Monthly Archives: July 2016

Are You Ready for Surgery?

The big day will be here before you know it: surgery day. This day is an important day and you’re likely feeling pretty anxious. Don’t worry, there are some things you can do to help prepare yourself for the best outcomes. Some of these things should happen far in advance while others can happen just a few days beforehand. Using these tips, you’ll be fully prepared for surgery day and ready to take on recovery with a positive attitude.

The first step in preparing for surgery is maintaining a healthy weight. Complications from back surgery are more common in obese patients versus those with a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI). Obesity increases the chances for a failed surgery, hypoxia-hyperventilation, and complications with the surgical wound healing. During surgery, it can be difficult to monitor the blood pressure of an obese patient and even positioning them for surgery can be dangerous. Losing weight before surgery to get your blood pressure and weight at healthier levels can lead to a safer surgical environment.

However, even if your weight isn’t a major issue, exercise is an important aspect to surgical preparation because it can speed up recovery. Exercise is vital to getting better after recovery – when muscles, bones, and joints are in good shape pre-surgery, muscle loss and stiffness are minimized. With the help of a physiotherapist, you might find a plan that can help condition your muscles prior to surgery. The workout can help minimize inflammation and compensatory positions like uneven weight bearing. It is recommended that you begin a program approximately 6 weeks prior to surgery. Always consult with a doctor before starting any diet and exercise plan.

Another great way to be healthy enough for surgery and help with recovery is to stop smoking. It is important to stop smoking at least 2 weeks before your surgery and for 6 weeks after your surgery. There are some immediate benefits when you stop smoking. Firstly, your heart and lungs begin to perform more efficiently and blood flow improves. Having healthy heart and lungs reduces the chance for complication during and post-surgery. Smoking can interfere with your healing – especially at the site of a bone graft. We know quitting isn’t easy, so find a plan that works best for you. You can talk to your doctor for tips or check out these resources that can help. Even if you don’t have support or the opportunity to have outside resources to help you, research shows that going cold turkey might be the best way to quit.

A week or so before your surgery, you may want to make the following plans: place everyday objects in a place near your resting area like your phone and remote. You’ll also want to move other common objects to waist or shoulder level to avoid bending. This includes dishes, utensils, shoes, clothes, and hygienic products. Prepare healthy meals that are easy to reheat so you aren’t left trying to cook dinner while you are recovering. You might want to buy some slip on shoes so you can put them on without bending. Check your home for any trip hazards and move them prior to surgery. Line up a responsible adult to help you the day of surgery and throughout your recovery. Leave any valuables at home the day of surgery. Your surgeon will give you specific instructions to follow before the surgery. Make sure you follow these important instructions and have all of the documentation you’ll need that day.

Finally, while there are plenty of ways to prepare your body for surgery, you always want to prepare your mind. Psychological preparation can give you a greater sense of control and empower you to feel positively about the surgery and your recovery. Gather as much information as you feel is necessary to trust your doctor and feel reduced stress regarding your surgery. You may try some relaxation exercises or meditation to help reduce anxiety surrounding your surgery. While it is very simple to fall into a negative thought cycle regarding your surgery, there are ways to combat those negative thoughts. You’ll want to combat those negative thoughts using a method called “Stop, Challenge Reframe”. Essentially, you identify the negative thought, challenge the negative thought by questioning yourself about your feelings, and replace the negative thoughts and answers with positive, coping answers. You can also try using mindfulness meditation exercises to relieve stress and anxiety while helping to encourage the positive thoughts regarding your outcomes. It has also been proven to help reduce pain, which will be important during your recovery.

Prior to surgery, there are many things that you can prepare for and some you cannot. However, the better your plan, the better you prepared you will be for surgery day and your recovery. Ensure that you and your doctor formulate a pre- and post-surgery plan. You’ll want to discuss diet, smoking, physical exercise and limitation and a pain management program. The surgeons and Nebraska Spine Hospital are ready to talk to you about your surgery plan.

The Benefits of Swimming

The summer heat often tends to keep people indoors with the air conditioning blasting and fans on high cooling them off. While summertime brings longer days, a little more leisure time and often vacations, it can also put a wrench in your usual exercise routine. Walking and running are great cardio workouts, but in the heat, they can often be dangerous. This time of year can be a great time to experiment with your workout regimen and incorporate things like water sports and swimming into your routine. Swimming has some incredible benefits that can keep you in shape and prevent you from overheating during a summer workout.

Swimming is a great low-impact workout, especially for those who suffer from joint pain. If you are a runner, your joints and spine take a blow with each step. Swimming eliminates any impact on your joints that can cause injury or pain. When you are swimming, the water creates a buoyancy for your body that counters the effects of gravity. This helps to support your body’s weight and give you a more controlled and wider range of motion compared to exercising on land. It can also improve your balance and strengthen your core.

The water also creates a natural resistance creating friction that you must work against. The viscosity of water gives you the opportunity to strengthen your muscles without weights. You can also strengthen an injury safely – preventing falls due to imbalance while on land. Even if you aren’t rehabbing an injury, you can define and tone your muscles with some simple maneuvers in the pool. While in chest deep water, you can work both your upper and lower body. If you assume a wide stance, jump so that your knees rise above the water and then land safely back on the pool’s floor, your abs will get a nice workout. You can do arm movements under water to help strengthen your back and shoulders. If you feel like these moves are too easy, you can wear water gloves or other resistance accessories to make things a bit tougher.

Finally, water puts hydrostatic pressure on the body. Hydrostatic pressure is caused by the weight of fluid putting equal pressure on the fluids in our body. The pressure you feel when you enter the water is good for you! The pressure forces your heart and lungs to work a little bit harder compared to regular exercise. In fact, doing even minimal activity in the pool works out your heart and lungs in a very different way than they are used to. Regular pool workouts can actually allow you to take in more air during land exercises. So, by taking a dip, you are conditioning your body to be a more efficient runner, too.

However, you should be cautious when starting a new exercise plan, especially in the water. If you are new to the pool, take extreme care and make sure you have proper safety accessories. There are other water sports that commonly cause injury. If you don’t ensure that you are employing proper form during swimming, you can cause neck and back strains. The lower back can become hyperextended during front strokes. The neck can also be jerked backwards repeatedly when taking breaths. It is important to maintain proper form, use safety tools, follow pool rules and consult with your doctor before beginning any water exercise program. More importantly, have fun and stay cool this summer!

Summer Gardening

Gardening can be a relaxing and delightful activity for many during the summer season. If you enjoy growing your own fresh veggies, you know now is the time to be working hard in the garden to have a bountiful fall harvest. If flowers are your thing, pruning and pulling weeds are important parts of making your yard beautiful. An added benefit of gardening is that it can be a rewarding part of your exercise routine. Gardening for an hour can burn 200-400 calories a session. That physical component can make you stronger and more flexible. Research shows it can also improve mental health through relaxation and stress-relief. However, it can also cause some lower back pain if your form isn’t at its finest. While gardening is a great activity for mind and body, there are some things you’ll need to keep in mind to avoid injury.

First, always warm-up before you do any physical activity. Stretching your muscles and warming up before any activity can keep your muscles loose and help prevent a strain. After warming-up, set attainable goals. Your garden will be there for you tomorrow, so don’t over exert yourself in one day. Make a plan ahead of time and assess how you feel each hour. If you feel sore, tired or thirsty, give yourself a break. Make sure you have a water bottle at the ready to keep hydration at a healthy level. Since gardening often requires repetitive action, stretching will help keep your muscles loose. The repetitive action can often cause strain, so, try to switch up your tasks to avoid overusing some muscles and under-using others.

Once you’ve formed a plan and stretched, you can begin your work. Since bending and reaching are the most frequent activities when gardening, proper form is of utmost importance. We’ll remind you to lift with your legs, not with your back. When you bend, whether at the knees or the back, a flat, neutral back is the best form to keep. Often, when we are bent over for long periods of time, we round our back and stretch out the muscles and ligaments of the back, which can cause pain and strain. The best way to keep a neutral back when bending is to hinge at your hip joint; avoid rounding your back. This might mean sticking out your rear, which at first might feel unnatural, but will ultimately save you from an aching back after your gardening.

If you find it easier to garden while kneeling, you might find that soft cushions or pads will help ease the pain. You might have trouble going from a kneeling position to a standing one, so consider a kneeler or chair to leverage your weight and arm strength to get you back into a standing position. These pads and kneelers can help reduce the stress on your knees and back. You’ll want to position yourself close to your task, so that you are not over-reaching. Again, plan your work so that you are close to the job for the right amount of time. If you’ve planned far enough in advance, you might consider using raised beds for your gardening. The elevated beds could be easier for you to access without excessive bending and stretching.

Finally, don’t forget to use the right tools. There are great options to help you in the garden to keep you from over-extending your back. Long-handled tools will eliminate the need for bending and stretching, giving you the option to stand for longer periods during your gardening time.  You might even consider using these tools while seated if you need to give your feet, back, and knees a break. If at any point you feel like you need help, ask for it. Take a break. Your garden will wait.