Here Dr. Carl Spivak and his patient Stacey interviewed for Healthier Living Radio by Atlantic Health System.
“My back hurts.”
Probably a phrase we have either heard or spoken many times. In fact, back pain is a leading cause of disability worldwide.
If you or a loved one are suffering from back pain, you are not alone.
Backs and spines are complicated. It can get confusing when talking about the different muscles, joints, ligaments, and bones.
Then add anatomies such as ruptured discs and sciatic nerve damage and it’s downright confusing.
Is your back pain affecting your everyday life? If so, it may be time to see a back and spine specialist. Here are 7 signs it’s time to schedule an appointment.
Back and Spine Specialist Checklist
There are a million different reasons why your back hurts, from serious accidents to something insignificant as picking up a penny off the sidewalk.
So, how do you know if your back pain is more than just a result of a bad mattress or bad posture?
1. Pain that lasts longer than 4 to 6 weeks.
Two-thirds of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their life. It’s common to have minor aches and pain, but if the pain is constant you may need to call your doctor.
Most back pain will get better within 6 weeks with a self-care regiment that includes rest, ice, and anti-inflammatories.
If your pain doesn’t get better or it continues to get worse, it’s an indication that there is something serious going on that could need more advanced treatment.
2. Pain that follows an accident.
If your back pain is due to an accident such as a fall or a car accident, it is best to see a back and spine specialist away.
Even a small accident, such as being rear-ended in a car, can have lifelong effects on your neck and spine.
Even if the pain isn’t terrible, you should be seen by a specialist to make sure it is not a serious injury.
3. Pain is Worse at Night
Are you able to do your daily activities, but have a hard time sleeping?
Most back pain gets better when you rest. If you feel fine during the day, but your pain returns night after night, that could be a sign of something serious such as a sprain or disc degeneration.
If going to bed makes you cringe because of your back pain, or you are woken up from a deep sleep because of sudden pain, call your doctor.
4. Tingling Sensation
Ever have your hand or foot fall asleep? The tingling or numbness from back pain can feel similar. It can happen in any part of the body, but it is usually felt down the legs.
If you feel tingling or numbness, it may be a sign of nerve damage. This is more serious than the normal back aches you may get from bending and lifting.
If you feel tingling, numbness, or any shooting pain, contact a back and spine specialist to prevent any long-term nerve damage.
5. Fever Along With Back Pain.
A fever of 101 degrees or more is a sign of an infection somewhere in the body. If you have a fever accompanying your back pain, tell your doctor.
This could be a sign of some sort of infection in the spine that can come from a weakened immune system.
If there is an infection somewhere along the spine, it can usually be treated with antibiotics prescribed under physicians care.
6. Rapid Weight Loss
Most adults keep a steady weight. So, if you suddenly lose weight rapidly — such as 5 pounds in a week, for a few weeks in a row — contact your doctor.
If you have back pain and are experiencing a sudden loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting, don’t hesitate to see a specialist.
These could be signs of something serious, such as a tumor growing around the spine.
7.Loss of Bowel or Bladder Control
Tell your doctor if you having trouble controlling your bowels or bladder. This can be a sign of a rare but serious condition called cauda equine syndrome.
This condition is caused by a herniated disc or trauma to the spine that causes the nerve roots in the end of the spine to become paralyzed.
Along with the loss of bowel and bladder control, let a back and spine specialist know if you have any feeling loss in your pelvis.
Other Areas of Concern
Other considerations that need to be addressed when deciding to call a specialist:
- If the back pain is persistent in a child or teenager. Most back pain doesn’t occur until about the age of 35. If your child is complaining of back pain, it’s best to get it checked out.
- Constant back pain for an individual who has been treated for cancer. If you have had cancer, or are currently being treated for cancer and you get new back pain, contact your doctor immediately.
- Anyone who may have a weakened bone condition such as osteoporosis or osteopenia. These conditions can cause a weak spine and cause back pain.
- If you are taking steroids for any reason. Back pain can be a side effect of taking steroids.
- Any individual who has a weakened immune system. Having a weakened immune system means the risk of infection is higher. If you have HIVs or Heart Disease, you may have a weakened immune system.
- Any obvious deformity of the spine such as scoliosis. There are certain procedures that can be done by a back and spine specialist.
- If there is blood in the urine, along with one-sided back pain. This could be a sign of a possible kidney infection.
Are you finding that you have to give up your favorite activities because of the relentless pain every time you move? Back pain that interrupts your life can be frustrating.
We are here you help you. When talking about back pain and different treatments, it can be scary and intimidating. We will provide the best care and the best course of action for your specific injury.
If you have any of these seven symptoms, stop relying on Google to find answers, and give us a call so we can help you find relief.
Are you in search of the best spine surgeon for an upcoming procedure?
Having spinal surgery is a serious medical decision. As you get ready for it, you may be feeling intimidated, overwhelmed, and nervous.
That’s why it’s so important to find an amazing spine surgeon who understands your needs and can help you feel comfortable and informed before the big day.
Read on to learn more about how you can find the best surgeon for your needs, no matter your condition.
1. Be Picky
This is the most important tip to follow when it comes to seeking out the ideal spine surgeon. It can be easy to settle on a lot of other decisions in your life, such as a cell phone carrier, an Internet provider, or even what neighborhood to live in.
When it comes to medical practitioners, particularly those who are caring for your spinal health, stick to your list of requirements. Do in-depth research and don’t compromise on your standards.
Be bold in the questions you ask potential surgeons. Take notes, make comparisons, and build your own understanding of your upcoming surgery.
To ensure you find the best spine surgeon, begin by writing down a list of priorities. You may want a doctor who cares for you and your comfort, one with a lot of experience, or one who has been in the local community for quite some time.
2. Ask Family Members and Friends for Referrals
One of the best places to start when it comes to finding the best spine surgeon is your own personal network. Even if your family members haven’t had any experience with spinal surgery, you may be surprised at whom they know.
Talk to your friends too. Ask if they have any recommendations for spinal practitioners.
A lot of people have experience going to a chiropractor, or at least, a physical therapist. They may have a few names for you.
You may also want to consult local business owners in the medical field. Oftentimes, the best spine surgeon will be anchored in a local community and a part of many locals’ lives.
Build a list of referrals, including ones from your current practitioners, and work from there.
3. Investigate Online Reviews and Testimonials
You may be surprised that we’re recommending this, particularly given the fact that a spine surgeon operates in the medical field. But online reviews and testimonials still apply. Industries of all kinds are encouraging them in order to gather more clients.
Go through your list of referrals. Check for any online reviews or testimonials. While a lot of people may not be forthcoming about sharing medical details online, you’ll at least be able to assess ratings, comments, and more.
Look for surgeons who got the greatest amount of positive testimonials. Pay attention to what reviewers cite when they give a high ranking. Search for doctors who prioritize customer experience in particular.
4. Inspect Certifications and Credentials
At this point, you’ve likely got a few names on your list. Now it’s time to assess your potential surgeon’s certifications and credentials. If this information is not readily available online, ask about it during a consultation.
The best spine surgeon will be board certified or eligible to conduct spinal surgeries. This certificate (or certificates) is often displayed in his office.
Your spinal surgeon should also be part of a prominent spinal organization.
Lastly, ask your surgeon about fellowship training he may have had. This means that he will have had at least one year of focused study on spinal surgery in addition to all of his other requirements for certification.
While it’s not necessary for your surgeon to be fellowship trained, it’s essential if you’re opting for a more complex spine surgery like spinal fusion.
Also, research how much the surgeon focuses on spinal conditions in his practice. You’ll ideally want someone who prioritizes spinal conditions. Over half of his clientele should be spinal patients.
5. Have a Consultation
You may have to have a consultation to ask more about the surgeon’s credentials. But you’ll also want to meet with your potential surgeon to see if your personalities match.
This is a crucial step in finding the best spine surgeon. You want someone who understands your needs and is willing to listen to your concerns throughout the entire process.
Use your consultation to gauge the surgeon’s personality and general response to your questions. If anything doesn’t feel right, it’s time to move on to another candidate.
6. Ask to Talk to Other Patients
This may not be possible with most surgeons simply because prior patients have to give their consent to a physician before he can pass along any information.
But if it is possible, it’s definitely worth talking to the surgeon’s previous patients. This will give you the most specific evidence about your his experience, personality, and more.
7. Gather Knowledge
Most importantly, you’re going to want a surgeon who keeps you informed.
During a consultation or even after you’ve chosen a spinal surgeon, ask as many questions as you can so that you know exactly what to expect.
There should never be a part of your surgery process that is unclear, intimidating, or foggy. Gather knowledge from your surgeon to confirm their expertise and also ensure that your surgery is as painless as possible.
Finding the Best Spine Surgeon
Spinal surgery is a big deal, and it’s essential to find a surgeon who can make you feel comfortable and informed. As you’re searching for a doctor, make use of friends’ and family members’ referrals.
Also, investigate online reviews and testimonials. Make sure you gather all the details on your surgeon’s credentials and expertise.
Book a consultation so you can gauge his surgeon’s personality and fit. Prioritize your own knowledge of the process before choosing.
At Executive Spine Surgery, we pride ourselves on minimally invasive surgery and fantastic patient care. Find out today if you are a candidate for surgery!
Emotions are an integral part of assessing and treating chronic pain. But most people don’t think about that.
There is a strong link between back pain and depression.
People struggling with chronic back pain are likely to get depressed. Those who are depressed have worse pain and a harder time recovering from that pain.
The funny thing is, most people with back pain don’t even realize they’re depressed. They think the reason they’re feeling so hopeless and irritable is their physical pain.
So let’s take a look at how back pain and depression build off each other and make matters worse.
What Is Depression?
Many people think of depression as just a “mental illness.” Yet, this condition can negatively affect the way you act and cause physical problems.
Depression leaves a person feeling constantly sad or blue.
In most cases, it makes someone lose all interest they had in previous hobbies or activities. People with depression slowly become less able to function normally.
The effects of depression can be debilitating. Sufferers can find themselves stuck with serious, chronic back pain, even if there’s no obvious, physical reason for it.
But these feelings of sadness are more than just feeling down for a while. Symptoms of serious depression will occur every day for at least two weeks, and even longer than that.
There are many different symptoms of depression, such as:
- A lasting mood of depression, sadness, and hopelessness
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Changes in sleeping pattern
- Loss of interest in usual hobbies
- Loss of interest in sex
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Trouble concentrating or remembering
- Thoughts of death or suicide
What Is Chronic Pain?
Acute pain happens when you get an injury, such as breaking your wrist, and leaves when that injury has healed. Chronic pain, on the other hand, doesn’t go away even after the injury is gone.
Minor cases of chronic pain will last three to six months. Sometimes, chronic pain can last for years without the right treatment.
This constant pain leaves a person feeling physically and mentally frustrated and exhausted.
The Vicious Merry Go Round
Back pain and depression are linked in a circle of sorts.
A person with chronic back pain is likely to develop some measure of depression, and the depression will actually make the pain worse.
Similarly, a person who is already depressed can develop back pain, and that pain can result in deeper depression.
Back Pain Causes Depression
Chronic pain can be a debilitating illness to live with, which brings on depressive symptoms.
For example, back pain may make it difficult to fall asleep at night. This can make a person irritable and exhausted during the day.
A person with back pain will also be unable to get around how they used to. The pain will make them slow and careful, meaning they’re unable to work. This includes both work outside the house and normal household chores like cleaning and cooking.
This forces them to spend a lot of their time indoors away from other people, which makes them isolated.
On top of not being able to partake in enjoyable activities, a person may also feel added financial stress. This usually happens if they are unable to continue working or care for the family.
This frustration can lead to thoughts of failure.
Pain medication can also keep a person in a kind of dull or dazed mind. Added with the pain, this makes it difficult to remember things and think clearly.
How Does That Equal Depression?
Notice how each of these circumstances result in a symptom of depression. Because a person feels these symptoms every day, along with hopelessness and sadness, they often get depressed.
As the pain and depression grow, the person goes through something called physical and mental deconditioning.
Basically, the person feels less and less control over his own life. This makes him feel controlled by the pain, which results in stronger depression.
Depression Causes Back Pain
People who struggle with depression as a result of back pain have what is known as reactive depression. The depression reacts to the physical pain, which can happen in those who have no previous history of depression.
On the other hand, people who have a history of depression are more likely to experience chronic back pain.
Depression actually makes back pain worse and keeps it from going away. Even if there is a way to fix the problem, people with depression are unable to heal.
Depression and Spine Surgery
Depression also affects spine surgery outcomes.
If a person struggling with back pain and depression undergoes spine surgery, they may continue to display symptoms after the procedure. This extends the healing time and makes it harder for the patient to recover.
One of the best things to do for a person battling back pain and depression is to postpone the spine surgery until their depression goes away. This will provide the best surgical results in the future.
Treating Back Pain and Depression
Unfortunately, the diagnosis of depression in relation to back pain is often missed because doctors are usually looking for something physical. But doctors cannot effectively treat chronic back pain if they do not treat the depression as well.
The two require a specialized treatment approach because they come as a package.
Most people who have reactive depression don’t even realize they are depressed. They focus all their energy on their physical pain, thinking they will get out of their “funk” when the physical pain is gone.
If you’ve been struggling with back pain and haven’t seen any results from treatment, you might suffer from some form of depression.
It may not be major depression, but it could be minor to moderate depression. Next time you’re at the doctor, ask them about your mental health instead of just the pain you feel.
If you need help dealing with chronic back pain and depression, check out some of our treatment plans. We’ll get you fixed up.
Did you know that lower back pain represents the second leading cause of disability in the United States?
Do you struggle with this frustrating medical issue? If so, discover how to relieve lower back pain with these following tips.
Let’s get into it.
1. Change Your Mattress
You spend a third of your life asleep. You need this experience to be as comfortable as possible!
Recent studies suggest that people with lower back pain sleep better on medium-firm mattresses instead of firm mattresses.
There’s no one-size-fits-all rule for this, but if you find your mattress sagging or you’re having trouble sleeping, it may be time to upgrade your bed.
2. Get a Massage
Want to know how to relieve lower back pain and take care of yourself mentally at the same time?
It’s as simple as scheduling routine back massages. In fact, up to 75% of participants report back pain relief after just three months of routine treatment.
Not only do massages feel incredibly relaxing, but they can also help with posture pain, improved immunity, and better sleep. What more can you want?
3. Take Medication
Anti-inflammatory medications, such as Motrin, Advil, or Aleve can help relieve some of the pain.
It’s always best to consult with your doctor before undergoing a medication regimen if you’re trying to learn how to relieve lower back pain.
4. Ice It
If you’re wondering how to relieve lower back pain, especially after an injury, look no further than your freezer.
Using ice within 24-48 hours after an injury can significantly reduce inflammation. After 48 hours, you can switch to heat.
Use ice for about 20 minutes at a single time to yield the best results. Position yourself in a comfortable position and place the ice bag directly over the injured area.
It may seem counterintuitive, but if you want to know how to relieve lower back pain in a natural way, you need to get moving.
Our bodies and spines are meant to move, so keep up with your daily activities as often as you can. Do your chores. Walk the dog. Tend the garden.
If you have the energy, aerobic and strength exercises can also help. Just be careful to avoid overdoing it.
6. Mind Your Posture
If you’re slumping around, it’s a lot harder for your back to properly support your weight and frame.
It’s critical to be mindful of your posture, especially when lifting heavy objects or sitting for long periods of time.
When lifting, avoid bending from the waist. Instead, bend and straighten from your knees.
At work, it’s important to also mind your posture. This means using an appropriate, comfortable desk chair that supports your lower back and allows you to keep your feet planted on the floor without hunching or slouching.
7. Stretch Regularly
Do you sit for long periods of time? Watch a lot of TV or spend a lot of time in sedentary positions? Maybe you’ve heard that infamous mantra that sitting is the new smoking.
Whether that’s true or not, research does show that getting up every half hour or so to engage in light stretching or moving around is good for the body.
It’s also good for your spine, back, and legs. Get in the habit of setting the alarm every thirty minutes to stand up and move around. Do some light yoga stretches if it feels good.
Your body (and your back pain) will thank you.
8. Wear the Right Shoes
Your back pain and footwear are undoubtedly connected. That means that poor support for your feet can wreak havoc on your back.
Flip flops, though comfortable to wear, can compound back pain. That’s because they don’t have proper arch support. Over time, people may change the way they walk to adapt to flip-flops. This can lead to foot and back pain.
With that said, flats, while cute, aren’t very optimal for relieving back pain, either. They also provide little to no support.
Finally, high heels, while undoubtedly classy and stylish, can completely throw off the back’s alignment. They can exacerbate strain and stress on the back because they alter your center of gravity.
When women wear high heels, they naturally lean forward. This change in posture forces the body to decrease the forward back curve, which can result in poor spine alignment.
Want to know how to relieve lower back pain with the right shoes? Look for shoes that include the following:
- Provide extra arch support
- Provide motion control (like running shoes)
- Allow for the middle part of the foot to hit the ground
- Use materials like graphite or plastic
Nothing working? It never hurts to consult with a podiatrist to determine the optimal shoes.
9. Lose Weight
Having a healthy body weight is good for many physical and mental reasons, and your back is just one of them.
Carrying extra pounds can put excess weight on your body. Being overweight can also put extra pressure on your intervertebral disks. This can increase your risk of injury and weaken your overall body.
Do yourself a favor and take care of yourself physically. This means eating a well-rounded, nutritious diet with plenty of veggies, fruits, and protein. It also means getting adequate exercise and sleep.
10. Find the Right Professional
If you’ve tried everything under the sun for relieving your back pain, and nothing seems to be getting better, it’s time to seek medical assistance.
You can start with your primary care physician to discuss your concerns and symptoms. You can also reach out directly to a neurosurgeon or spinal specialist, especially if you’ve had chronic pain and already tried conventional methods.
Be open and honest with your doctor about your feelings and symptoms. Remember, he is there to listen and help you find relief and secure treatment.
Final Thoughts on How to Relieve Lower Back Pain
Living with back pain can feel bothersome and frustrating, but help and treatment are available.
Let the experts at Executive Spine Surgery help you. Check out our minimally invasive, non-surgical pain management procedures today. Let’s get your health back on track.