Category Archives: Spine Conditions

All About Scoliosis

June is all about being outdoors, summer fun, and scoliosis. Yes, you read that correctly. Did you know that June is Scoliosis Awareness Month?

Scoliosis is a spinal condition that causes a sideways curvature of the spine. It can affect both children and adults, but occurs most frequently in children during their last growth spurt before puberty.Scoliosis affects 2-3% of all adolescents. Click To Tweet

There are two different types of scoliosis, non-structural and structural. Non-structural scoliosis is where the spine itself is normal but a slight, temporary curvature appears, likely due to differences in leg length, muscle spasms, or even appendicitis. If these causes are directly treated and the curvature will likely resolve.

Structural scoliosis is often due to a structural abnormality from an injury, a neuromuscular disease, infections, or tumors. It is treated on a case-by-case basis, but treatment options include surgery, back brace, or observation.72% of children with scoliosis can avoid surgery by wearing a back brace. Click To Tweet

Now that we’ve covered what scoliosis is, it’s time to become familiar with the facts.

All About Scoliosis

  • Scoliosis is very common. According to the Scoliosis Research Society, it affects 2-3% of adolescents.
  • Treatment plans are based on the severity and progression of the curve, and is evaluated in terms of degrees of spine curvature:
    • 25° or less: no treatment required
    • 26°-45°: often treated with a back brace
    • 45° or greater: surgery typically required
  • While treatments have proven effective in lessening the degree of spine curvature, there is no cure for scoliosis.
  • Back braces have improved in effectiveness and wearability. A study found that 72% of at-risk children able to avoid surgery by wearing a back brace. Patients can wear modern braces under loose-fitting clothing and they are padded for comfort.

If left untreated, the condition will likely worsen, possibly to the point of restricting the rib cage and impacting the function of the lungs and heart. Untreated scoliosis can also lead to chronic back pain later in life.

For more information on scoliosis or to schedule an appointment, please contact us. Our doctors are proud members of the Scoliosis Research Society.

All About Cervical Disc Replacement

Disc degeneration in the cervical spine is a terribly common ailment. Did you know that over 75% of people under the age of 50 have disc degeneration?

The Nebraska Spine Hospital was one of the first facilities in the region to perform a cervical disc replacement. Because of that, we would like to take a moment to explain what exactly it is and why it may need to be performed.

A cervical disc replacement is a surgical procedure that involves removing the damaged disc and replacing it with an artificial one. Cervical discs are essentially cushions between your vertebrae in your cervical spine, or neck. Over time, these discs can become damaged and become a source of pain for the patient.Did you know that over 75% of people under the age of 50 have disc degeneration? Click To Tweet

Aside from being painful, if damaged discs move out of place, they can place pressure on your spinal cord. This condition is referred to as a disrupted disc. Over time, the body will form bone spurs, or osteophytes, at the site of the disrupted discs. These spurs can cause even more pressure on your spinal cord and even cause neurological symptoms such as pain, numbness, and weakness radiating from your neck to one or both arms.

 
We urge you to contact your physician if you are experiencing pain. We posted this blog for educational purposes only. Do not take this blog as a diagnosis or professional medical advice.

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.

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!

Lower Back Pain

Lower Back Pain

Back pain, it’s our specialty here at Nebraska Spine Hospital. Recently we’ve talked about the not-so-common causes of upper back pain so today let’s talk a little bit about something most of you have probably experienced, lower back pain. Research suggests that over 80% of adults will experience one or more episode of back pain in their lifetime. And as such, we’d like you to be educated about the symptoms, causes and treatment of a couple of the most common types of lower back pain.

There’s a lot going on in your lower back. As we discussed in our upper back pain blog, when we think of back pain, generally, we tend to to think of the lumbar spine, or lower back, and cervical spine (the neck). Both of those common areas of the spine are designed to provide you with mobility instead of being strong and stable like your upper back. Because of this, any number of sources can cause lower back pain. Such as:

  • The large nerve roots in the low back that go to the legs may be irritated.

  • The smaller nerves that supply the low back may be irritated.

  • The large paired lower back muscles (erector spinae) may be strained.

  • The bones, ligaments or joints may be damaged.

  • An intervertebral disc may be degenerating.

Symptoms

While lower back pain is extremely common, the symptoms of such can vary greatly. Usually, younger people aging in range from 30-60 years old are the most susceptible to lower back pain. Here are the most common symptoms of lower back pain, as described from Spine-Health.com:

Symptom:

  • Severe or aching pain in the lower back that starts after activity, sudden movement, or lifting a heavy object. You may experience difficulty moving, pain that moves around to your groin or buttox, achy, dull pain, muscle spasms, and soreness at the source of the pain.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you could be experiencing back muscle strain, which is one of the most common types of acute lower back pain.

Symptom:

  • Lower back pain that travels to the buttox, leg or foot. You may experience constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (rarely can occur in both legs), pain that i s worse when sitting, burning or tingling down the leg (vs. a dull ache), weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot, or a sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or to walk.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be suffering from sciatica. Typically the cause of sciatica is a lumbar herniated disc.

Treatment

Just as a patient’s lower back pain type and severity differs, as will treatment. The majority of lower back pain cases are acute, meaning they last and can be treated within six weeks without surgery. The most common type of treatments, though, are lower back pain exercises. Aside from that, you should rest; cease all activity for at least two days, if you can, to allow injured tissue and irritated nerves to begin to heal. However, this inactivity can also lead to weakness, that’s why you are encouraged to do lower back pain exercises as a part of your treatment plan.

Heat and cold therapy is an excellent choice in the treatment of lower back pain because it reduces inflammation; a major source of the problem. Some prefer one or the other, but both can be used intermittently.

Medications are a viable option for lower back pain as well. Each medication has it’s own unique risks and side effects so always consult with your physician before taking any medications.

Always, the hope is that conservative treatments will be effective and the healing process will be quick and your quality of life will return soon. However, when surgery is indicated, Nebraska Spine Hospital is here to provide you the very best in spine surgery. Nebraska Spine Hospital is the first of its kind in the region, a specialty hospital within a hospital model that focuses only on conditions of the spine.