asking you about the location and intensity of your pain, when it first began, what makes your pain worse or better, and whether you sustained any injury that may have caused your pain initially.

Examination

The physical examination follows the discussion of pain with your doctor. He or she will use the physical examination to identify and rule out possible causes of pain. Doctors may concentrate on particular areas of the body where you told them you were experiencing pain.

Your physical examination will also likely include checks of your neck and spinal motion, as well as sensory and reflex changes, muscle strength, motor skills, and other signs. The flexibility of your neck and spine, as well as any pain when you move, bend, or twist will be noted.

Sensory changes include numbness or pins and needles in specific areas, such as the feet or hands. Where reflexes are concerned, your doctor will check for changes in your tendon reflexes—most commonly, under the Achilles tendon and under the kneecap.

Muscle strength can be tested in various ways, including pushing the arm or leg against light resistance or by lifting an arm or a leg. As far as motor skills, your doctor may ask you to walk on your heels and your toes.

Your physical examination will also include checks for other signs which may indicate something other than a spinal condition, such as abnormal pulse or tenderness in particular areas of the body.

Testing

Texas back institute centers offer several different tests that a doctor can use to diagnose spinal problems. Each one provides your doctor with a different set of details about your pain and possible spinal condition.

The MRI

An MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, provides a clear picture of the soft tissues in the body. Therefore, it is ideal for diagnosing damage to nerves and other tissues. The MRI will be a likely test if your doctor suspects issues with your discs.

Man Getting CT Scan

Before you do this, however, you need to be aware that, because of the magnet used in the MRI, you may be at risk if you have a pacemaker or other implant, tattoos, hearing aids, pain patches, or other items which contain metal, including jewelry and some types of metal-containing leisure wear.

Testing via MRI will require you to lie down on a table that slides into the scanner. You will need to lie still, and the technician may ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds.

CT Scan

Computed Tomography or CT scans are special types of x-rays which provide incredibly detailed images. These images appear in cross-sectional pictures which can be viewed individually or layered on top of one another. CT gives a doctor the ability to diagnose conditions like broken bones or pelvic obstructions that can mimic spinal condition symptoms.

The CT scanner also requires you to lie on a table that moves into the scanner. Like the MRI, it’s important that you lie still in order to complete spinal diagnostics. Also, like the MRI, you may be asked to hold your breath during a CT scan to prevent blurring and loss of image quality.

You will need to remove any metal-containing items prior to a CT scan, as these can also interfere with image quality. As well, you should be aware that the CT scan will expose you to radiation. Therefore, you must inform your doctor if you are pregnant or if you do not wish to undergo radiation exposure.

X-Ray

The x-ray uses electromagnetic radiation to take an image of the body’s bones and dense tissue. The resulting image is a radiograph, which is a black and gray image of bones, muscle, fluid, and fat. Like the CT scan, the x-ray will expose you to radiation, albeit to a far lesser degree. Still, if you are pregnant, you need to inform your doctor before undergoing the test.

X-ray of Spine

Removing jewelry will allow for an unobstructed image. You may be asked to assume a number of different positions so that an accurate image can be taken. Several shots may need to be obtained. A radiologist will analyze the images before sending them to your doctor for further examination.

Treatment

Options for the treatment of spinal conditions can include surgery, as well as comprehensive but non-surgical methods.

ESI

If you’ve been diagnosed with spinal stenosis or a herniated disc, your doctor may recommend an epidural injection or ESI. These injections are helpful for treating pain associated with nerve irritation due to lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms or prior to herniated disc replacement. Once injected, the medication coats the problem area, absorbing into the joints and reducing inflammation.

Spinal Rehabilitation

One form of non-invasive treatment for spinal conditions is spinal rehabilitation. Rehabilitation will help you learn how to reduce your pain, as well as prevent future problems. In order to begin rehabilitation, you may need to answer more questions regarding your condition so that the physical therapist can target the source of pain and recommend a rehab plan.

Spinal rehabilitation may include a series of flexibility, stabilization, and other exercises which normalize spinal motion and strengthen the back muscles so they can better support the spinal column.

Bracing

In cases where a spinal deformity or disorder has been diagnosed, it may be necessary to use a back or neck brace. Bracing will provide external structural support to the back and neck to help encourage healing of the affected areas where injury has occurred. The use of braces over time will allow for the gradual improvement of spinal conditions due to disorder or deformity.

Finding the Right Assistance for Your Spinal Condition

When you require the assistance of a professional to correct your back, neck, or spinal condition, 360 Back & Spine Center can be your solution. Our specialists offer a range of comprehensive treatments that include non-invasive options to help make it easier to live with many types of painful back, neck, and spinal problems.

Instead of suffering, learn more about the many benefits that 360 Back & Spine Center’s neck and Dallas spine surgeons can offer, by calling (682) 808-4389.

Taking Care of Your Back: What You Can Do at Home

360 Back and Spine Center provides comprehensive treatment of back and neck conditions, including decompression, fusions, and scoliosis. Using a conservative, minimally-invasive approach, we partner with our patients and ensure they have all of the information they need to make an informed decision about their treatment.

Back pain, regardless of where in the back it occurs, can drain you both of energy and the desire to participate in everyday activities. However, back pain doesn’t have to keep you immobile; there are many things you can do to take care of your back at home.

Back Pain from Sleeping

Many people experience back pain when they sleep and wonder why. All that’s needed to answer this question is to consider your posture. Is your spine in a healthy position all day, or do you find yourself slouching? Are you thrusting your neck forward instead of ensuring your ears are positioned over your shoulders? These are just two of many examples of unnatural spine position.

Woman with Lower Back Pain

If your spine is in an unnatural position day after day, you will eventually begin to feel discomfort or pain when sleeping. The solution to this is to adopt the right sitting and standing positions during your regular day, and then support a natural spine position as you sleep.

Ergonomics Can Help with Back Pain at Work

Thinking ergonomically is the best way to maintain a natural spine position, as well as help you to have better posture if you sit for the majority of your work day. A kneeling chair will support your spine automatically, both because it is backless and because it allows you to support your sitting position with your knees.

Because the chair provides an enhanced angle between your torso and lower body, there is more space for the muscle tissues in the pelvis to move. When these muscles connected to the lower back are able to move, tension and pain in the lower back can be relieved.

Finally, after sitting in a kneeling chair over the long term, you will adopt a proper posture automatically, as well as continue to adopt this posture whenever you are not sitting. The longer you can maintain proper posture, the less pain you may experience.

Maintaining Spine Position While Sleeping

If your back, neck, and spine are improperly positioned while sleeping, you are very likely to experience pain. There are different solutions to taking care of your back while you sleep, depending on your regular sleeping position.

  • If You Sleep on Your Side

Improper side sleeping is a common cause of back pain. Proper position is to ensure your legs are bent enough to avoid arching the back, but not bent so much as to cause the back to be rounded.

The shoulders are another aspect of side sleeping that can cause both back and neck pain. You should avoid hunching your shoulders and bending your head downward or tilting the head back too much. Instead, you can relieve back and neck pain at home by ensuring your neck is straight with the chin slightly pointed down.

If you are still experiencing back pain when sleeping, place a thick pillow between the knees. This can relieve both pressure and pain.

  • If You Sleep on Your Back

Lower back pain is common for those who sleep on their backs, usually because the hip muscles are tight. In order to relieve pressure on this area and relax the hip muscles, a pillow can be placed beneath the knees. In addition to relieving pressure on the lower back, it’s also important to ensure that the head is resting at the same level as the spine, and not below, as this can cause neck pain.

  • If You Sleep on Your Stomach

Sleeping on your stomach can cause misalignment of the spine at the lower back, causing pain. Here, too, it’s recommended that you use a pillow while sleeping. However, it should be placed beneath your stomach/groin area. This will help to support and push the lower back up and into proper alignment with the spine.

Is There an Ideal Sleeping Position for Back Pain?

Because the majority of your back and spine is in the proper position when sleeping on your back, this tends to be the ideal position where the goal is to relieve back pain. Not only that, but sleeping on your back may allow you to fall asleep more quickly, as you will not have to adjust your neck and spine as much in order to relieve back pain naturally and get comfortable.

Treating Your Back Injury at Home

There are many myths surrounding how to treat back injuries at home that can worsen your condition.

  • Don’t Use Heat

One myth is that applying heat to your injury will help relax back muscles. Unfortunately, this will do nothing more than worsen your pain. Why? Because, when you’ve sustained a back or any other injury, you have caused an inflammatory condition in the injured area. Adding more heat to an area that is already inflamed will only create more inflammation.

This is why doctors recommend placing ice on your back in the first one or two days following an injury. You should ice your injury every 20 minutes. After 48 hours has passed, you can apply heat if you desire, using the same 20-minute rule.

  • Get Going

The last thing you may want to do after having injured your back is to move around. However, movement can be the best thing; after all, your back and spine are designed for it. If you are otherwise healthy and are not experiencing any symptoms besides back pain, you can resume movement after 48 to 72 hours of rest.

However, you will have to be careful with the kinds of activities you participate in. For example, you will want to refrain from any activity that requires twisting or heavy lifting until about six weeks after your injury. You’ll also want to cease any exercise routines for up to three weeks, to help cure back pain fast at home. Any activity like golf, jogging, sit-ups, racquet ball, or contact sports should also be avoided.

  • Stretch

Stretching can be a helpful way to treat back pain at home. However, this, too, requires you to exercise caution. Depending on the nature, severity, and location of the back injury, some types of stretches can cause further damage. If your back injury is not serious, and you are experiencing pain, there are several different stretches you can try.

One way to stretch is simply by standing up and then bending slowly downward from the hips. Allow your head and arms to hang freely, but don’t swing them. Maintain this position for 5 to 10 seconds, taking note of any pain you feel. If you don’t feel pain, you can maintain this position for longer than 10 seconds.

Man Bending Back

After 10 seconds, return to a standing position more slowly than you bent downward. Imagine slowly pulling a zipper closed on a jacket tooth by tooth; then, simply visualize your spine aligning vertebrae by vertebrae as you return to your original standing position.

This is just one of several possible stretches that can help return flexibility to your muscles and relieve your back pain. The best advice is to consult with a physician about your back injury. Following a diagnosis, your doctor or physical therapist will be able to recommend the right stretches for you.

Understand How Stress Affects the Body

Stress is the underlying cause of many physical ailments, including back injury. In addition to contacting orthopedic doctors in Fort Worth, you need to be aware of how the body deals with stress.

Even though you may not be aware of stress, your body can and does react to it. If your muscles are tense due to stress, they will not be as flexible as they should be, which can increase the likelihood of injury when engaging in everyday activity.

You may also wish to consider ways to make your schedule less stressful, both following your back injury and over the long term. You may be able to spend some hours working at home instead of going to your workplace. Or, you may be able to reduce your number of work hours altogether.

Finding a hobby that you love can help you reduce stress. You may even consider volunteering at a local senior center or animal shelter. Volunteering has been shown not only to reduce stress, but to have a host of other health benefits, including an increased sense of purpose and well-being, both which contribute to better physical health.

Getting Additional Help for Your Back Pain

Doctor Looking Over X-rays with Patient

Although there are many ways to relieve and often eliminate back pain at home, there are other pain-causing conditions which may require the assistance of a professional to correct. 360 Back Center is dedicated to providing patients with all of their options for comprehensive treatment of the back and neck. If you are living with spinal deformity, spinal fusion, a herniated disc, or other back or neck conditions, expert help is available—simply call 360 Back & Spine Center at (682) 808-4389.

Spinal Anatomy: What Can Go Wrong?

Education is key where it comes to back, neck, and spinal conditions. The spinal specialists at 360 Back and Spine Center are dedicated to a comprehensive treatment of decompression, scoliosis, and several other conditions with the full partnership of our patients.

Sometimes, spinal conditions arise because of problems with spinal anatomy. A specialist who understands spinal anatomy can recommend suggestions for preventing injury, as well as suggest treatment for these issues.

Who Is Vulnerable to Spinal Problems?

Spinal issues can affect a person at any age. This is due to the many risk factors. For example, genetics can be enough to cause spinal problems, as can aging. Another risk factor is pregnancy, and yet another is occupational hazards.

Doctor Pointing at Spine

Certain kinds of spinal problems have been evidenced to have a genetic link. Degenerative disc disease is just one of them. Of course, as time passes and we age, our spine will undergo much wear and tear that can produce pain in the back and neck. Aging can also cause conditions like osteoarthritis to develop, which affects those between the ages of 30 and 60.

Occupational hazards include any activity on the job that involves bending or lifting and that greatly increases the risk of injury to the back, neck, or spine. Lifestyle factors like being sedentary with long periods of sitting can also injure the back and spine. Sitting for long periods places pressure on the spine, causing common spinal diseases and discomfort. Sitting also doesn’t allow the spine to move, which is needed in order for it to maintain its flexibility.

Weight gain of all kinds, including pregnancy, also places pressure on the spine for a long period of time. This increased stress also affects the lower back and also the knees, which must carry the weight. Of course, the longer the back and knees must carry additional weight, the more severely they may be affected.

Spinal Anatomy and Back Problems

The spinal cord is protected by a series of vertebrae—7 in the neck, 12 in the upper back, and 5 in the lower back. Although many think that the spinal cord is the cause of back problems, this is not usually the case.

The spinal cord can become damaged due to trauma, however. When spinal cord damage occurs, it can cause paralysis. Paralysis can also occur in the womb due to developmental inconsistencies or congenital disease, which causes some to be born with it.

The spine itself can experience stress when issues in the cervical spine, such as stenosis, occur. When patients experience back pain, it’s usually caused by the nerve roots which exit through the spinal bones.

How Spinal Conditions Are Diagnosed

Apart from providing a doctor with your complete medical history and undergoing a physical examination, you may need to undergo diagnostic tests in order to determine your condition. A doctor bases their choice of diagnostic test on what they suspect to be the cause of your spine problems and recommends solutions for correcting them.

Some of the more common diagnostic tests for neck, back, and spinal problems include MRIs, bone scans, x-rays, discograms, CT scans, and spinal taps.

Common Spinal Conditions and Their Treatment

Medical treatment for back and spinal conditions can range from physical therapy to surgery.

Scoliosis

Scoliosis is the sideways curvature of the spine. Commonly, this condition manifests as the result of growth spurts occurring prior to puberty. It can also be caused by other spinal disorders, some kind of injury to the spine, and arthritis.

Bent Spine X-ray

The majority of scoliosis cases are mild and may require only physical therapy to strengthen the back muscles and slow the progression of curvature and the accompanying pain. More severe cases will require medical intervention.

A common means of treating scoliosis medically is bracing, which sees the patient wearing a brace that supports the neck and spine while encouraging proper spinal curvature. Cases requiring surgery may involve the insertion of hooks, wires, screws, or rods for the purpose of correcting spinal curvature.

Cervical and Lumbar Disc Compression

Cervical disc compression occurs when pressure is placed near the top of the spinal cord. Most patients experiencing compression will complain of difficulty when grasping objects, twitching and weakness in the arms and hands, and neck pain.

Lumbar disc compression, where pressure is placed on the lower spinal cord, is usually accompanied by weakness in the lower extremities and numbness and tingling in the feet. This condition can also require the intervention of a Texas spine institute where pain in the legs and buttocks and pain in the center of the back is occurring.

The surgical treatment for cervical disc compression is called cervical discectomy, which sees the herniated disc being removed and the spinal cord being decompressed. Then an artificial disc device is inserted. These devices not only work to slow the progression of degenerative disc disease in other vertebrae but also improve function, preserve motion, and reduce pain.

Surgery for lumbar disc compression sees the damaged disc being removed and replaced with a different implant than what is used for cervical compression—one which allows for natural movement, allowing the patient to achieve a range of motion that’s nearly normal.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease occurs when vertebrae in the neck or pelvis degenerate to the point that the space between discs is greatly lessened. This can cause the nerves to compress, as well as cause general instability.

Spinal fusion surgery is an option for those experiencing the pain of this condition. However, this surgery can be extensive. Spinal fusion can be ideal for patients who are experiencing severe pain that may or may not be accompanied by weakness, numbness, and tingling in the extremities. However, this surgery is not guaranteed to relieve pain, nor is it recommended for patients in which more than one disc has degenerated.

For most patients with degenerative disc disease, it is recommended that the patient seek out non-surgical options for pain management in conjunction with obtaining conservative rehabilitation and help from a Texas back institute in Plano.

Kyphosis

Kyphosis is the forward rounding of the spine. This condition, although it typically affects older female patients, can affect anyone at any age. When kyphosis is seen in older patients, the cause is usually attributed to osteoporosis or simply the degenerative changes that occur with time.

Younger kyphosis patients with developmental issues are often diagnosed with Scheuermann’s Kyphosis or Scheuermann’s disease. Unhealthy posture can also cause kyphosis in younger patients.

Bracing is a common solution to kyphosis, as the brace supports healthy posture and spinal position. Physical therapy is also recommended for milder cases. Where kyphosis is severe, surgery is an option to decrease the degree of spinal curvature. Surgery includes spinal fusion, which includes pieces of bone being inserted between the vertebrae and then fastening vertebrae together using screws and metal rods. This allows the spine to heal in a healthy position.

Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis

Both spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis affect the vertebra in the lowest lumbar, where a bony ring surrounds the spine and nerves. These conditions occur as the result of what is believed to be a stress fracture in the pars interarticularis, which is between the pedicle and lamina bones which form the ring.

Stress fractures occur when a bone is placed under repeated strain. Although bones can heal from this kind of stress, when the stress being placed on the bone occurs faster than the body is able to heal it the result is a stress fracture.

Conservative treatment with Frisco spinal rehab may be all that’s needed to reduce the back pain and improve the other symptoms of these conditions. Those with persistent back pain, or where a vertebra has slipped due to the instability of the pars interarticularis, may benefit from surgery.

Doctor Pointing at Spine to Patient

Spinal fusion is the common surgery for spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis. The surgery focuses on the area between the fifth lumbar vertebra and the sacrum to prevent further slipping, stabilize the spine, and alleviate back pain. Following fusion, the bones will grow together and heal as a single bone.

Finding a Spinal Specialist

Locating the right spinal specialist for you can be as easy as meeting at a consultation. They should be able to provide you with information about your condition, as well as speak with you about their successful surgeries with other patients. 360 Back and Spine Center ensures that all our patients make informed decisions about their back, neck, and spinal treatment options. Call

(682) 808-4389 to learn more.

Spinal Injury Symptoms That You Don’t Feel

Spinal injuries occur as the result of damage to one or parts of the spinal cord. This kind of trauma causes an interruption in the transmission of electrical signals sent from the brain to the nerves, and from the nerves to the brain. When this occurs, impaired or non-existent motor function and control can be the result, requiring assistance from a spine specialist.

The Absence of Pain

Contrary to what you may understand to be true about spinal cord injury, many symptoms aren’t accompanied by physical pain or even discomfort. For example, if you had a bad fall or experienced a cervical spine injury in sports and don’t feel pain, your spine could still be seriously injured.

Woman with Back Pain

The Seriousness of Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injury is a very serious kind of physical injury. Some spinal cord injuries can impact a patient long-term.

The spinal cord itself is the body’s “highway,” through which all messages from the brain are sent to various parts of the body and vice-versa. A healthy spinal cord allows the body to move its limbs and is what allows us to feel pain and discomfort.

When the spinal cord is injured, it results in an inability of some or all of the messages being relayed to reach their destinations.

Classifications of Spinal Cord Injury

Before reviewing the symptoms, which can occur, it’s important to note the two types of spinal cord injury, which are incomplete and complete.

The incomplete spinal cord injury may include having feeling past the point of injury, but more difficulty with moving these areas. One example could be when a patient feels sensation in the hands, but attempting to move the fingers is more difficult than it was before the injury occurred.

The complete spinal cord injury presents with the complete loss of sensation, as well as the loss of control of body parts located below the injury. This is referred to as paralysis by some patients.

Low and High Level Injuries

An injury to the spine deemed to be low level will typically involve only the trunk, pelvic organs, and legs. High level spinal injuries will involve the pelvic organs, trunk, and legs, but also affect the hands and arms.

Painless Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injury

Although patients may have sustained injuries to their spinal cords and are feeling pain as a result, there are other symptoms of injury which may not be accompanied by pain.

Absence of Sensation

A very common symptom of spinal cord injury is the loss of sensation in particular areas of the body. The point where sensation loss begins is usually indicative of where in the spine the injury is located. For example, patients who cannot feel their legs are likely to have incurred injury to their lower spines.

Incontinence

A loss of bladder or bowel control is another one of many cervical spine injury signs and symptoms. This particular symptom occurs as the result of the inability of nerve muscles to control bladder and bowel muscles due to a blockage of signals from the brain.

Pins and Needles or Weakness

Any tingling or numbness in the extremities is another painless symptom of spinal cord injury that shouldn’t be overlooked. As well, any feeling of weakness in the legs, arms, and other extremities can indicate nerve damage or impulse blockage.

Unusual Muscle Activity

Nerves which cannot communicate correctly due to spinal injury can result in the inability of  patients to control their muscles. Spams may occur, or the reflexes may be exaggerated. If neither of these painless conditions was present before, injury to the spine may be very likely.

Spinal Pressure

A feeling of extreme pressure is another symptom of spinal injury. Extreme pressure can indicate nerve damage as well as vertebral compression. Regardless of the type of injury, medical attention should be sought as soon as possible if a patient is experiencing this symptom.

3D Human Spine & Brain

Balance and Movement

If a patient experiences problems with unassisted walking, lightheadedness, and general problems with balance following an accident, a spinal injury could be the cause. Where these symptoms are present, it is imperative that the patient seek medical treatment.

Sexual Health

Spinal injury can also lead to a decline in sexual health. For men, changes in the ability to have an erection as well as changes in ejaculation can be painless symptoms of spinal injury. In women, changes in arousal and lubrication may also indicate nerve blockage or damage.

Achieving the Best Possible Chance of Recovery

In order to have the highest chance for the recovery of function following injury to the spinal cord, a patient must receive treatment from a Frisco spinal rehab center as quickly as possible following the incident which caused the injury.

Why Is Timely Treatment So Important?

Following injury, the blood flow in and around the spinal cord is dramatically reduced. This dramatic reduction in blood flow, if left untreated, will increase in severity, Not only that, but this reduced blood flow will also mean that other uninjured areas of the body will receive less blood, which can cause irreparable damage.

The body will continue to regulate blood pressure and heart rate following a spinal injury, but only for the first hour and thirty minutes. If reduced blood flow continues after this amount of time has passed, a drop in heart rate and blood pressure will occur.

Another reason to receive treatment as soon as possible following an accident is to mitigate the risk of nerve cell death. Following injury, an excessive amount of neurotransmitters are released into the body to compensate for the blockage of messages. Unfortunately, this release of neurotransmitters causes nerve cells to become overexcited and die.

The Benefits of Timely Treatment

When the right treatment is received, the spine can be stabilized early on, which will improve the chances of recovery. The first six months following a spinal injury will be when the majority of recovery occurs. During this time, a patient will undergo the most aggressive rehabilitation and physical therapy.

In addition to the physical treatment patients will undergo via spine specialists in Grapevine, their mental and emotional states will be absolutely essential to their recovery. Understandably, victims of spinal injury will often experience depression, which can lead to substance abuse and relationship issues. Fortunately, many resources are available at spinal injury clinics to ensure that patients are healthy in all ways and are dealing positively with their injuries and recovery.

Man with Spine Pain

What Does Spinal Treatment Involve?

The locations and severity of a spinal injury can differ greatly from patient to patient. However, generally speaking, a patient having sustained possible spinal injury must undergo imaging of the spine in order to obtain more information about the injury.

Once this is complete, it is likely that the spine will be stabilized, either by axial traction or rigid bracing. In the days that follow, a complete neurological examination is likely to be completed, as this procedure will allow injury severity and extent of recovery to be diagnosed.

Depending on the type of injury, surgery may be recommended. Several possible surgical procedures may be suggested, each having their own degree of possible recovery and risk to the patient.

Rehabilitation

Physical rehabilitation will be an important part of recovery for spinal cord injury victims. Although techniques and treatment lengths will vary from patient to patient, physical and occupational therapists will administer treatment.

Examples of physical therapy offered by spine teams in Texas are muscle-strengthening exercises, occupational therapy to help patients recover their fine motor skills, and bladder and bowel management programs. As well, vocational therapy may be recommended for patients who wish to resume work following their recovery from spinal injury.

In vocational therapy, patients’ basic work skills are assessed along with their dexterity and capabilities on a cognitive and physical basis. A specialist will then help a patient to determine potential places of employment, as well as any assistive devices which may be required.

How to Get Help for Spinal Injuries

If you or a loved one has recently suffered a spinal injury and home treatments for symptoms have not been effective, it’s imperative to find a specialist as soon as possible. The specialists at 360 Back and Spine Center are dedicated to providing comprehensive treatment.

Our conservative approach provides patients with the information they need to make informed decisions at every step of the treatment process. For more about the benefits of a partnership with us, call (682) 223-1406.

Elderly woman being Shown X-ray by Doctor

The Downside of Sports: Spinal Injuries

Sports are fabulous ways to socialize, be physically active, and have fun. They also come with some downsides. Regardless of your age, you may experience severe injuries to your spine. You may feel it will never happen to you, but, from the injuries we’ve seen, we know the reality can be much different. As spine specialists in Dallas, the 360 Back & Spine Center sees many patients who once felt that way.

Did you know that, in the past 30 years, disastrous cervical spine injuries due to sports have dropped? This positive change has occurred because many rules in football and other sports have been changed, acknowledging the hazards need to be mitigated.

Football Players Tackling

What Types of Spinal Injuries Happen Most?

Playing sports can cause a variety of injuries, but some are more frequent than others. As we all know, sprains, breaks, and ligament tears are all part of the risk. One major danger that has garnered plenty of attention in recent years has been neurological injuries. These are permanent and life-changing.

Traumatic brain injury may be the neurologic disease that attracts the most attention, but, when it comes to spinal injuries, the specifics are often left out. Any part of the spine can be damaged by hits, tackling, checking, or other types of physical contact, but, hands-down, cervical spine injuries in sports are the most frequently seen by doctors.

Preventing Injury While Staying Active

The chance of injury throughout your life is possible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do the things you enjoy. It’s the same with sports. Taking precautions is the best way to prevent an injury from ever happening. Some prevention methods are basic common sense, but others aren’t something we think about every day.

Protective Gear

When playing a sport, particularly a full-contact one, protective gear is essential. The designated equipment has been deemed necessary for a reason. Helmets and pads keep players safe. They’ve been tried and tested by professionals for the express purpose of player protection.

While wearing them is essential, wearing them appropriately is even more critical. Helmets and the various protective equipment should fit as intended. If they are too loose or worn improperly, they fail to protect the head and spine. Beyond this, all equipment should be used as the manufacturer dictates and what they have dictated its use for, and it needs to be maintained regularly. Broken or excessively worn gear is ineffective as well.

Football Player on Bench

Playing the Game the Right Way

Having a safety-first attitude about any sport is probably one of the best ways to cut down on injuries. Encourage everyone to play by the rules and ensure a suitable punishment is in place for breaking said rules. Sportsmanship and safety should always come before winning.

Have a Plan

The last step in preventing a permanent and disabling spinal injury is to have an emergency plan. While this doesn’t stop the initial injury from happening, this can mean the difference between a severe injury and a recoverable one. Your plan should include having appropriately trained medical staff on the sidelines, keeping important emergency equipment close by, and designating someone to call for emergency medical treatment.

The plan should also include education for everyone on what they should and shouldn’t do during an emergency. For instance, only properly trained staff should move a player if neck, back, or head injuries are suspected.

Swimmer Swimming

How Common Are They, Really?

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), “Approximately 8.7% of all new cases of spinal cord injuries in the United States are related to sports activities.” The NCBI also lists the sports with the highest instances of severe injury as rugby, wrestling, football, cheerleading, snowboarding, ice hockey, diving, and snowboarding.

The Injuries and Long-Term Implications

There’s been a lot of discussion about how to prevent injuries and how dangerous they can be, but what are they and what are the long-term ramifications? As discussed before, the cervical spine is one of the most-often injured parts of the spine. Certainly, it would be difficult to produce an exhaustive list of all possible injuries, but we’ll discuss ones regularly seen.

Cervical Spine Dislocations and Fractures

It happens when a force is applied lengthwise to the neck area. The force is greater than the ligaments and other supporting bodies can withstand. The force results in a fracture or dislocation of one of the discs. It also irritates or can seriously injure the nerve roots and/or spinal cord.

These fractures and dislocations range from relatively minor to fatal, depending on where the fracture occurs, what type it is, and other structures involved. More serious injuries could require a halo brace, c-collar, or another form of stabilization. Sometimes cervical fusion surgery is required to repair the damage. In the long-term, there is the risk for reinjury and chronic pain.

Brachial Plexus Injury

The brachial plexus is the nerve root located in the cervical spine and flowing down the shoulder into the arm. These injuries occur from stretching—when the head/neck is forced away from the opposite arm or the neck is compressed and rotated toward one of the arms. The result is tingling and numbness in one of the arms.

Football players refer to the resultant symptoms of this injury as stingers or burners. The injury tends to be self-limiting, but should always be investigated with x-rays and other imaging to ensure there is no fracture or another injury causing the symptoms.

Hockey Goalie

Disc Herniation

This injury can happen at any level of the spine and will tend to have different results depending on the affected area. This acute cervical herniation is seen more in sports other than football but can happen in any sport. Cervical disc herniation can cause anything from numbness to paralysis.

Other herniations, such as lumbar herniations, have different implications. For instance, lumbar herniations cause sufferers to experience sciatica. Treatment for lumbar herniation can vary from conservative treatment to surgical intervention. Several studies have found that microdiscectomy and conventional open discectomy had the highest instance of return to play. One study even showed that 85.1% of microdiscectomy patients returned to play versus the 78.9% who were treated conservatively.

Other treatments can include lumbar spinal fusion, though treatment is dependent on the extent of injuries, previous treatments, and circumstances of the injury. It’s important to speak with your Texas spine and joint specialist to develop a treatment plan that works best for you.

Sprains and Strains of the Cervical Spine

Strains and sprains occur with a compression or jamming-type force. The pain is limited to the neck area and affects the range of motion of just the neck. Typical treatment is with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) after ruling out more serious injuries. In a strain, the insult is to the paraspinal muscles rather than nerves, tendons, or ligaments. However, a sprain is an insult to the entire paraspinal musculotendinous unit.

Stenosis of the Cervical Spine

Stenosis means a narrowing. In this case, it’s the narrowing of the spinal canal in the cervical area. It’s usually the result of growing older and developing arthritis, but repetitive motion and injuries can speed along the process. Not only does stenosis cause its own chronic discomfort, it also puts players at risk for spinal cord injuries because the spinal cord sits closer to the bones.

Treatments vary from anti-inflammatory medications to surgery. Generally, the primary surgical option is a spinal compression, but other methods may be used, depending on the overall extent of the damage.

Sports are amazing for forming lifelong friendships, keeping in shape, and getting outdoors. They can also lead to chronic pain and significant, even life-threatening injury if appropriate prevention methods are not in place. Of course, there will always be accidents, but we should all take care to make them happen as infrequently as we can.

If you or a loved one suffer from pain or have been injured, you should be treated by a physician who understands your condition. Call 360 Back and Spine Center, your South Texas spinal clinic, at 682-223-1406 for an appointment today!

Sources

  1. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1264627-overview
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18295084
  3. https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/cervical-spinal-fusion
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3781879/
  5. https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/guide/spinal-stenosis#1

What Happens to the Spine as We Age?

As we age, many changes occur throughout our body. Your spine is just one of the many parts affected by age, use, inactivity, and lifestyle. It’s susceptible to disease, can be damaged by injury, and needs regular exercise to maintain its health. If you want to know how to keep a healthy spine for life, then check out this guide to your spine and its well-being. If you’re experiencing symptoms that affect your daily life, 360 Back & Spine Center can help.

Your Spine and the Aging Process

It should be no surprise that, like the rest of your body, your spine ages as you do. As you may expect, stiffness, discomfort, aches, and soreness are common symptoms of the maturing process. Unfortunately, the aching and stiffness can be a sign of more than just a natural process. They can signal spine degeneration or other debilitating issues. While some symptoms can just be par for the course, others may be manifestations of frequently seen conditions.

Woman with Back Pain

Common Spine Problems in Older Adults

Cervical Spine Conditions

Neck tenderness happens in a world where we’re always staring down at an electronic device. Some pains are worth paying attention to, though. Your cervical spine is what is most commonly called the neck or the first seven vertebrae of the spine. Due to its complex nature and wide range of motion, this part of the spine is prone to degenerative conditions. These conditions include:

  • Degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis)
  • Arthritis (spondylosis)
  • Bony growths known as osteophytes
  • Bulging or herniated discs (discs that have moved out of place through a tear)

Thoracic Spine Diseases

The thoracic spine is the next segment of your vertebrae. For reference, it’s in the chest and upper abdominal area of your body. The ribs connect to this part of your spine and protect your vital organs. Though the range of motion requirements are a bit different for this part of your spine, the diseases aren’t much different. Aging causes degenerative issues with the spine that include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spinal narrowing (stenosis)
  • Bulging discs
  • Herniated discs
  • Compression fractures (associated with loss of bone strength)
  • Bone spurs (tiny, smooth protrusions on bone surfaces)
  • Inflammation of facet joints
  • Degenerative scoliosis (adult scoliosis)
  • Humpback (hyperkyphosis)

Doctors Looking at X-Rays

Lumbar Spine Diseases

The lumbar spine is the part of the spine people tend to be most familiar with. It’s because those with jobs that require heavy lifting wear lumbar supports, and we use lumbar supports for our office chairs. The lumbar spine is the part we refer to as the lower back. Some age-related issues that affect the lumbar spine are:

Sacral Spine Diseases

Out of all of the spinal segments, this is probably the least heard of. It’s integral in the everyday movements we take for granted. Bending, stretching, lifting, and twisting all take their toll on the sacral spine. It has an important nerve called the sciatic nerve which runs from the lower part of the lumbar spine through the sacrum, which can cause additional issues not seen in other areas of the spine. The disease we hear about most often tends to be sacroiliac disease or sciatica. Issues with the sacral spine include:

  • Sacroiliac joint inflammation (inflammation of the joints that connect the sacrum to the pelvis)
  • Sciatic nerve constriction (impingement), known as sciatica
  • Herniated disc

The Tailbone or Coccyx

Humans may not have a tail anymore, but they do have a “tailbone.” The coccyx is the very last part of your spin and what you sit on. Since it’s not segmented like the other parts of the spine, it doesn’t come with all of the potential issues. However, it does suffer from damage due to wear and tear (or from having a baby if you’re a woman), which causes pain and discomfort.

Elderly People Stretching

Preventing Common Spinal Problems

While aging does affect your spine no matter what you do, there are ways to ensure you age gracefully. For starters, you’ll want to make sure you keep proper posture throughout your life. Having good posture and an ergonomic work area, as well as a supportive mattress, reduces the stress on your back, which, in turn, will lessen the possibilities of degenerative effects.

Another easy way to keep your back healthy is to eat a healthy diet, which includes vitamin D to promote bone health. Eating anti-inflammatory foods will also maintain your body and your spine’s fitness. To coincide with a balanced diet is exercise. Strengthening and supporting your core muscles while preserving flexibility is essential to spine health throughout your life, though lifting things that are too heavy will have adverse side effects.

Smoking, stress, and depression have negative effects on your body and back, too. Reducing stress, quitting (or never starting) cigarettes, and treating depression will improve spinal wellbeing.

Last, if you do injure your back, you should treat it appropriately. Care for sprains with rest, ice, elevation, and compression. Serious injuries and unrelenting pain should be addressed by a doctor. A physician should also evaluate chronic back pain to ensure your spine health is protected.

It doesn’t appear you can reverse damage once it’s been done but, certainly, you can prevent it from getting any worse. Be mindful of your lifestyle and your spine will appreciate it.

Doctors Touching Patient

When Is Surgery Needed?

No one wants to have surgery, but sometimes it’s the only way to fix severe issues, chronic pain, and damage your body can’t repair. When exercise, rest, stretching, medications, and other non-invasive treatments don’t work, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Conditions Treated with Surgery

When other treatments fail, surgery may be your best option. Quite a few conditions can be treated with a spinal fusion. These include spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, and non-age related conditions. While this surgery can be performed at any level of the back, cervical fusion and lumbar spinal fusion are seen quite regularly. It entails attaching or “fusing” the two bones together and allowing them to heal as one to correct problems and eliminate pain.

Another type of surgery is a diskectomy, which removes a portion of a disc when it’s become herniated, causing pain and pressure. There are times when a whole disc may need to be removed. The lumbar spine is a common area where this surgery might be needed. Herniated discs can also be treated with something called a laminectomy or laminotomy. A laminectomy is when the lamina (roof of the spinal canal) is removed, as opposed to a laminotomy, which is an opening created to relieve pressure.

Spondylosis, on the other hand, can be treated with various surgeries depending on the issues it causes. Anything from fusion to facetectomy (removal of the facet) can be required to treat the many conditions that may arise.

Meanwhile, spinal stenosis or narrowing can be treated with several types of surgery as well. For instance, a foraminotomy, or a widening of the foramen, may be done to fix the damage done by a bone spur. The foramen is the opening in the vertebra that the spinal cord passes through. A laminectomy or laminotomy may be done for decompression, and fusion may address spinal instability.

Please note that while some popular surgeries are mentioned here, they are by no means the only surgeries or the only conditions treated with surgery. Consult with your doctor for more details on what type of treatment you may need.

Seeking Medical Attention

You may not be young forever, but you can treat your spine like the vital body part it is. Doing everything you can to keep it healthy is tough work but well worth it. Sometimes, though, genetics, work, lifestyle, or injury may leave you with pain. A doctor can help you decide on the right treatment course for you. Contact 360 Back and Spine Center, your spine specialist in Grapevine at 682-223-1406 to learn more.

Sources

  1. https://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/neck-pain/how-aging-affects-your-cervical-spine
  2. https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/tc/spondylolisthesis-topic-overview#1

5 Tips to Prevent Back Strain from Lifting

Most adults experience back pain at some point, and lifting is a leading cause of strain. Exercising proper lifting techniques can prevent back strain, but avoiding lifting heavy objects is sometimes best. Often the discomfort will go away on its own. However, long-term worsening pain may require a spine specialist in Grapevine, TX that patients can depend on. In severe cases, procedures such as cervical fusion or disc replacement may be necessary.

Your priority, however, should be to prevent back strain in the first place. First, it may be helpful to learn the origins of preventable back pain, the symptoms, and any risk factors that can increase your need for spine specialists in Dallas, Fort Worth, or anywhere in Texas.

What Is Preventable Back Pain

Pain is often due to tight, tense muscles, a lack of strength, or muscle fatigue. Muscle tissue is strained and damaged by sudden, strenuous movement or a task you are not used to. Nerve damage can cause pain as well. Although not as common as muscle pain, nerve pain may result from an injured disc, which puts pressure on nerves branching out from the spinal cord.

Excessive twisting and overexertion can damage back ligaments. An irritated facet joint can cause muscle spasms, while anything from sudden movements to an awkward posture can strain spinal joints. A bulging or ruptured disc requires immediate attention by a spine surgeon in Texas. Conditions such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis can increase your risk of injury or exacerbate the problem.

Common Symptoms

  • Dull ache, soreness, or tightness
  • Pain intensifies with movement
  • Localized pain in the lower back, hips, or buttocks
  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Tender and inflamed areas
  • Pain lessens with rest or by reclining

If you feel a hot, tingling pain or an electric sensation, the problem is likely an irritated nerve root. With sciatica, the pain can travel down the nerves of the legs. Pain is often triggered by muscle spasms. As muscle fibers abruptly contract, they pinch the nerves that intertwine with them, causing intense back pain.

Man with Back in Pain

Back Injury Prevention Tips

Being that improper lifting1 is one of the most common risk factors for back strain and pain, here are five tips to help you prevent back injury and the need for Texas spine and joint care:

  1. Practice Safe Lifting Techniques

Proper bending and lifting help avoid injury and a visit to, for example, the Texas Back Institute. Lift an object by bending at the knees (bending at the waist puts excess strain on lower back muscles) and spread your feet apart (increasing your support base). Standing as close to it as possible, lift the item using your leg muscles. Also, keep your stomach muscles tight for support when lifting or lowering anything.

OSHA’s safe lifting techniques2 are as follows:

  • Planning: Determine if there are obstacles to clear, the load needs to be reduced, or a material handling device is necessary, and when to rest.
  • Sizing: Lift an object at the corner to test its weight and ensure it’s balanced; if you can’t handle the load, use a material handling device.
  • Establish your base: Spread your feet to shoulder width and stabilize your gait by placing one foot ahead of the other while holding the load close to your body.
  • Keep a firm grip: Grip the object with your palms and make sure your hold is firm before lifting or moving it.
  • Be steady: Control the lift using your legs and feet and with your head/shoulders up and stomach muscles tight; avoid twisting or sudden motions.
  1. Exercise

Stretching is an important technique for protecting your back. In addition to the back muscles, focus on supporting muscle groups in your stomach, arms, and legs. By loosening your hamstrings, you can maximize pelvic motion and protect your lower back. Focus on strengthening hip and leg muscles, especially if they’re weak or you are recovering from a back injury.

Man with Weights

Common stretches include knees to chest while lying flat on your back, and lifting your chest off the floor with your arms while lying on your stomach. Other stretches can be performed while in a cat and dog position, sitting down, or standing up. Side leg lifts and pelvic tilts can help as well. The techniques outlined in the OSHA back injury prevention materials help reduce back strain while lifting.

Each stretch should yield mild tension, but no pain, numbness, or tingling. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds, and repeat each activity 3-5 times to abate any muscle tightness.

  1. Care with Repetitive Motion

For our spine team, Texas patients frequently show signs of repetitive motion injury caused by stressed muscles and joints. Such motions may occur every few seconds during an eight-hour shift and increase the likelihood of needing a Southlake orthopedics specialist. The risks depend on the frequency of the straining activity, how fast you move, and how many muscles are needed to complete the task. Posture and the amount of force needed to lift or move an object are also factors.

It is possible, however, to reduce the chances of injury. Handcarts, dollies, skid loaders, and lift trucks should be used to move heavy loads, rather than transporting them manually. If possible, alternate tasks, so you can switch muscle groups and engage in different motions and postures. This gives some muscle groups a rest and prevents improper lifting injuries. Also, do stretching exercises whenever you have a break.

  1. Health Habits

Proper posture is one of the best ways to avoid back strain. When lifting, do not bend forward or twist your body. Body posture controls the use and amount of forces on different muscles and joints. Awkward postures can be reduced, even at work, by changing the height from which you handle an item. Your back should be in a standing neutral position, with the spine in its natural S-curve.

Man Lifting Couch

Another good idea is to store materials at waist level (avoiding the need to bend while lifting)—but you shouldn’t need to reach over to lift the workload, either. Overexertion can be prevented with material handling devices, pushing rather than lifting, dividing up loads, and obtaining assistance from a coworker. It’s also important to reduce fatigue caused by using the same muscles or motions repeatedly.

Concentrate on your overall health since these same habits also benefit your lumbar spine, as our South Texas spinal clinic can attest to:

  • Stay hydrated with water.
  • Minimize alcohol consumption.
  • Avoid smoking and nicotine.
  • Consume fewer inflammatory foods.
  • Get enough sleep to restore damaged tissues.

Preventative treatment, including exercise, medication, and calcium and vitamin D, are also recommended by our Texas spine institute.

  1. Travel with Care

You can prevent back strain and existing injuries from getting worse by taking care when traveling. Lifting is often involved with travel. Heavy luggage should be handled in the same way as lifting and carrying work items. It should also be loaded in stages; for example, lift a suitcase from the floor to a chair/stool, and then into the trunk.

If you’re sitting for a long period of time, bring a lumbar support pillow or an inflatable travel pillow for your neck and head. Your feet should be placed on a firm surface to reduce lower back strain. Try to get up and stretch every 20 to 30 minutes (especially the hamstrings), and check on your posture from time to time to make sure your back is properly aligned.

These techniques will reduce the risks of back strain when traveling and when you need to lift a heavy item later.

How to Relieve Back Strain

  • Medications: Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines (i.e., aspirin, ibuprofen) and pain medicines such as acetaminophen can help. Prescription muscle relaxants may, as well.
  • Cold/heat packs: An ice pack applied for 10- to 20-minutes at a time can relieve inflammation after a muscle injury.3 Heat packs help increase circulation, relieve tension, and speed up healing.
  • Walking: A 3- to 5-minute walk can alleviate the stiffness in your lower back. This helps you stay active and contributes to the normal spinal function and health.
  • Massage: Increases circulation, relaxes muscles, and releases endorphins, which reduce pain signals. Massage therapy can also increase your range of motion.
  • Modified activity: If you’re injured or experiencing back pain, lifting with your back injury is a bad idea. Rest when necessary, although prolonged rest periods can increase stiffness and decondition your back muscles.

Avoid jogging, contact sports, dancing, weight lifting, and situps and other strenuous activities unless a medical professional says it’s okay. At any time, it’s important to know how to protect your back while lifting weights.

If the problem is caused by serious structural problems, a neck fusion or cervical fusion surgery may be done. A Frisco spinal rehab may be recommended, whether you have surgery or are recovering from a strain or injury. Procedures include Anterior Cervical Discectomy Fusion and Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion. At 360 Back and Spine Center, we also treat vertebral compression fractures and conduct minimally invasive techniques.

Statistics on Back Pain

About 61% of Americans regularly have lower back pain, according to a survey by the American Physical Therapy Association, while 69% of respondents said it affects their lives on a daily basis.4 Nearly a quarter say work is affected and even more reported impacts on sleep and exercise. About 4 in 10 individuals with a back issue never seek medical attention.

The American Chiropractic Association has said 31 million people in the U.S. experience lower back pain at some point.5 It estimates 80% of the population will have a back problem during life, and most of the time the pain has mechanical origins and is not caused by disease. In fact, the single leading cause of disability in the world is low back pain.6 Also, about 1 in 5 workplace injuries involve the back,7 so safe lifting practices should always be considered.

Seek Treatment at 360 Back and Spine Center

Top providers such as the Laser Spine Institute, Texas and Texas Back Institute, Plano are known for great care. We offer nothing less. If your back pain is severe, come to us for a consultation. A qualified and experienced spine surgeon in Texas can recommend the best course of treatment. From lumbar spinal fusion to treating sacroiliac joint disease, to various other surgical and non-surgical interventions, our team is prepared to help.

Led by orthopedic surgeon Melanie B. Kinchen, MD, PA, our team specializes in cervical and lumbar fusions, disc replacement, micro disc surgery, scoliosis treatment, laser surgery, and tumor removal. For information about how we can help, chat with us online or call our Grapevine office at 682-223-1406 or our Fort Worth location at 682-808-4392 today.

Sources

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/back-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20369906
  2. https://www.osha.gov/dte/grant_materials/fy06/46g6-ht22/back_injury_prevention.pdf
  3. https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/pulled-back-muscle-treatment
  4. http://www.moveforwardpt.com/LowBackPain/Infographic
  5. https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/Health-Wellness-Information/Back-Pain-Facts-and-Statistics
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24665116
  7. http://ehs.virginia.edu/Ergonomics-BIP.html

What Is Laparoscopic (Minimally Invasive) Back Surgery?

Anyone who hasn’t experienced back pain at some time could count themselves among the lucky ones, according to an article published by the University of Kansas Medical Center. Researchers estimate that it affects about 90 percent of adults and 50 percent of workers. Sometimes it’s just a simple sprain. Other times, it involves something more serious like a need for a disc replacement or scoliosis.

Surgery Operation

Lower back and neck pain accounts for about $87.6 billion in health care spending, according to data compiled by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. It is the third most costly health condition, topped only by diabetes and heart disease, respectively. Just over 60 percent of spending for back and neck pain goes toward outpatient care, with another 28.8 percent for inpatient services.

Unless there is a specific cause, doctors typically begin treatment with non-surgical therapies. Surgeons have traditionally used open surgery to correct spinal problems. Minimally invasive procedures like laparoscopy offer better options for patients, along with some valuable health benefits.

Defining Minimally Invasive Surgery

Minimally invasive surgery tries to strike a balance between the need for these procedures with a means to minimize the amount of exposure and, hence, the risk of complications. It involves one or more small incisions versus the 5- to 6-inch one a doctor may make during a traditional open back surgery.

Surgeons use instruments called tubular retractors to clear a pathway between muscles and soft tissue to zero in on the affected area. Thus, its alternative name keyhole surgery becomes evident. That differs from the muscle retraction used in open surgery to expose a larger region. They can use an endoscope or lighted microscope to get a clear view of internal structures at this finer level.

Where it is applicable, it offers patients several advantages that make it an excellent option. The benefits of this approach include:

  • Shorter hospital stays or even outpatient surgery options
  • Fewer complications
  • Less muscle damage
  • Less postoperative pain medications with their associated side effects
  • Less pain
  • Less bleeding
  • Less external and internal scar tissue
  • Quicker return to normal activities

However, treatment using minimally invasive surgery isn’t yet possible for all conditions. It’s essential to realize that it still carries some risk of complications despite the advantages that it offers, but it’s safe to say that any surgical procedure raises these same concerns.

Minimally invasive surgery isn’t without its disadvantages that are worth considering when deciding if it is right for a given case. From the surgeon’s perspective, these procedures are often more difficult because of the smaller operative site. There’s also a steeper learning curve for doctors wanting to use these techniques.

There are certain procedures, conditions, and patients for which minimally invasive surgery isn’t appropriate. It is not, therefore, a be-all-end-all solution in all cases. On the downside, the duration of the surgery isn’t reduced significantly, either, when compared to open surgery, according to a study by the Santa Casa School of Medicine and Hospitals of São Paulo, Brazil.

Types of Laparoscopic Back Surgery

These technologies offer many opportunities for treating common conditions. For example, minimally invasive surgery for a herniated disc can precisely locate the damaged area and replace it with a bone graft to provide welcome pain relief. Other procedures include:

  • Cervical and lumbar fusions
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Extreme lateral interbody fusion
  • Direct lateral interbody fusion
  • Treatment of degenerative disc disease
  • Tumor removal
  • Spinal disorders such as scoliosis
  • Discectomy

A doctor may recommend spinal fusion surgery for conditions such as spondylolisthesis, which can cause an achy feeling and tight hamstring muscles. It is also an option for other disorders, such as degenerative disc disease. As the name implies, the surgeon will fuse two or more vertebrae into a more stable and solid bone to help strengthen the back.

In a spinal stenosis procedure for decompression, for example, the surgeon can remove bones or other materials that place undue pressure on nerves. This condition can cause a pins-and-needles sensation or shooting pain. There are two common ways to provide relief. Foraminotomy involves opening up the space through which a nerve travels. Another option is a laminectomy, which targets the rear portion of a vertebra to accomplish the same purpose.

A discectomy involves trimming or complete removal a spinal disc that is protruding out from its normal place as a cushion between two vertebrae. It can cause sharp or burning pain that travels from the lower back down the leg, especially when bending over or sitting down. As with decompression, the culprit is unnatural pressure on nerves, which the surgery aims to correct.

3D Spine

Many of these procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis to minimize disruption in the patient’s everyday life. They may receive regional or general anesthesia, depending on their health and the condition being treated. However, it isn’t an option for individuals with:

  • An active infection of any kind
  • Malignancy
  • Metal allergy or sensitivity
  • Tobacco use

The procedure typically involves creating the incision for the tubular retractor to enter the patient’s skin to the surgical site. Everything entering, such as a rod or graft, or leaving, in the case of any bone fragment, goes through this tool. The surgeon will use real-time imaging using a device called a fluoroscope to complete the procedure.

Doctor Looking at X-Ray

In contrast, in open surgery, muscles are dissected to gain access. With laparoscopy, they are moved aside or dilated and will return to a normal state once it is complete. The point of entry and the number of incisions needed vary with the type of procedure. Some, such as minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery, involve going through the side, back, or abdomen, explains an article from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

It’s worth mentioning that laparoscopic surgery has other applications, in addition to treating back issues, which stem from its early use in gynecologic surgery. The same patient benefits exist with these procedures, too. Other common applications include:

  • Cholecystectomy (gallstone removal)
  • Colectomy (selective removal of sections of a diseased colon)
  • Endovascular surgery (aneurysm repair)
  • Orthopedic surgery

Complications

Infections remain one of the main concerns when it comes to complications associated with laparoscopy or any surgical procedure. That’s why minimally invasive procedures hold such promise because of their reduction of internal exposure. Likewise, the risk of nerve damage also exists, especially considering the poor depth perception a surgeon may experience when using these techniques. Remember, their view of the surgery is second-hand from another device.

Smokers who undergo lumbar spinal fusion surgery are at a greater risk of developing pseudarthrosis. That describes a condition when solid bone formation fails to form. It can complicate the patient’s recovery and may necessitate another surgery with its associated risks.

Another concern exists with the development of scar tissue if bleeding has occurred around the nerve roots. That can place pressure on them and cause additional pain. Other potential risks to discuss prior to any surgery include:

  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Anesthesia complications or adverse reactions
  • Penetration of the small or large bowel
  • Fusion disease
  • Nerve pain

On a positive note, hospital stays are shorter, which can lead to significant cost savings for patients. Also, the recovery time is faster with minimally invasive procedures. Individuals may return to normal work and lifestyle activities quicker, too. The opportunity to provide them with a trouble-free life offers the additional benefit of a reduction in the use of prescription pain medications.

Minimally invasive procedures, such as cervical fusion or other types of laparoscopic surgery, can provide quick relief from the debilitating pain that often accompanies lower back and neck issues. While not a solution in every case, it has the potential to bring welcome comfort and a boost in a patient’s quality of life. That is the primary goal of the 360 Back & Spine Center team from Texas.

Sources

  1. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0315/p1779.html#afp20000315p1779-b33
  2. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2594716
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17881967
  4. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/treatment/minimally-invasive-spine-surgery

 

What Medical Conditions Does Spinal Fusion Treat?

360 Back and Spine Center uses a conservative approach to the treatment of decompression, scoliosis, and other back and neck conditions. In partnership with our patients, we ensure they have the information they need to make informed decisions about treatment.

Spinal fusion is a very common surgery that treats a number of conditions. However, not everyone with pain will require this surgery.

History of Spinal Fusion

The surgery is by no means a new concept. However, the techniques used to complete it, as well as the conditions it treats, have evolved and expanded.

Spinal fusion surgery, originally introduced in the early 1900s, was initially done to correct spinal deformities that occurred as the result of tuberculosis infections. The surgeries performed for this purpose were found to be successful, not only because the surgery limited deformities in patients, but because it was also able to reduce the low back pain these patients suffered.

Spinal fusion in the 1900s saw bone being taken from the patient’s tibia. This bone was then broken into small fragments before being packed between affected vertebrae. Over time, the fragmented bone would ossify or harden like cement. When this happened, the affected segments would be immobilized.

After a decade of improvements, the procedure was improved upon, and, in 1929, was used to treat other degenerative conditions of the spine. The publication of a paper by two general surgeons in 1934 concluded that the most frequent cause of back pain and sciatica needing spinal rehab was due to nerve-root-compressive disc herniation, and not due to a disc tumor as was previously suspected.

The paper identified the origin of these herniations to be from the disc’s center. Finally, the paper identified that the best way to correct this type of herniation was via fusion.

It wouldn’t be until 1953 that the modern version of spinal fusion would be pioneered. This modern version saw the tissue being removed from affected vertebrae. The bony cortex is then removed via grinding, and this ground bone is placed between affected vertebrae, where it hardens into bone.

Today, the bone that is placed between vertebrae can be obtained via donation. Plastic or metal spacers may be needed if a certain condition dictates it.

Conditions That Spinal Fusion Treats

In its infancy, spinal fusion surgery was used to treat deformities as a result of tuberculosis, fractures, and other issues. Today, it is used to treat spinal stenosis and age-related spinal problems.

Spinal fusion surgery may also be done as a follow-up treatment to treatments completed for the purpose of treating tumors, infection, injury, disc herniation, and spinal stenosis.

Modern Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal fusion surgery involves accessing the spine from the front, the side, or the back. In all cases, the surgeon will take bone and use it to create a bridge between vertebrae. As well, the surgeon will likely insert metal implants, which will hold the vertebrae together until new bone has grown.

Anterior (Frontal) Lumbar Spinal Fusion

Also known as anterior lumbar interbody fusion, or ALIF, this process involves the patient lying on their back, and the surgeon accessing the spine via an incision in the abdomen. In order to access the spine, the surgeon must retract vascular and abdominal structures.

Once the spine is able to be accessed, the surgeon removes disc material and replaces it with bone graft material, as well as inserts spinal implants.

Posterior (Back) Transformational Lumbar Interbody Fusion

Transformational lumbar interbody fusion, also known as TLIF, requires the patient to lie on their stomach, and the surgeon accesses the spine via an incision in the back. In order to access the spine, the surgeon must retract nerve roots and muscles. Once the spine is in view, the disc material is removed and replaced by bone graft material and spinal implants.

Direct Lateral (Side) Interbody Fusion

Direct lateral interbody fusion, also known as DLIF, sees the patient lying on their side. The surgeon makes an incision into the side and forms a small passageway to the spine through the soft tissue and the psoas muscle.

In order to access the spine, the surgeon uses a real-time, fluoroscopic x-ray guide to insert tubular dilators which create this passageway and allow for the removal of disc material and the insertion of bone material and implants.

Hospital Stay and Recovery Time

Regardless of the way in which spinal fusion surgery is performed, the length of time that the patient will remain in the hospital will depend solely on what Texas spine institute surgeons and their patients decide in terms of postoperative treatment. However, a patient should expect to remain in the hospital for a few days for monitoring.

Once home, a patient may not necessarily require bed rest, although their doctor may recommend that they wear a back brace during their recovery. The total time for recovery after spinal fusion surgery can be extensive and require participating in swimming, stationary cycling, and walking to reclaim spinal mobility.

Risks and Success Rate for Spinal Fusion

There are risks involved with any surgical procedure. In the case of spinal fusion surgery, the overall health and age of the patient will determine the level of risk. In addition, the reason for surgery and the type of spinal fusion will also determine the risk level.

Patient risks include injury to the nerves, breakage of metal implants, surgery failure, pain at the site of the bone graft, infection, and rejection of the bone graft. There may also be risks not immediately evident due to a rare allergic reaction, undiagnosed heart and other diseases, blood clots, or risks which present themselves following anesthesia of the patient.

Depending on the severity of these occurrences, a longer stay in the hospital may be necessary. Regardless, a surgeon will inform the patient of all possible risks prior to surgery. Finally, the decision to undergo surgery is solely the patient’s.

Alternatives to Spinal Fusion

A patient who is experiencing low back pain due to degenerative lumbar disc disease, but who does not wish to undergo spinal or cervical fusion surgery, has four options: disc regeneration, posterior dynamic stabilization, disc replacement, and annuloplasty.

Disc Regeneration

Although still being tested as a treatment, disc regeneration is showing much promise. This process involves the use of gene therapy to stimulate disc regeneration or to slow the rate of disc degeneration.

In addition to the above, research continues into the inhibiting of disc degeneration via gene therapy. Research into gene therapy for the treatment of intervertebral discs is still in its early stages.

Posterior Dynamic Stabilization

The aim of posterior dynamic stabilization is to preserve spinal motion while relieving pressure on affected discs. Several systems are available to achieve this stabilization. Each one acts as an internal brace to allow controlled movement in the affected area. Systems utilize screws, cords, spacers, and rods of different levels of flexibility and moving parts.

Disc Replacement

The disc replacement process involves the removal of the affected disc, which is then replaced by an artificial disc. The goal of disc replacement surgery is to preserve normal spine motion, which is thought to reduce the risk of degeneration for other segments in the lumbar spine. As well, greater pain reduction may be possible with disc replacement than with spinal fusion.

Annuloplasty

Also known as intradiscal electrothermal coagulation (IDET), this procedure involves the insertion of a needle into the space between affected discs, through which a catheter is passed. The catheter heats up the outer core of the disc space to relieve pain. The procedure cauterizes nerve endings, which South Texas spinal clinics suspect makes them less sensitive.

This procedure is minimally invasive and usually is performed on an outpatient basis. Mild sedation and a local anesthetic are required as part of the surgery.

Some of the above procedures are still in their infancy, in terms of research and testing, while others are no longer preferred by spinal specialists. This is why consultation with a spinal specialist is so important; they can offer advice and information on current procedures.

Getting Professional Advice About Spinal Fusion and Alternatives

If your condition requires the assistance of a professional to treat and correct it, the best option is a location that is dedicated to presenting patients with all of their options. 360 Back and Spine Center specialists help patients with herniated discs, spinal deformities, and other conditions by suggesting a range of comprehensive treatments, including non-invasive options. Learn more about the benefits of Frisco spinal rehab by contacting 360 Back and Spine Center: (682) 808-4389.