Monthly Archives: June 2016

Summer: Fun and Safety

Summer has officially started and with the Fourth of July right around the corner, we know that there are some wonderful summertime activities planned. Summer means vacations, pool parties, barbecues and, of course, heat. It is a wonderful time to change up your exercise routine with a new summer friendly activity. For those of you who manage back problems, the summer can present a new set of issues: the heat and humidity that the summertime brings can increase pain levels. For those of you who don’t worry about back pain, the summertime can present a new set of dangers that may cause injury.

One of the advantages of summer is that it offers the chance for low-impact aerobic exercises like swimming. Swimming can help rehabilitate your back while giving you a great workout. You can try water therapy or aerobic classes. Omaha Parks offers a fun line-up of water based activities for the summer. If swimming isn’t your thing, you can take your bike to the many trails in the area. Biking is gentle on the lower back while allowing you to burn a lot of calories.  Another effective low-impact workout is walking. If you’re a golfer, it’s a great way to get in those steps if your leave behind the cart.

However, the extreme heat of summer can be dangerous if you are planning activities outdoors.  Remember to push yourself without exceeding your limits. A muscle strain or tear can be painful and temporarily keep you from your everyday activities. Hydration is equally important and water is best. Always bring a water bottle with you on any outdoor adventure to avoid heat exhaustion. With any new exercise regimen, make sure you consult with your doctor before beginning.

Swimming and watersports are synonymous with summertime. While we encourage you to take advantage of the benefits of swimming, we also want to emphasize safety. Whether you are swimming for sport or recreation, safety comes first. If you are jumping or diving into water, ensure that it is deep enough to clear. Head and neck injuries are common and devastating injuries in the summertime when revelers dive into too shallow water. Water Skiing, while fun, can present serious injuries due to falls at high speed. Experienced water skiers can often fall in a manner that will prevent injury. If you are a novice, it is best to take things slow; don’t become overconfident in your skill level, and develop a good communication and signal system with the boat captain.

If you find your pain being impacted by the summer weather, you might consider some additional pain relieving techniques. During these times, if your pain flares, you can try icing the area of pain. Continue to use your normal pain management protocol. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even try adding a ginger supplement to help with pain management. Recently, it was discovered that ginger helped ease the pain of osteoarthritis in some sufferers. Of course, consult with your doctor before making a change to your diet or pain protocol.

The summertime brings the opportunity to travel and experience new outdoor activities. It can also bring pain inducing weather and more chances for injury, so be careful while you enjoy the nice weather! If you have questions about starting a new exercise routine or pain management this summer, contact us to talk about it!

Scoliosis: Signs, Symptoms and Screening

June is scoliosis awareness month. Scoliosis is a condition which causes a curvature in the spine. Idiopathic scoliosis is most commonly seen in girls with a family history of the condition, between the ages of 10 and 12; however, anyone can be impacted by the condition.

While it is a rare condition, you should consider a routine screening for younger children. If left untreated, the curve can worsen and even restrict heart and lung function. The spine stiffens as we age, making it more difficult to treat scoliosis in later years. Children are often screened at school, but knowing some of the signs and symptoms of scoliosis can help with early intervention and treatment plans.

An x-ray will be needed to confirm the presence of scoliosis; however, there are common signs and symptoms  you can keep an eye out for. In school screenings, a maneuver called the Adam’s Forward Bend Test is used to get a closer look at the spine. During this maneuver, the spine must be visible. The examinee bends at the waist with his or her feet together and arms hanging. The examiner will look for some of the following symptoms:

  • Asymmetry of the spine
  • The body leaning to one side
  • Uneven shoulders
  • One shoulder blade sticking out more than the other
  • An uneven rib cage
  • Uneven hips
  • The waist appearing uneven
  • The head  not lining up with the pelvis
  • One leg appearing shorter than the other

When preparing a child for a scoliosis screening, it is important to reassure them that the test is painless. They are often in a private room and will not have to be exposed to their classmates or teachers. If the screening is positive, the examiner will recommend that a more thorough examination should happen with your doctor. The doctor will perform more in-depth testing, including an x-ray to confirm the presence of scoliosis.

Even an untrained professional can notice the signs and symptoms of scoliosis. If you notice that your child has uneven shoulders or hips, you may want to make an appointment with their doctor to have them fully tested. Once tested, the doctor can tell you if scoliosis is present. If it is, the doctor will then let you know what the best treatment path would be. In some cases, a brace or surgery is needed to straighten the spine, while in other cases, the doctor may suggest simply monitoring your child’s growth and spine.

Scoliosis is primarily viewed as a physical condition. But, those that suffer from untreated scoliosis often talk about the emotional toll it takes, as well. They report feeling self-conscious about their looks and dealing with the pain they endure because of the condition. Some people report struggling with simple tasks like sitting at a desk or choosing what clothes to wear for the day. The good news is that children diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis can be treated.  

It is important to catch scoliosis early so that treatment occurs sooner and the pain of advanced scoliosis can be avoided. If you have questions about screening, diagnosis, or treatment of scoliosis, you can contact our Nurse Navigator for help!

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness Meditation: A New Treatment for Back Pain

The back is a sophisticated structure of bones and muscles. The delicate system can be strained or irritated leading to some form of back pain. At any given time, it is estimated that 31 million Americans experience lower back pain.

Back pain can be difficult to manage, which is why it is the leading cause of occupational disability worldwide. Often, a sufferer is told that a combination of painkillers, heat/ice therapy, and exercises will help relieve back pain. However, a new study shows that a new, natural treatment could be effective in combating the pain: mindfulness meditation. The study showed that participants who engaged in mind-body therapy (Mindfulness Stress Based Relief Meditation) showed improved pain scores over the 8-week treatment sessions.

The research gives new hope to sufferers of back pain, especially those who are wary of taking pharmaceuticals for management. To incorporate mindfulness into a pain management routine, it might be good to start from the beginning. What is mindfulness meditation? Mindfulness is being aware of both your mind and body as well as your thoughts and feelings, and is the skill of paying attention to your inner and outer experiences with acceptance, patience, and compassion.

In order to get started, there are some specialized, yet simple, techniques to practice mindfulness meditation. A basic recommended technique is posture therapy, which is essentially sitting in a controlled manner. Easy, right? In order to implement this routine, you’ll first want to take a seat–it can be on the floor, or on a sturdy chair or cushion.

If on the floor, cross your legs, and if in a chair, plant your feet on the floor. Straighten your back without stiffening it, and allow your hands to drop on the tops of your legs. If you feel as if you are hunched or stiff, adjust your posture to be straight, but comfortable. Drop your chin and allow your gaze to fall gently downward. Then, relax.

During this time, you can focus on your breathing. Don’t worry if your mind wanders. Don’t worry if your mind is empty. Exist in the moment of relaxation. You can hold this position for 3-5 minutes, and that’s it!  A few minutes a day can start you on the path to reduced pain!

If you are still feeling intimidated by the idea of meditation, there are some wonderful apps that can help jump start your mindfulness journey. Different apps will include guided features to help you through meditation by improving your technique and overcoming any self-consciousness associated with it. You can find a nice list of highly rated apps here, or explore the app store to find one that suits your needs!

As we continue to explore treatment options, we are discovering that back pain is manageable and that implementing healthy, non-pharmaceutical treatment techniques could be what keeps you pain-free in certain situations! If you have questions about your pain and want to consult with a doctor, please contact us here.



Scoliosis: The Basics

June is Scoliosis Awareness Month.  If you don’t quite know what Scoliosis is, you likely have heard the word at some point during your middle school career.  Most of us endured the somewhat uncomfortable spine check as our self-conscious 11-year-old self tried to hold back the giggles.  At the time, you likely weren’t explained why this test was necessary and were simply given the short speech that it was: “to make sure your back was straight.”  But, scoliosis is much more complicated than that and these in-school checks are an important screening process to catch scoliosis in its early stages.

Scoliosis is a condition which causes a sideways curvature of the spine.  While scoliosis can share a comorbidity with cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, it can exist on its own.  The cause of scoliosis is unknown.  The most common type of Scoliosis occurs in children and is more prevalent in girls after the age of 10.  Growth spurts occurring just before puberty are often when the curvature presents itself.

Scoliosis can be classified into two groups: structural and non-structural.  Non-structural scoliosis is related to a spine that in its structure is normal, but a slight, temporary curvature appears, likely due to differences in leg length, muscle spasms, or even appendicitis.  These causes are directly treated and the curvature can resolve.  Structural scoliosis is often related to a structural abnormality due to injury, a neuromuscular disease, infections or tumors.  This type of scoliosis is treated on a case-by-case basis, but can include surgical intervention, bracing or observation.

Scoliosis is diagnosed by a medical professional and is often first noted by an in-school screening or regular physician visits.  A more in-depth evaluation will be needed to conclusively diagnose the scoliosis.  This will include: 1) Medical History:  Scoliosis can often be found in multiple family members, so, if a parent or sibling has the condition, it is important to tell the doctor.  Also, birth defects, injury or other conditions should be noted.  2) Physical Examination: The doctor will look for a spinal curvature, uneven hips, uneven shoulders, asymmetric waist line or a shoulder blade protruding.  3) X-ray: Finally, an x-ray of the spine will be needed to confirm the curvature and the degree of the curve.  Once the diagnosis is made, the doctor will create a treatment path which will include routine observation and examination.  Again, a back brace or surgery may be needed to correct the issue.

If the issue is not corrected, the spine can continue to curve as the child grows.  If it does, it may worsen to the point that the rib cage is restricted.  This can impact the function of the lungs and the heart, making it harder to breathe.  It can also cause chronic back pain.  Finally, as the conditions worsens, one’s appearance will change.  This can often lead to feelings of low self-image, depression and other psychological impacts.

If you have a family history of scoliosis, or notice that your child displays any of the symptoms of scoliosis, you should consider having them evaluated to get a proper diagnosis and treatment course.  Please contact us if you have questions about scoliosis, its diagnosis and/or treatment.