degenerative disc disease treatment

What You Need to Know About Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment

Is your back pain making it hard to get out of bed in the morning? Are you losing time at work because you are in so much pain?

Studies show that about half of all American adults have experienced back pain at some point in their lives.

How do you know if your back pain is serious? You might be so used to your pain that you don’t realize you have degenerative disc disease.

We’ll discuss degenerative disc disease treatment and help you figure out if it’s time to go see your doctor. There are several methods of treatment available and it’s possible to minimize your pain and discomfort.

What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

If you have chronic, low-grade pain, you could be looking at degenerative disc disease. It’s caused by long-term wear and tear on your back. There are cartilage discs between the bones in your back and eventually, they start to wear out.

You might be experiencing leg pain or ongoing lower back pain. You might also have weakness or numbness throughout your lower back. Some patients with degenerative disc disease don’t experience any pain, but if you notice that your back is getting worse then it’s time to see a doctor.

Keep a journal for your pain every day. Make a note of how severe your pain is and whether it’s getting worse or better. When you see your doctor, you’ll have a record of how your back is doing. It’ll make it easier for the doctor to start the diagnostic process.

What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?

Your back injury could have been caused by a traumatic event like a car accident, but more likely it’s the result of the normal aging process. Everyone’s vertebrae and discs will eventually wear down somewhat, but yours may have degenerated more than average.

What happens to your discs is that they can tear, exposing nerves in the spine. Your discs could touch those nerves, causing irritation and pain. If you’ve had a serious car accident, you might want to touch base with your doctor just to see what kind of injury has been done to your back.

Even if you have an office job, you’re still wearing down your back by sitting in the same position every day. If stretching isn’t helping your pain, try getting an ergonomic seat. It should distribute your weight more evenly and help cut back on your spinal irritation.

Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment

You might be wondering how to treat degenerative disc disease. There are several options: your doctor will help you determine which one is best for you.

The first step is to get diagnosed with an MRI. The imaging software will help your doctor see your back in detail. Any irregularities will be visible and they can start your treatment plan from there.

Another form of diagnosis is discography, where the doctor injects your discs with a solution that lets them see it clearly. They will be able to see if your discs have torn or degenerated without tearing.

Treatments for degenerative disc disease include physical therapy, injections of pain medication, and anti-inflammatory medication. There are also minimally-invasive surgical options available.

You might find that your pain decreases after you visit a chiropractor or physical therapist. If your pain continues, however, you may want to look into surgical remedies for your chronic lower back pain.

Should I Get Surgery?

The best thing about getting spinal surgery for your discs is that we can perform the procedure on an outpatient basis. Our surgery does not impact the muscles in the neck and avoids risky spinal fusion.

Before you get your surgery, you may be asked to change your diet or your smoking habits. The surgery is most effective if you have it within six months of the onset of symptoms, but we can work with patients who have long-term chronic pain as well.

We make a very small incision and work with tiny surgical instruments to remove parts of the impacted disc. We do not perform open spine surgery for patients with degenerative disc disease. A long hospital stay doesn’t suit our patients’ busy lifestyles and we work to perform effective, quick surgical procedures.

Recovery from Surgery

You should expect a fairly quick recovery from our spinal surgeries. You’ll be given antibiotics before and after your procedure, so make sure to take them exactly as prescribed.

There is the potential for blood clots or nerve damage, but these are extremely rare. You may feel a small amount of pain at the incision site, and your symptoms may flare up for a week or so after your surgery.

If you have any other symptoms after your surgery, make sure you communicate with your doctor. You may want to take a day or two off from work, but make sure you get up during the day and walk around. You should feel much better after your surgery is completed.

Your doctor might also recommend visiting a physical therapist after your surgery, just to get you back up and running. Once your pain diminishes, you should be much more comfortable performing daily life activities.

How Can I Get Started?

The first step is to find a doctor who is experienced in back surgery. Then you’ll need to get an MRI. Make sure you keep a record of your pain: how severe it is, where you feel it, and whether it’s getting better.

The doctor may have you try some non-surgical options first, like physical therapy and weight loss. You may also want to try pain medication as a form of relief. Some patients find that their condition improves when they work out at the gym, but that doesn’t help everyone.

If you’re worried about your recovery time, remember that the entire disc surgery is performed on an outpatient basis. You should be up and walking around in a very short time after your surgery.

Send us an email or book your appointment online. We’ll help you find the degenerative disc disease treatment that’s right for you.

failed back surgery syndrome

Failed Back Surgery Syndrome: What Is It and How Can I Avoid It?

If you have a condition or pain that leads you down the path of getting back or spinal surgery, chances are you want that surgery to be a success. But when it comes to back surgery, there is the potential that it could fail or your condition could worsen.

This negative result of back surgery is generalized under the term “failed back surgery syndrome” or “FBSS”. This sounds scary and discouraging, but the good news is there are steps you can take to avoid FBSS and have the successful surgical outcome you’re looking for.

In this article, we’re going to go over exactly what FBSS is, how it’s different from post-operative pain, and what you can do to avoid it.

What Is Failed Back Surgery Syndrome?

As we said earlier, failed back surgery syndrome is a general term for patients who experience an unchanged or worsened condition after getting back surgery.

This syndrome is distinct from the pain you experience post-surgery. Most people will experience pain, stiffness, and discomfort following surgery. FBSS isn’t pain caused by the surgery; it’s pain that occurs as a result of a failed or unsuccessful procedure that can lead to new types of pain and symptoms.

Symptoms of Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

The most common symptom of FBSS is chronic pain. This pain could be the same pain experienced pre-op, it could be that same pain worsened, or it could be pain in new areas.

Other symptoms of FBSS include:

  • Difficulty recuperating post-surgery
  • Sharp pains in the back
  • Back spasms
  • Decreased mobility/flexibility
  • Numbness
  • Radiating pain in the leg, hip, arms, etc
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

It’s important to distinguish between normal post-op recuperation and post-op pain from the abnormal chronic pain/symptoms experienced by those with failed back surgery syndrome.

Causes of Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

There are a few potential causes of FBSS.

Incorrect/Unnecessary Procedure

First is the idea that back problems and pain can’t always be specifically identified. Back surgery can go in a fix something that is thought to be the cause of your pain, but sometimes whatever gets fixed wasn’t actually the cause of your pain.

When this happens, the true issue is never fixed, which leads to continued pain post-surgery. Also, this means that surgery was performed on an area that didn’t necessarily need it, which can lead to new symptoms and pain as a result.

Failed Procedure

FBSS can also be caused by the procedure itself not going as it’s supposed to. Many back procedures have high failure rates. This could be because of an implantation failure, failure to fuse during a spinal fusion procedure, etc.

Scar Tissue

Sometimes scar tissue can form around the area where the surgery was performed. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and immobility, all of which are symptoms of FBSS.

How to Reduce Your Risk

While there are never any guarantees when it comes to back surgery, there are steps you can take to minimize your risks, help your body heal, and avoid failed back surgery syndrome and the symptoms that come with it.

Trust Your Doctor

Having back surgery is a big deal that can literally change your life. You need to know that you can trust your doctor and surgeons to do the best job that they can even with a surgery that isn’t 100% guaranteed to help you.

Take the time to get consults from a few different doctors. This will help you get a feel for how different doctors would handle your condition so you can know you’re getting the right procedure.

We mentioned that sometimes FBSS is caused when a procedure is done unnecessarily or is the incorrect procedure for what’s causing your pain and symptoms. Consulting multiple doctors and finding one you really trust will help ensure that you’re getting the right procedure from a competent and talented physician.

You can also look up reviews of different surgeons to see other patient’s outcomes.

Weight Loss

But even the best doctors have patients that experience FBSS. The best things you can do to reduce your risk of FBSS is to adjust some things in your life to promote healing and reduce pressure on your back.

Weight is a big risk factor for back pain. If you’re overweight or obese, getting into the normal weight range for your height can take a significant amount of pressure off your back, which can relieve both pain and stress.

Smoking

Cutting out tobacco can also help promote healing. Smoking has been shown to slow down healing times and increase the rate at which the spine degenerates. Smoking could result in a failed procedure, so be sure to stop before surgery.

Other Lifestyle Changes

Finally, you should adjust any activities or positions that lead to or contributed to your condition in the first place. All the surgery in the world won’t help you if you go back to the same damaging behaviors you were doing pre-surgery.

If sitting in an uncomfortable office chair all day was a factor of your lower back pain, don’t go back to doing that post surgery. Get a proper chair that supports your back in a healthy way.

Were you doing incorrect yoga stretches with bad form that lead to your condition? Don’t continue to do those stretches after surgery or you could end up with a worsened, or unchanged, condition (aka FBSS).

Make a plan with your doctor to adjust your lifestyle to promote healing after surgery. They’ll be able to tell you what position to sleep in, what stretches to do, and what things you should not be doing in order to have the best chance at success.

Bottom Line

Failed back surgery syndrome is an unfortunate reality when it comes to back surgery. No back surgery is 100% guaranteed to work. But, there are steps you can take to maximize your chance of success.

Speak to your doctor about your procedure’s success and failure rates and what you can do to prevent a failed outcome. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us or book an appointment online.

minimally invasive spine surgery

Are You a Candidate for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

Every year, 460,000 patients undergo spinal fusion surgery. That’s a lot of people! Plus, this statistic doesn’t even cover all the different kinds of spinal surgery.

So, if you’re one of the many thousands of people considering back surgery, we suggest doing your research. You should always investigate the possibility of minimally invasive spine surgery.

In light of this, we thought we’d help you out by detailing the crux of what you need to know about this procedure.

Let’s dive on in.

What’s Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

Traditional open spinal surgery requires the surgeon to make at least a five-inch incision. Then, any muscle’s pulled away so the surgeon/(s) can get to the spinal bones. Naturally, this causes damage to any surrounding tissue.

In contrast to this, there are several minimally invasive techniques a surgeon could use.

Rest assured, all these methods have one thing in common. Each technique requires the doctor to use a smaller incision. (In comparison to open spinal surgery).

Hence, far less tissue damage occurs.

Let’s Break This Procedure Down

Here’s a simplified overview of what this procedure entails.

Firstly, the surgeon will numb the area by using some form of anesthesia. Next, the doctor will take a continual x-ray of the spine. This allows them to monitor the spine’s condition both before and during the procedure.

Then, the surgeon will make an incision via a device named an obturator. This tool works by pushing the soft tissue away.

The surgeon can then do whatever spinal operation is necessary via this small incision. For example, removing a broken bone, inserting a medical device, repairing damaged tissue, etc. Once the procedure’s over, the surgeon removes the obturator and closes up the incision.

Evidently, this operation is far less traumatic in comparison to traditional spinal surgery.

Typically, this surgery is appropriate for procedures like lumbar decompression and spinal fusion. Spinal decompression aims to relieve any pressure put on the spinal nerves. The surgeon achieves this by removing either sections of bone or a herniated disk.

Spinal fusion focuses on correcting problems concerning the spinal vertebrae. The surgeon will fuse together any painful vertebrae with the intention of these bones healing to form one singular solid bone.

Why You Should Opt for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

As the title of the procedure suggests, this operation’s far less invasive than traditional open-style spinal surgery.

Therefore you could benefit from any of the following:

  • Less tissue damage (hence not as much bruising, swelling)
  • Not as much blood loss
  • You won’t need as much anesthesia.
  • Quicker recovery time
  • Less scarring

Clearly, this procedure trumps open-style spinal surgery on a lot of levels. So, if you can opt for this method- we recommend doing so.

Are You a Candidate for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

So are you wondering whether you might be a potential candidate for this kind of surgery?

If you’re unsure, then we’ve put together a few questions to help you figure out whether this might be an option for you.

If you find yourself nodding to any of the below questions, minimally invasive spine surgery may well be the solution for you:

  • Do you suffer from any of the following? Spinal stenosis, a bulging or herniated disc, sciatica or any other chronic spinal condition.
  • Do you find it difficult to: sleep, exercise or stand for either long periods of time, or just as you go about your daily life?
  • Even though you’ve tried treatments such as: chiropractic care, physiotherapy, yoga, pilates or pain medication. Are you still in a lot of pain?
  • Have you noticed that even though you’ve had open spine surgery, you’re still in a lot of pain?

If any of those questions resonated with your situation, you may well be a candidate for this procedure!

However, although this operation has come on leaps and bounds over the last few years, specific conditions still require traditional open spinal surgery. For example, high-degree scoliosis, tumors, and some infections.

How Long Does It Take to Recover?

Depending on the severity of your surgery, you’ll typically be discharged the same day.

Also, patients tend to get back to their normal lives in between one and six weeks. This may mean you’ll need to seek assistance from a friend or family member during the immediate aftermath of your surgery.

Be prepared to feel mild discomfort until you’ve made a complete recovery.

Hence, why you’ll probably need to take pain relief drugs in addition to attending physiotherapy sessions. This is standard aftercare for this kind of procedure.

What Are the Risks?

As you probably already know, every surgery involves a degree of risk.

However, the risks linked with minimally invasive spine surgery is a great deal less than any open spinal surgery.

However here’s a list of some of the risks associated with this operation:

  • Standard risks of infection (As with any surgery).
  • Unpredicted bleeding
  • Blood clotting
  • Anaesthesia failure
  • Nerve damage

However, you can minimize all of these risks by ensuring you opt for a skilled doctor with an excellent track record.

So, make sure you spend some time conducting a bit of research and find a highly qualified and reputable surgeon. Also, you can reduce some of these risks by listening and fully taking on board all the aftercare instructions given by your doctor.

We always recommend following their advice to the letter.

Did You Find This Blog Post Useful?

If you’ve found yourself asking questions while reading this article, please feel free to reach out and contact us. Once you’ve filled out the contact form, one of our team of professionals will get back to you with more information.

Also, if you enjoyed this article we’re confident you’ll love our other blog posts. Please feel free to check them out!

How to Make it Through Your Cervical Kyphosis Treatment

Cervical kyphosis is a real pain in the neck. Literally.

And while the condition can cause pain in the neck, there can also be burning pain or tingling in the arms and hands.

On top of that, cervical kyphosis can also cause weakness in the arms and create difficulty with coordination, performing activities and holding in one position for too long.

But there is hope through cervical kyphosis treatment.

There are a variety of cervical kyphosis treatment options.

Treatment options fall into two categories – conservative or surgical – and the chosen treatment will depend on how severe the condition is and the conditions that caused it.

Surgery is not recommended if the curve in the neck is fixed, and there are no neurological problems due to pressure on the spinal cord. Since the curve is fixed – meaning that it’s not going to change – then that means it won’t get any worse.

In this case, conservative treatments are recommended. These include:

A Neck Collar or Brace 

A doctor may advise using some sort of neck support as a part of a cervical kyphosis treatment. Neck braces, cervical neck supports, and soft neck collars help to relieve strain on the neck muscles.

Plus, these supports can be helpful in speeding up the recovery time after an injury.

Physical Therapy 

Physical therapy helps with the correction of cervical posture through movement training and pacing of activities.

These exercises can also help to reduce pain, strengthen neck muscles and improve range of motion. Warm and cold compresses may be used to help manage pain.

Speaking of pain…

Medication

Medications for cervical kyphosis treatment are used to relieve pain, muscle spasms, and inflammation.

The two main over-the-counter medications are:

  • Acetaminophen – better known as Tylenol. Acetaminophen is an analgesic, which reduces pain by blocking the brain’s perception of pain. It is ideal for pain flare-ups.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – better known as Advil or Aleve. Over-the-counter NSAIDs lessen pain by reducing inflammation.

If over-the-counter medications aren’t cutting it, the doctor may prescribe something stronger.

Whatever the case, medication serves only to mask pain. So, it is recommended that exercises for cervical kyphosis be done during those times when pain is absent or lessened by the medication.

That way, the neck muscles get strengthened.

Excessive cervical kyphosis can be treated with surgery.

In severe cases where there is chronic and persistent pain, compression of the spinal cord, progression of the curve and/or a worsening of neurological problems, surgery is up for consideration.

Today, most surgery used in cervical kyphosis treatment involves putting in some type of metal plate or rod to hold the spine in place and straighten it.

With surgery, there may be an operation from the front to relieve the pressure on the spine, and then another operation from the back to put the metal in and prevent the kyphosis from returning.

In only the most extreme cases, the surgery may include an osteotomy, which involves cutting the vertebrae to allow the surgeon to straighten the spine. The spinal cord itself is not cut.

Whatever the reason for your cervical kyphosis, you’re sure to find a treatment option that’s right for you. And, if you have any other questions that weren’t addressed here, let us know.

What to Expect After Thoracic Spine Surgery

Knowledge is power, right? Well, having knowledge about what to expect after thoracic spine surgery is a powerful tool in recovery.

The decision to have thoracic spine surgery is not an easy one to make. It usually takes extensive consultation with your doctor, and often it’s after exhausting non-surgical treatment options.

Once you’ve made the decision to have thoracic spine surgery, here is a brief view of what to expect during the recovery process.

Hospital Stay After Thoracic Spine Surgery

Thoracic spine surgery patients usually remain in the hospital for 3 to 5 days. In order to be released from hospital care, patients need to:

  • administer oral pain medications, as needed,
  • get themselves up out of bed and walk around without assistance, and
  • use bathroom facilities, regularly, without assistance.

Physical therapists are usually available to help you learn how to perform these tasks while protecting your recovering body.

Recovery Time

Once home, thoracic spine surgery patients can expect a recovery time of 3 to 6 months.

After the rehabilitation period in the hospital, home care includes:

  • wound care,
  • starting to integrate basic movements into your day, and
  • working with a physical therapist (usually after 4 weeks).

Physical therapy usually lasts for 3 months and is conducted along with regular visits to your doctor.

Once you regain your normal strength and range of movement, you should be able to participate in activities that you enjoyed before going under the knife.

Activities

Of course, heavy lifting is discouraged for several weeks after thoracic spine surgery. This should be no surprise.

Specifically, you should avoid:

  • bending or twisting your back often,
  • lifting anything similar to the weight of a gallon of milk (5 lbs),
  • running, vacuuming, doing laundry, mowing the lawn, and
  • activities that make you feel back strain.

This means that planning ahead for how chores will be done is essential for a smooth recovery.

You will also not be able to drive for a few weeks. And even when you will be ready to hit the road, you will still need a neck brace, which may limit your range of vision. (delete these repeated words: For at least 2 months.) For at least 2 months, you will rely on a friend or relative for your transportation needs.

How Can I Help Myself Recover Faster?

  1. Move regularly. Ideally, you should take a light walk around your home every 1.5 – 2 hours you’re awake. This helps build muscle and prevents a build up of blood clots in your legs.
  2. Change positions. If you’re on the couch in the morning, try sitting at the table for lunch, and then outside on a patio in the afternoon.
  3. If you feel any pain, or pain increases, stop doing whatever you are doing.
  4. Ice can help your back if you experience pain. But remember to separate your skin and the ice pack with a towel. Do this for 30 minutes, 4 times a day.
  5. Wash your thoracic spine surgery wounds with soap and water daily. Do this in the shower, not in a bath.
  6. Keep the wound uncovered unless there is drainage.

What else?

With a decrease in physical activity, you’re likely to constipate. Make sure that your post-thoracic spine surgery diet consists of:

  • fruits,
  • bran cereal,
  • lots of fluids.

Don’t be afraid to invest in laxatives if the diet is not helping.

Also, keep educating yourself on thoracic spine surgeries. The more you learn how to care for yourself, the higher your chances of having a swift recovery.

Remember, recovery is a process. It can be shorter or longer, often depending on factors such as your age, health prior to surgery and, importantly, how well you can take care of yourself.

By knowing what to expect after a thoracic spine surgery, you will be in a better position to prepare yourself accordingly and handle post-surgery stress.

Are you struggling with upper back pain? Do you want to know if you need a surgery? Contact us today and talk to a certified neurosurgeon.