Tag Archives: spine health

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.

Walking For Exercise And Spine Health

With the weather warming up, we know you’re itching to take a walk around the block and soak up some sunshine. Walking is a great form of low impact aerobic exercise for people of all fitness levels. It provides all of the benefits other forms of aerobic activity provide without the added stress on your joints. We recommend walking for exercise to our patients with ongoing or recurring back pain, or for those recovering from surgery.

Benefits Of Walking For Exercise

Walking for exercise has a myriad of health benefits. First, it helps to strengthen both your muscles and bones. When the muscles in your feet, legs, hips, and torso become stronger, they increase your spine’s stability and condition the muscles to hold your body upright. The stronger these muscles are, the less susceptible you are to back pain and spinal injuries.

Second, walking also provides nourishment for your spinal structures. Because it’s an aerobic activity, it improves your body’s circulation. Improved circulation helps pump nutrients into your spine’s soft tissues and drain toxins.

Third, walking for exercise can help improve your flexibility and posture. When combined, walking and stretching allow your joints to have a greater range of motion.

Finally, walking reduces bone density loss, which helps to prevent osteoporosis and lessens pain caused by osteoarthritis.Walking can help prevent osteoporosis by reducing bone density loss. Click To Tweet

Good Posture Is Key

However, like every other aspect of daily life, posture is the key to a healthy spine. Your feet help to keep your body balanced and aligned and any imbalance in your feet can cause weight to be distributed improperly.

This imbalance can affect your gait while walking, leading to muscle and back pain. While the imbalance may seem minimal, over time the unnecessary wear and tear can add up to serious damage to your spine.

A proper pair of walking shoes can prevent an imbalance from occurring. To find the correct pair, we recommend you visit a shoe store that can match shoes based on your natural gait.

 
And, as always, be sure to consult your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise regime. While walking for exercise is beneficial for most, it may not be a suitable exercise for all. Happy walking!

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.

Neck Pain From Looking Down

Did you know that neck pain is the third most common type of chronic pain? Over 25% of Americans suffer from this condition and, nearly 60% of them don’t tell their physicians about the pain.

One of the most common causes of neck pain is simply looking down too often. We know that might sound absurd. You cannot live your entire life without looking down at all, and we’re not asking you to.

When a patient comes in complaining of neck pain, we generally ask them what activities they look down most often for. The main culprits are cell phones and laptops. In fact, neck pain caused by looking down is often referred to as ‘text neck’. neck pain caused by looking down is often referred to as ‘text neck’. Click To Tweet

Even though the action of looking down is small, the amount of pressure placed on your neck increases with the frequency of the action. Meaning, looking down to write a check shouldn’t cause you pain, but looking down to work from a laptop eight hours a day, five days a week will.

The pressure from looking down will begin to build in your neck, leading to damage such as neck pain, soreness, upper back muscle spasms, and even premature degeneration which can lead to arthritis.

But don’t fret. There are certain measures you can take to prevent developing neck pain. Below are four simple ways to reduce the likelihood of experiencing this type of pain.

Prevent Neck Pain

  1. If you believe cell phone usage may be to blame for your pain, try holding your phone higher. Having your phone at eye level eliminates the need to look down at all.
  2. If you believe working from a laptop may be a contributing factor, adjust your workspace. You can either place your laptop at eye level and use a separate keyboard, or you can hook your laptop up to a monitor that is at eye level.
  3. If you cannot avoid looking down for long periods of time, take frequent breaks to stretch. To relieve neck pain, gently tilt your head from right to left, holding for about 20 seconds on each side.
  4. Heat therapy may be effective in relieving your pain. Try either a heating pad or ice pack on the affected area for 10-20 minutes, 4-6 times per day.

The measures above may help you in relieving neck pain. If the pain persists, we urge you to reach out to your physician. Chronic pain is a pain in the neck that no one should have to be content living with.