Category Archives: Patient Education

Smoking And Back Pain

The news that smoking is bad for you is hardly groundbreaking. Smoking has been linked to serious diseases like lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease. Did you know that smoking and back pain are also related? That’s right, if you’re a smoker and are experiencing back pain, smoking is probably part of the issue.

In our line of work, we see the effects of smoking in our patients far too often. So, if you or a loved one is suffering from back pain or preparing for a spinal fusion, this blog post may serve as another great reason to quit smoking.

Smoking And Back Pain

Smoking contributes to the hardening of arteries which decreases your overall blood flow. As you likely learned in a biology class at some point, blood provides nourishment to your body’s organs and structures.

When blood flow is restricted, the areas of your body fed by smaller vessels, like your bones and spinal discs, become severely undernourished. With little to no blood supply, these bones and discs rely on surrounding tissue for nourishment.

But since the surrounding tissues aren’t meant to provide nourishment, they will eventually become depleted, leaving your bones and discs to essentially starve. Once your bones and discs have reached this point, they can no longer repair themselves and will likely cause you pain.

Smoking And Spinal Fusions

One of the most common surgeries we perform is the spinal fusion. In this surgery, a bone graft is used to form a solid bridge between two vertebral segments. For a successful surgery, the bone graft and vertebral segments need to grow together. The problem is that smoking inhibits bone growth, which can cause the surgery to fail.

In fact, smokers are twice as likely to have an unsuccessful spinal fusion as non-smokers. Even if the surgery is successful, smoking accelerates disc degeneration. That means smokers are more likely to continue suffering from chronic pain.Smokers are twice as likely to have an unsuccessful spinal fusion as non-smokers. Click To Tweet

Here at Nebraska Spine Hospital, we know that it isn’t easy to quit smoking, which is why we don’t expect our patients to do it alone. We’ve implemented a Surgical Readiness Program to help prepare patients for a healthy surgery. Whether you need to quit smoking, start exercising or lose weight, we offer one-on-one support to help you reach that health goal and, ultimately, have a successful surgery.

Patient Care At Nebraska Spine Hospital

Here at Nebraska Spine Hospital, we pride ourselves on providing our patients with the best care possible. By focusing on the individual, not the condition, we strive to meet the needs of every patient. We want to make sure you feel heard by every staff member, from doctors and nurses to support staff.By focusing on the individual, not the condition, we strive to meet the needs of every patient. Click To Tweet

To give potential patients a better understanding of what it’s like to receive care at Nebraska Spine Hospital, we asked a repeat patient to share snippets of her journey.

Meet Deborah

Deborah has come to Nebraska Spine Hospital for multiple surgeries over the past 15 years. She travels all the way from Ohio each time to see Dr. Fuller.

“Dr. Fuller is an excellent surgeon, a brilliant diagnostician, and a really nice person. He always treats me like a person and not just a patient. He always explains things completely and he never rushes me if I have questions.”

Deborah also thinks the nursing staff at Nebraska Spine Hospital is terrific. She believes the nurses are all supportive, friendly, and patient.

“They [the nurses] work together as a team, they support each other and they make sure that all the patients are well taken care of. I am always impressed while watching the doctors and the nurses working together for the patients. The mutual respect is visible.”

In short, the care that Deborah has received at Nebraska Spine Hospital makes the drive from Ohio worth it.

“I will quickly run out of superlatives when talking about the Nebraska Spine Hospital. If you have to have back surgery there is no place better than the Nebraska Spine Hospital.”

From all of us here, we’d like to thank Deborah for reaching out to us and sharing her incredible story. Our one and only goal each day is to provide every patient with the best care possible. If you would like to share your experience at Nebraska Spine Hospital, please message us on our Facebook page.

Healthy Spine Tips From Your Mother

We know you can still hear it like it was just yesterday – your mom advising (not nagging) you to do certain things while you were growing up. If you don’t eat your vegetables, no dessert! No coffee – it will stunt your growth. If you keep making that face it will get frozen like that.

Well, your mother probably had some great advice for a healthy spine, so we hope you were paying attention. We’re almost certain everyone has heard these two pieces of advice at least once in their life. The good news is they can genuinely help you maintain a healthy spine.

So, this blog goes out to all of the moms out there. Thank you for caring enough to let us know what’s good for us.

Stop slouching!

We’re sure you’ve heard various versions of this throughout your life, from stop slouching to sit up straight. It turns out your mother was just trying to teach you correct posture.

You may be thinking that good posture isn’t very important. Why does it matter if you aren’t sitting up straight all of the time? This may surprise you but when it comes to maintaining good health, good posture is right up there with eating well, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep.

Since posture is a learned behavior, it’s important to focus on it early in life. Children with poor posture are more likely to develop back pain and other conditions of the spine as they age. Children with poor posture are more likely to develop back pain as they age. Click To Tweet

Drink your milk!

Was milk a staple at your table while you were growing up? We sure hope so. Turns out your mom knew what she was talking about – children do need calcium to build strong bones.

Below is the recommended daily intake of calcium for children of all ages.

  • 1 to 3 years old — 700 milligrams of calcium daily
  • 4 to 8 years old — 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily
  • 9 to 18 years old — 1,300 milligrams of calcium daily

If children consistently don’t get their recommended daily intake of calcium, they are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis as they age because calcium is vital to developing bone mass. Children need calcium to develop bone mass. Click To Tweet
If you received these healthy spine tips while you were growing up, it looks like you have another reason to thank your mother for this Mother’s Day. So, among all of the other things you have to thank your mom for this weekend, don’t forget to thank her for caring about your spine health before you even knew you had to.

Back Pain: A Health Concern For Nurses

If you had to guess, which profession would you say suffers more back injuries, nursing or construction? If you guessed nursing, you’re correct. Nurses with back pain are an all too common occurrence.

Did you know that nurses are three times more likely to suffer a back injury than a construction worker? In fact, nurses are more likely to experience back pain than truck drivers, manual laborers, stock handlers, and construction workers.Nurses are three times more likely to suffer a back injury than a construction worker. Click To Tweet

Patient handling tasks are usually to blame for the pain. Tasks such as lifting, transferring, and repositioning patients can be difficult for even the most experienced nurses. Factor in the limited space in patient rooms to perform these tasks, and you have a recipe for disaster.

When repeated for a number of years, patient handling tasks alone can wreak havoc on the spine’s health, meaning there’s a possibility of developing back pain without a significant injury.

With 52% of nurses reporting chronic back pain, we believe it’s up to hospitals to implement strategies to keep their nurses pain-free. That’s why here at Nebraska Spine Hospital, we do everything we can to keep our nurses healthy and out on the floor. 52% of nurses report suffering from chronic back pain. Click To Tweet

Back strengthening exercises can be beneficial for nurses with back pain. Below are three different exercises to strengthen your entire core that can be performed in the comfort of your own home. As you become stronger, you can expect to hold the exercises for longer periods of time and should continue to challenge yourself.

Modified Plank

The modified plank is a beginner-friendly version of the plank. To begin, lie on your stomach. Raise your body until your weight is resting on your forearms and knees, ensuring your shoulders are directly above your elbows. Tighten your abdominal muscles and hold for 15-30 seconds. Return to the starting position and rest for a couple minutes before repeating the exercise.

Side Plank

The side plank is a variation of the exercise above. To begin, lie on your left side. Raise yourself onto your left forearm, so all of your weight is resting on your feet and left forearm. Make sure your left shoulder is directly above your left elbow and keep your knees, hips, and shoulders aligned. Tighten your abdominal muscles and hold for 15-30 seconds. Return to the starting position and rest for a couple minutes before repeating the exercise.

Segmented Rotation

Lie on your back with your knees bent and tighten your abdominal muscles. While keeping your shoulders on the floor, let your knees slowly fall to the left and hold for 15-30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat on the right side. Remember, only let your knees go as far as is comfortable. As you continue to perform the exercise, your flexibility will improve.

Performing these exercises will help nurses with back pain to strengthen their backs and mitigate the risks associated with a career in nursing. However, these exercises are not specific to nurses. If you are experiencing back pain, or simply want to strengthen your core, perform the exercises as instructed above. For more information on how to keep your back healthy, please use our older blog posts as a resource.

Depression and Chronic Back Pain

April 8th is World Health Day and this year’s focus is depression. Depression affects a great deal of the patients we see so we wanted to take the time to talk about depression and chronic back pain.

What is depression?

Depression is a common, serious medical illness. In 2015, 16.1 million US adults experienced at least one depressive episode – that’s almost 7% of all US adults.Nearly 7% of all US adults have experienced depression in the past year. Click To Tweet

Women are twice as likely as men to be depressed and researchers believe genetics play a role in developing depression. If a sibling or parent is depressed, you’re more like experience depression.

If you experience five or more of the symptoms below for two consecutive weeks, you may be depressed.

  • Sadness
  • Fatigue or decreased energy
  • Insomnia
  • Feelings of guilt and/or worthlessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Persistent pain such as headaches
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Thoughts of death and/or suicide

Depression and chronic back pain.

People experiencing chronic back pain are four times more likely to develop depression. An article published by Harvard Medical School says, “Pain is depressing, and depression causes and intensifies pain.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. See, chronic back pain sufferers are more susceptible to depression because the pain makes it hard to sleep, causing irritability. The pain makes it harder to be mobile, leading to isolation from family and friends. Pain can even make it almost impossible to concentrate on anything, leaving you to mindless activities.

The problem with depression and chronic back pain is that the two become cyclical and nearly indistinguishable from one another, leaving it harder to diagnose. But there is hope – both chronic pain and depression are entirely manageable, meaning no one should be content living in pain.

If you or a loved one are suffering from depression and chronic back pain, we urge you to speak up and seek medical attention. If the pain has become unbearable and you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call for help. The numbers below are available 24/7 for immediate help.

  • 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433)
  • 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)
  • 911