What is Kyphoplasty

What is Kyphoplasty? What You Need to Know About This Minimally Invasive Treatment

We live in a fantastic time in which medical technology is moving at the speed of light. As many new advancements as the general public hear about, we as physicians learn about so many more.

One of the most innovative and helpful procedures technology has helped us create is kyphoplasty. If you’re not in the spinal surgery field, you may be asking, “What is kyphoplasty?” You aren’t alone, but I’m here to help with all the details you need to know about this minimally invasive surgery.

What is Kyphoplasty and What Does Kyphoplasty Treat?

Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that treats spinal compression fractures.

A compression fracture happens when a bone is under too much pressure. With time, the bone can’t take the stress and it cracks. While it happens in the back, a compression fracture tends to be extremely painful.

Spinal compression fractures are most common among osteoporosis patients. These patients are losing bone mass and bone strength, so compression fractures can happen more easily.

Unfortunately, we can’t stabilize a compression fracture in a vertebra the same way you use a cast to stabilize a broken arm. Kyphoplasty, however, is a procedure that stabilizes the fractured vertebra. This relieves pain, allows the vertebra to heal, and restores the shape of the vertebra.

How Does Kyphoplasty Work?

Kyphoplasty is unique because it’s a minimally invasive spinal surgery. Traditional spinal surgery is notorious for its long and painful recovery time. For many patients with vertebral compression fractures, kyphoplasty is a more manageable alternative.

While it is minimally invasive, this procedure is still a surgery. However, it’s often done under local anesthesia instead of general anesthesia. This means that you’ll be awake during the surgery, but you won’t feel any pain.

Local anesthesia alone provides a strong benefit. When you go under general anesthesia, you need a breathing tube and other measures. It gives your body much more to recover from, so your healing period is longer. Local anesthesia takes away this element of your surgery.

The Kyphoplasty Procedure

The entire kyphoplasty procedure only takes about 30-45 minutes. This can vary based on how many vertebrae are fractured.

You’ll lay face-down on the operating table. After your anesthesia takes effect, the surgeon will make an incision near the fractured vertebra. The incision is only half an inch long, so scarring is minimal.

Through this incision, the surgeon will insert a tiny tube into the center of the fractured vertebra. This tube contains a small medical balloon. Your surgeon will inflate this balloon inside the fractured vertebra to create a cavity that restores the bone’s size and shape.

After the cavity is created, the surgeon deflates and removes the balloon. The surgeon immediately injects a specialized solution called PMMA into the bone. Think of PMMA as a concrete designed for bones.

The PMMA fills the new cavity and hardens within about five minutes. This stabilizes the vertebra’s restored shape and relieves the pain of the fracture. After the PMMA has hardened, your procedure is over.

Keep in mind that there are a few different ways to perform kyphoplasty. While a balloon is a common method, some surgeons use specialized nets or balls instead. It may depend on the best method for your unique fracture.

What Can I Expect After My Kyphoplasty Procedure?

Understandably, one of the most common questions about spinal surgery is, “How long will my recovery take?” Fortunately, kyphoplasty is known for its short recovery time.

Most patients can go home the same day as their procedure. However, some will need to stay in the hospital overnight. It depends on the number of vertebrae your surgery treated, your general health, and any complications from your surgery.

While you will have some pain in the surgery area at first, you can expect to start feeling better within two days. Every patient’s healing speed varies, though, so your surgeon can give you a better idea of what to expect.

Your timeline for returning to work and your other daily activities will depend on your job and your healing rate. Keep in mind that you will need to wait for several weeks before you can resume an exercise program.

After surgery, your surgeon will give you detailed instructions about your recovery period. These instructions are tailored to your specific needs, so follow them closely.

How Do I Know if I’m a Candidate for Kyphoplasty?

As with any other medical procedure, kyphoplasty is only successful in the right patients. Your eligibility will depend on your specific type of compression fracture.

As a result, the only way to know if you’re a candidate is to visit a spinal surgeon. The surgeon’s office can either perform x-rays or refer you to an x-ray center to determine if you’re a candidate.

Not everyone with a compression fracture knows that this is the cause of their pain. If you have back pain, it’s important to see a doctor for a diagnosis before trying to seek treatment.

Will Health Insurance Cover My Kyphoplasty?

In many cases, health insurance covers kyphoplasty. The key is that they need to recognize that it is medically necessary in your case. This depends on your documentation like x-rays and your surgeon’s assessment.

The Next Steps for Kyphoplasty

Now you have answers to your questions like “What is kyphoplasty,” “How long does it take to recover from kyphoplasty,” and more. So what’s the next step?

If you have a vertebra with a compression fracture, kyphoplasty may be the best option. To find out, contact Dr. Carl Spivak for a consultation. He’ll be able to determine if you’re a candidate for kyphoplasty or if another form of treatment will work better.

If you have unidentified back pain, you can also schedule an appointment with Dr. Spivak. He can discuss your symptoms and guide you through the tests to accurately diagnose your condition and determine your treatment options.

vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty

What’s the Difference Between Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty?

Have you been diagnosed with a compression fracture within your vertebra?

If so, you’re likely tired of dealing with limited mobility and sometimes extreme pain as a result.

However, we also understand that you’re nervous about the possibility of having to undergo a major surgery to correct the problem.

The good news?

Both vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are minimally invasive procedures with a high success rate of healing fractures in the vertebra.

But what is the difference between the two, and which one is likely the best option for you?

Read on to learn more about kyphoplasty vs vertebroplasty, and where you can go to find the help you need.

Understanding the Vertebroplasty Procedure

The first thing you need to know about the vertebroplasty procedure?

You’ll be awake — although heavily sedated — throughout the process.

Like kyphoplasty, this procedure us designed to help you to overcome compression fractures in your spine and back.

However, the vertebra in your back won’t actually be moved or repositioned. Usually, your body will be physically manipulated while you’re on the table to put you in the best position for the upcoming injection.

You’ll be face down, and a tiny needle will be put in your vertebra. (Of course, you won’t be able to feel it!) Next, a type of cement is pushed into the area where the fracture is located within the vertebra.

It should take about 15 minutes for the cement to completely dry. Once the drying process is complete, your vertebra will be stabilized.

Usually, you’ll need to stay on your back for a full hour afterward, and will likely be prescribed bed rest immediately afterward.

Vertebroplasty Risks

Of course, like any procedure, vertebroplasty is not without risk.

The good news is that these risks rarely occur. According to data collected by Johns Hopkins, there are only complications about 1-3% of the time.

You may experience issues like a loss of blood, hemorrhaging, a slight fever, or even problems with wet cement flowing to other parts of the body.

You should also expect to experience a fair amount of discomfort immediately after the procedure is finished.

This should lessen over the days following the procedure, and should be gone within about a week. If the pain is severe or persists, make sure that you get in touch with your doctor as soon as you can.

Understanding Kyphoplasty

If you’re not eligible for vertebroplasty, or if your doctor thinks that it’s not a suitable procedure for you?

You may be an excellent candidate for kyphoplasty. Usually, this procedure is a better fit for patients that are dealing with bone fractures that have severe pain.

While vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are both surgical procedures, in the latter, you’ll usually be under twilight anesthesia.

The good news?

The kyphoplasty success rate is currently fixed at about 90%.

So, how does it work?

You’ll start out, as you did with vertebroplasty, on your stomach, face down on the operating table.

Interestingly, this procedure actually uses a small balloon, similar to ones made use of in heart surgery, to help to fix the vertebra.

It’s filled up with a small amount of liquid, and then slowly inflated. It’s also helping in fixing any kind of wedging that has occurred as a result of breaks. As the procedure progresses, the cavity is filled with strong bone cement at a low pressure.

Once everything is completed, your doctor will deflate the balloon and, of course, remove it from the spine.

Just like in the vertebroplasty procedure, you’ll then need to wait for the cement to fully dry. You may experience a slight discomfort, but will soon be feeling much better.

Potential Kyphoplasty Complications

As with vertebroplasty, the largest potential risk to the patient remains the possibility that the cement might leak out of the injection site in the vertebra and into other parts of the body, but the risk is less than vertebroplasty.

Though these risks can be lessened with the use of x-ray guidance, if it happens, it can present a serious issue.

This is because the cement, if it leaks, can actually press down on your nerves or even your spinal cord. However, it’s important to remember that this, while not impossible, is a rare event.

Additionally, you may experience a feeling of numbness, especially in the back area. In other cases, you may notice that you feel the sensation of tingling.

You may also deal with an infection at the site of the injection, and blood loss just as you would with vertebroplasty.

This is why it’s so important to be honest and upfront with your doctor about any medications you’re currently taking. The same goes for any pre-existing health conditions that you may have been diagnosed with.

Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty: Wrapping Up

We hope that this post has helped you to understand both how the procedures of vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty work, as well as the potential risks associated with them.

Of course, the quality of your care and your recovery is entirely dependent on the surgeon and team of doctors that you choose to work with.

When it comes to the health of your spine and back, you shouldn’t take any chances.

At Executive Spine Surgery, we offer minimally invasive procedures performed by a board-certified surgeon. Our goal is to work to create an individualized treatment plan, while also minimizing the length of your recovery.

Get in touch with us today to learn more, and to schedule a consultation.

We look forward to placing you on the path to recovery as soon as possible.

kyphoplasty procedure

What to Expect After a Balloon Kyphoplasty Procedure

There are about 500,000 people in the USA who suffer from some kind of spinal injury every year.

Doctors can help spinal injuries that involve compression fractures and other breaks through a form of treatment called kyphoplasty. This procedure involves a hollow needle, a balloon, and a cement mixture. It sounds frightening but it’s really a wonder of modern medicine.

Keep reading to learn more about a balloon kyphoplasty procedure and what to expect after you get one.

What Is a Balloon Kyphoplasty Procedure?

When one of your vertebrae breaks or fractures, the pieces of bone can start rubbing against each other when you move. This can be painful and make it hard to move around.

A kyphoplasty can treat these types of fractures, including other things like compression fractures, spine tumors, or old injuries that aren’t healing. This procedure uses a cement/bone strengthening material to treat these kinds of afflictions. The cement takes away the pain by stabilizing the damaged spine.

The balloon makes room for the mixture in the spine. The doctor inserts the balloon, injects the cement mixture, and removes the balloon again.

Let’s take a closer look at the process of a kyphoplasty:

  • Using an X-ray, the surgeon inserts a hollow needle through your muscles and into the damaged bone.
  • They place a deflated balloon into the needle and inflate it to make space in the bone for the cement mixture.
  • The surgeon places the mixture into the open space and removes the balloon and needle.
  • They then bandage the incision point.

This is a minimally invasive procedure, but it does take some preparation. Here’s what you’ll need to do before your kyphoplasty.

How to Prepare for Your Procedure

You should stop taking non-steroid anti-inflammatories a week before your surgery. This includes common painkillers like Ibuprofen, Naprosyn, Advil, Aleve, etc. If you aren’t sure about a type of medication, ask your doctor if it’s okay before you take it.

Don’t eat or drink anything after midnight the evening before your surgery. If your doctor has approved a type of medication, you can take this with a small sip of water. Other than that, you shouldn’t have any food or beverages of any kind.

Make sure you arrive at your appointment at least an hour early. This will make sure you get there on time if you’re running late or hit any traffic. The surgeon may have to cancel your appointment if you show up late.

What to Expect After a Balloon Kyphoplasty Procedure

The expected recovery time for your balloon \ can change depending on your circumstances and your habits.

For example, using tobacco of any kind has a serious, negative effect on your recovery. Anyone who uses tobacco must stop using from two weeks before the procedure to two weeks after the procedure.

Here’s a list of things you can expect after your balloon kyphoplasty procedure.

How Long Will I Stay in the Hospital?

Again, the procedure can be different for each person. While one kyphoplasty patient may be able to return home the same day as their procedure, others might have to stay several days in the hospital before the surgeon discharges them.

In most cases, you shouldn’t be there any longer than two days.

Do I Need Physical Therapy?

Most surgeons refer you to a physical therapist at your first post-surgical visit. While in therapy, you should avoid bending or twisting your back.

If the exercises in physical therapy make you feel pain, you should stop doing them right away. Wait for your next visit with your neurosurgical provider to talk about the pain and what to do about it.

How Long Should My Incision Site Hurt?

Any pain you experience should be mild and don’t expect to feel all of it at your incision site. Most of the pain you feel will be in your back, ribs, and loins.

If you notice excessive swelling or drainage from the incision, you should get medical attention right away. You should also visit a doctor as soon as possible if you have a fever, chills, nausea, or trouble breathing.

How Long Should I Wear a Bandage?

You must wear your bandage for at least the first day after surgery. After that, you can take it off.

However, you can’t remove the staples or sutures on your own. Those must stay in until your post-operative visit. Your doctor will remove these for you. This can be anywhere between one or two weeks after your procedure.

When Can I Bathe Again?

On the third day after your surgery, you can shower again. But the showers should be quick. Don’t scrub or make any direct contact with your incision.

Stay out of bathtubs, pools, hot tubs, oceans, or other water until two weeks have passed. This water isn’t clean or sterile, so it could get into your incision and cause an infection.

When Can I Return to My Normal Activities?

You’ll need to give yourself several weeks of recovery time before you return to work or your usual activities. Pushing yourself too hard too fast can make your injury worse and lengthen the recovery time.

For example, you shouldn’t lift more than 5 or ten pounds for the first three weeks after your surgery. After the fourth week, you can increase this to 20 pounds. You shouldn’t lift anything heavier than this until three months have passed.

As long as you are off any pain medications, you can drive two weeks after your surgery. If you are experiencing any pain when driving, you might want to push this back.

Don’t sit on hard surfaces or for long periods of time until two to four weeks have passed. You should also stay away from activities that might lead to trips and falls, such as playing with children or partaking in sports.

But don’t confuse recovery for bedrest. You should start walking as soon as you can after the surgery (sometimes your surgeon will encourage you to walk an hour after your surgery). Walking prevents blood from clotting, strengthens your muscles, and improves your cardiovascular health.

There isn’t an exact time you should return to work. Since every job requires different levels of physical exertion, you should return to work once you feel able. Two weeks tends to be enough recovery time for most people.

What to Do After a Kyphoplasty

The effects of a kyphoplasty procedure are different for each person, so be patient with yourself and give yourself enough time to recover. Pushing yourself is only going to make your injury worse and your recovery time longer. Stick to plenty of rest and plenty of walking.

Think you might need a kyphoplasty? Don’t wait to book an appointment with us online.

spinal arthritis

How to Soothe Spinal Arthritis Pain Before Your Treatment

Arthritis, which affects some 54 million American adults, is the leading cause of disability. If you are among those patients who have been diagnosed with spinal arthritis, you likely experience back pain on a regular basis — and perhaps you are even scheduled for non-invasive back surgery.

Having surgery or another treatment scheduled can give you peace of mind, knowing that there is relief in sight. In the meantime, there are a variety of ways you can ease your aching back. Let’s take a look at some of the most common.

Heat or Ice?

Chances are you have a heating pad or a hot water bottle lying around, in which case you should press them into service right away. If not, it’s pretty easy to make your own or pick up a reusable heat pack at the pharmacy. The soothing effect of the heat can help you live with lower or upper back pain.

Ice is generally used for acute injuries, to reduce swelling and help numb pain. Chronic arthritis pain tends to respond better to heat. However, use whichever one brings relief; just don’t use an ice pack for more than 20 minutes at a stretch.

Water Feels Wonderful

Many spinal arthritis patients find that it feels wonderful to be immersed in water. The buoyancy helps ease pressure on aching muscles. Taking warm baths, attending gentle aqua fitness classes, or sitting in a jacuzzi are all great ways to soothe your spine pain.

Massage Therapy

Is there anyone who doesn’t enjoy getting a nice massage? Aside from the blissful feeling of having your knots and kinks worked out, massage can also provide lasting pain relief for anyone with arthritis.

Yes, it’s true that arthritis directly affects the joints, not the muscles, but remember that everything in your body is connected. If you have joint pain, your muscles will do extra duty to help move your body — and they can get pretty sore as a result.

Chiropractic Care

Similarly, your knees, hips, feet, and other joints may suffer due to spinal arthritis. A chiropractic session may help realign your body and temporarily take away the pain.

Be sure to inform your chiropractor of your arthritis diagnosis. First-timer and nervous about the adjustment? It’s OK to ask that your chiropractor go easy on you, or to find one who uses spinal mobilization rather than spinal manipulation.


Like chiropractic care, acupuncture can sound a little scary. Who would choose to have needles jabbed into them? In fact, plenty of people not only make this choice but report tremendous benefits from this ancient practice.

Ensure that your acupuncturist is licensed in your state and certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. They should also use only disposable, single-use needles.

Gentle Exercises

No matter how active you were pre-diagnosis, the pain from spinal arthritis is probably restricting your mobility and activity level. High-impact exercises like running or playing basketball will have to wait. In the meantime, try two ancient and very gentle forms of movement: yoga or tai chi.

Both disciplines emphasize breathwork as well as slow, steady movements. They can improve your balance, flexibility, and overall well being, too. Start out slowly with videos for beginners, and make sure to get your doctor’s approval beforehand.

Get Some Rest — But Not Too Much

It would be nice to use your spine pain as an excuse to lie in bed or camp out on the couch, catching up on the latest Netflix offerings. However, too much inactivity won’t do you any favors. The human body is designed to move, after all.

Do what you can within the limits of your pain. It’s important to find a balance between your activity level and the signals your back sends you to be still.

Shed Those Extra Pounds

Nor is this the time to engage in emotional eating. If spinal problems have you temporarily sidelined, make sure to adjust your calorie intake downward to avoid gaining weight.

Anyone who is already overweight would do well to drop a few pounds prior to spinal surgery. Control your portion sizes, and choose foods that are nutrient-rich instead of processed junk. Slimming down somewhat will help your body feel better in general, and can speed up recovery time, too.

Find New Ways to Relax

This tip for spinal arthritis patients is especially important if lying down and taking it easy are hard for you to do. Maybe you’re accustomed to relieving stress by playing a sport or heading to Zumba class three times a week. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, your go-to in times of tension is a date with Ben and Jerry.

There are plenty of relaxation techniques to try. Journaling, coloring or sketching, guided meditation, and self-hypnosis are all healthy ways to chill out.

Pain Medication

Some people are hesitant to start taking medication for their pain — and that’s understandable, given how serious the opioid crisis in the United States has become. In some cases, however, prescription medication is a viable option. There are a number of drugs you can try before restoring to highly addictive painkillers.

Over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen or analgesics such as Tylenol are a good place to start. If those don’t do the trick, your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxer or non-opioid pain medication.

Topical Treatments

Another way to get relief is by using topical preparations. These include Ben-Gay, Aspercreme, Tiger Balm, IcyHot, and BioFreeze. You can find them at the drugstore, and some even come in roll-on or spray versions for easier application.

Spinal Arthritis Pain? Not Anymore!

As you can see, there are many approaches to pain relief that you can try while you’re waiting for more serious treatments, like spinal arthritis surgery. No two back pain patients are the same, so it may take some experimentation to see what works for you.

Have you found relief from any of these non-invasive spinal pain treatments? What has worked best for you? Let us know in the comments!

reduce back pain

What Are the Best Sleeping Positions to Reduce Back Pain at Night?

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons estimates that 75 to 85 percent of Americans face back pain at some point in their lives. That’s a pretty alarming number!

Back pain can prevent you from doing many things you enjoy such as sleeping, working out, or traveling.

Does your back pain keep you up at night? Is it hard to find the perfect position that gives you the best pain relief?

Here are some helpful sleeping positions that will reduce back pain so you can rest easy.

1. On Your Side with a Pillow Between Your Knees

Try shifting to your side instead of laying flat on your back.

  • Your shoulder and side of the body you sleep on should touch the mattress
  • Put the pillow between your knees
  • If your waist does not touch the mattress, add a small pillow
  • Don’t always sleep on the same side – rotate

Why the side position? It’s not sleeping on your side that makes you feel better – it’s the pillow that aligns your pelvis, hips, and spine.

2. On Side in the Fetal Position

If you have a herniated disk, you should try this position. It gives a little extra support.

  • Start on your back and then roll to your side gently
  • Tuck your knees into your chest
  • Curl your torso toward your knees
  • Switch sides regularly to prevent imbalance

Each of your disks has soft cushions between them. When your disk becomes herniated, the disk is out of its normal spot which causes the pain and weakness. This position helps your disk by opening up space between each of vertebrae.

3. On Your Stomach with a Pillow Under Abdomen

Sleeping on your stomach can be uncomfortable if you have back pain. It could add stress to your neck.

If you love sleeping on your stomach, you can try:

  • Putting a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen
  • Removing the pillow from under your head

You can feel the pressure in your neck if you turn your head to the side. To relieve pressure on your neck, use a small pillow or rolled-up towel under your forehead. Facing your head down is best for your neck.

If you have degenerative disk disease, you may benefit the most from stomach sleeping with a pillow. It relieves the stress pushing on the space between your disks.

4. On Your Back with a Pillow Under Your Knees

Sleeping on your back may be your best option for pain relief. To get the most support:

  • Lay straight on your back
  • Put a pillow below knees
  • Use a small rolled up towel under back for additional support

This position helps because your weight is distributed evenly. Your weight is also spread across the widest part of your body.

This allows your spine and organs to be aligned and relieves strain on the pressure points. The pillow is key to keeping your lower back in a curve.

5. On Your Back Reclining Position

Have you slept in a recliner? This position can be beneficial if you have isthmic spondylolisthesis, which is a condition causing one of your vertebra to slip over the next vertebra underneath.

Reclining helps because it creates an angle between your trunk and thighs, which reduces pressure on the spine.

You can also choose to invest in an adjustable bed for additional support and the best alignment.

Alignment is Key

As you can see, there are a variety of sleep position options if you have back pain. Keeping proper alignment is the most important part of getting a comfortable night’s sleep.

Be sure you align your ears, hips, and shoulders. Add any pillows to fill gaps between your body and the bed. These gaps strain your muscles and spine.

You can also mess up your alignment when you turn in bed. Try to keep your entire body together as you move. Keep your core tight and pull your belly button in.

If needed, you may bring your knees to your chest to roll over for added support.

Key Points About Choosing a Pillow

Now that we have discussed sleep positions – it’s important to talk about your pillow. There are a variety of pillows and some are better suited for different sleep positions.

Your main head pillow should promote the natural neck posture. It should also support your spine.

You want this pillow to not only be comfortable but also adaptable. It should keep its shape after use.

You should change your pillow every 12-18 months.

If you sleep on your back, a thinner pillow may be the best option because it doesn’t raise the head too much. Memory foam is a suitable option because it forms into the shape of the neck and head.

If you sleep on your side, you should consider a thick pillow. You want this pillow to completely fill in the space between the mattress and the neck.

Stomach sleepers should also consider a thin pillow or forego having a pillow. If your pillow is too thick, it will put pressure on your neck by pushing the head back. A small firm pillow can be used to support the forehead.

How to Choose a Mattress

Your mattress needs to be supportive and comfortable. People with lower back pain may want to consider a medium-firm mattress. If your mattress is too firm, it will put strain on your pressure points and get your body out of alignment.

Your size, shape, and proportions determine the amount of support you need. You want to feel like you are floating on air with no pressure on your body.

If your mattress is too soft, it can twist your joints and get your spine out of alignment.

There are several mattress styles to choose from including innerspring, memory foam, latex, and air.

You should replace your mattress every 10-15 years.

Still Looking to Reduce Back Pain?

It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep when you have back pain. If you feel like you need more help to reduce back pain, contact Dr. Carl Spivak today for a no-cost MRI review.

He will work with you to see if you are a candidate for his minimally invasive procedures to reduce your back pain.

artificial disk replacement

Are You a Good Candidate for Artificial Disk Replacement?

Chronic back pain will affect 80-90% of people at some point in their lives. Almost 2% of our country’s workforce deals with debilitating back pain. Many conditions can cause pain and require surgery.

When your pain becomes so severe that you cant control it with conservative treatments, you’ll need to be evaluated by a spine surgeon.

Spinal surgery has advanced a lot in the last few years, including FDA improved devices that can replace damaged spinal disks.

But the conditions that disk replacement surgery can treat are limited by a variety of factors. To learn more about artificial disk replacement and whether or not you would be a good candidate, read on.

What is Artificial Disk Replacement?

Before we talk about what makes a person a good candidate for this surgery, you should understand exactly what this surgery is.

Artificial disk replacement surgery is when worn or damaged disk material between the small bones in your spine are removed and replaced with synthetic or artificial disks. The goal of this procedure is to relieve back pain and maintain normal motion.

In other procedures, like spinal fusion, your movement would be much more limited.

Although many people will deal with low back pain in their lives, most people won’t need surgery to correct it. Surgery is only considered when back pain doesn’t improve with treatment.

For patients who have tried all nonsurgical options and are still in pain, lumbar fusion surgery is the most common option for treating lower back pain. Fusion is pretty much what it sounds like, a “welding” process that fuses the painful vertebrae together so they heal in a single, solid bone.

Lumbar fusion helps many people, but the results vary. Also, some people who heal in the most ideal way still have no improvement in their back pain.

Some doctors believe that this is due to the fact that fusion prevents normal motion in the spine. Because of this, artificial disk replacement has come forward as an alternative treatment option.

Artifical disk replacement gained FDA approval in 2004 and over the past years, scientists discovered new designs that are being developed today.

Who is a Good Candidate for Artifical Disk Replacement?

In order to make sure you are the best possible candidate for disk replacement, your surgeon might want you to go through a few tests. Some of these tests include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
  • Discography
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans
  • X-rays

The information they learn from these tests will help your surgeon determine whether or not you’re a good candidate for the surgery as well as pinpointing the source of your back pain.

As beneficial as this surgery is for many, it is not appropriate for everyone with low back pain. For the most part, good candidates have a few characteristics in common. They are:

  • Back pain caused by one or two intervertebral disks in the lumbar spine
  • No significant facet joint disease
  • No bony compression on spinal nerves
  • Not excessively overweight
  • No major surgery has been performed on the lumbar pine before
  • No deformity of the spine, like scoliosis

As long as you meet these criteria, and are in otherwise good health, you should qualify for the surgery.

The Procedure

For the most part, artificial disk replacement surgery will take between 2 and 3 hours.

Your surgeon will approach your lower back from the front through an incision in your abdomen. This way, the organs and blood vessels must move to the side, but it also allows your surgeon to access your spine without disturbing the nerves.

Typically, a vascular surgeon will assist the orthopedic surgeon with opening and exposing the disk space.

During the procedure, the surgeon will take your problematic disk out and insert an artificial disk into that space.

Artificial Disk Design

Some disk replacement devices make up the center of the intervertebral disk while leaving the outer ring in place, but this technology is still in the investigative process.

Mostly, the artificial disk will replace the outer ring and the center with a mechanical device that will stimulate the spine to function.

There are a bunch of different disk designs, all of them unique but maintaining a similar goal of reproducing the size and function of a normal disk.

There are disks made of metal and some made of metal and plastic both. This is similar to joint replacements in the knee and hip. These disks are made with medical grade plastic and medical grade cobalt chromium or titanium alloy.

Make sure you and your surgeon decide what disk is best for you.


For the most part, patients stay in the hospital for 1 to 3 days after the surgery. The length of your stay depends on how well controlled your pain is and whether or not you can function.

Patients are encouraged to stand and walk the day after surgery. With artificial disk replacement, bone healing isn’t required after the replacement, so usually, patients are encouraged to move in their midsection too. Early motion in this area can lead to faster recovery.

You will perform your basic routine during the first several weeks after surgery, just make sure you don’t hyperextend your back.


For the most part, patients can expect improvement of lower back pain in weeks or months after surgery.

This procedure will improve, but not completely eliminate, back pain. Make sure you have realistic expectations before going into surgery

Artificial Disk Replacement Research on the Horizon

The future of this procedure will likely have advancements in implant design and tools for diagnosing pain sources. It’ll also include ways to return the disk to normal function without needing to add any biomechanical device.

Artificial disk replacement isn’t considered a new technology, but the research continues on the outcomes of the procedure.

If you think you would be a good candidate for this procedure, visit us today to learn more.

Can scoliosis be cured

Can Scoliosis be Cured?

The transition between our early childhood and teenage years is a complicated weave of emotions, hormones, and life transitions. Yet that period can be far more stressful when combined with scoliosis.

A condition most often diagnosed during the puberty stage of one’s life, scoliosis can range from mild to severe. Left untreated, it can impact your posture and even endanger your health.

But what is it, exactly?

More importantly, can scoliosis be cured?

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition where the spine curves as it grows. It affects both the neurological and the muscular systems. This curve can either form in a “C” shape or back and forth like an “S”.

There are four different types of scoliosis:

  • Idiopathic Scoliosis, which has no known origin
  • Neuromuscular Scoliosis, which is caused by neuromuscular disorders
  • Congenital Scoliosis, which is a rare genetic defect
  • Degenerative Scoliosis, which develops in older adults

Most patients start to see symptoms of this abnormality between the ages of 10 and 14. This is because your body is growing and developing. Typically, you’ll see the most impact of your scoliosis during these formative years, but it can progress even after your teens.

This condition can occur in both male and female patients. However, it is more common amidst women.

What are the Symptoms of Scoliosis?

There are various signs of scoliosis. Some of them you can feel, while others you can see with the naked eye or on a medical scan. The most common include:

Seemingly Ill-fitting Clothes

Sometimes the symptom is as subtle as looking in the mirror and noticing your clothes don’t fit right.

You squint at your reflection, wondering why your shirt looks tighter in some areas than others, or why the edge of your shirt looks uneven compared to the opposite side.

This is caused by the tilt of your frame due to your spine’s curvature.

An Asymmetrical Back

Perhaps you are wearing a tank top or bathing suit when you, a friend, or family member notices your shoulders or back appear asymmetrical. This is another indicator of scoliosis.

A Change in Gait

Have you noticed yourself having trouble walking? Maybe your legs can’t seem to find the proper rhythm or one feels longer than the other. Scoliosis’ impact on your spin can misalign your hips, causing you to walk differently than normal.

You may even find yourself growing more fatigued since your body has to work harder to maintain balance.

A Noticeable Decrease in Range of Motion

As the spine begins to curve, it reduces its flexibility. Patients find it harder to bend their torso front to back or side to side.

An Increase in Back Pain

In severe cases of scoliosis, the curvature can lead to painful muscle spasms in the back, as well as deterioration of various discs and joints due to the strain.

Dangerous Levels of Pressure on Internal Organs

Scoliosis doesn’t just impact your skeletal frame. The sharp twists and angles can also cause pressure on your lungs and heart, hampering their function and creating hazardous health problems.

What are the Causes of Scoliosis?

While some cases of scoliosis may be caused by neuromuscular conditions like genetic defects, muscular dystrophy, or cerebral palsy, most cases have no defined cause.

Doctors have identified age, genetics, and sex as factors that play a role in how high a patient’s risk factor is in developing scoliosis. While most scoliosis patients have no prior history of it in their family, those whose family members have developed this condition are at a higher risk of doing so themselves.

Most cases develop during puberty, so young adults are less likely to receive scoliosis as a diagnosis. However, elderly adults may develop degenerative scoliosis after the age of 65.

Women are more likely to have this condition than men, but why it occurs still remains a mystery in most cases.

Can Scoliosis Be Cured?

While there is no cure for scoliosis, there are multiple scoliosis treatment options available on a case-by-case basis. First, a doctor must diagnose a patient’s scoliosis as well as his or her degree of severity.

This is done through imaging tests in order to identify the shape of your spine, as well as any underlying causes, such as an injury or the growth of a tumor.

For mild cases, your doctor may simply suggest monitoring your scoliosis, especially during your teen years. Since your body grows so rapidly during this period, your scoliosis also evolves rapidly.

If this is the case for you, your doctor will expect to schedule an appointment about once every six months.

Left unattended, scoliosis can damage the heart and lungs, cause severe back problems, and misalign your skeleton. If the scoliosis is severe then your doctor may require medical intervention.

This could include a brace or even surgery to help slow or reduce your spine’s curve. A brace is typically worn during a patient’s pubescent period in order to guide the spine into better alignment as it grows. This brace isn’t required after your bones have finished their growth period.

If surgery is required, this is typically done through a spinal fusion or installation of a metal rod. Although similar, these two forms of surgery implement a different approach to spinal realignment.

Spinal fusion uses small rods, wires, or other metal pieces to fuse certain vertebrae together. While this stiffens the back, it can improve the overall alignment.

The rod installation is a larger piece of hardware that is adjusted as the patient grows. Like the check-up appointments, these adjustments are made approximately once every six months.

Do You Think You Might Have Scoliosis?

While the answer to “Can scoliosis be cured?” may not be the one you were looking for, the good news is that there are many treatment options. If caught early enough, most patients can go on to lead normal, healthy, happy lives.

If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of scoliosis, contact your doctor. Patients in Hackettstown and Newton, New Jersey can book an appointment with our spinal surgery office without ever leaving their computer chair.

lumbar degenerative disc disease

Everything You Need to Know About Degenerative Disc Disease

Back pain is a problem that affects millions of people in America. As of 2017, nearly 55% of American adults were living with a back-related problem. Roughly 30% of these individuals believed their pain was stress-related, 26% felt it was due to weak muscles, and the same amount blamed physical work.

However, whatever the source of your back pain, it’s essential to have it checked out to ensure it’s not serious. There are many things that can go wrong with your spine that may require surgery or extensive physical therapy.

This includes lumbar degenerative disc disease (DDD). This condition is quite prominent among both men and women and deserves looking into if you have lower back pain.

Let’s review more about this condition.

What is Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease?

Lumbar DDD is a form of spinal degeneration that can occur as a person ages or when trauma occurs. Any of the discs in your spine can begin degenerating. However, lumbar degeneration takes place in the lower back region.

It’s very common for these areas to degenerate after you develop bulging or herniated discs.

It’s also prominent in those diagnosed with scoliosis. The symptoms of disc degenerative disease vary from person to person. For instance, some may feel tingling and numbness in their buttocks and legs.

Then those who have disc injuries in the shoulders and neck may have numbness and tingling in the arms. In severe cases, it can lead to temporary paralysis in the arms or in one or both legs.

Degeneration in the discs located in the upper back can cause symptoms like severe migraines and headaches. Limb weakness, memory loss, and muscle spasms are other symptoms to watch for.

The Anatomy of Your Spine

Now, it’s important to note that DDD isn’t actually a disease. Nor is it guaranteed to worsen over time. Everyone experiences disc degeneration at some time in their life and in some cases.

There are three main parts of intervertebral discs. The first is annulus fibrosis, which consists of concentric collagen rings that bend and twist as you move. The second is the nucleus pulposus, which is the inside of the disc.

It has a gel-like consistency that’s made with water and proteins. The purpose of this is to provide a cushion between the discs.

And last, there are the cartilaginous endplates, which is located between vertebral bodies and discs. It’s made with cartilage that’s attached to the disc. In a way, it acts like a gatekeeper, controlling the number of nutrients and oxygen that passes through the disc space.

What Are the Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease?

In many cases, the onset of degenerative disc disease is low-grade. Some will feel no back pain and others will have a continuous but tolerable amount of pain in the region. In these individuals, it’s common for the pain to flare up for a few days or so.

Moderate Low Back Pain

Those living with moderate, continuous lower back pain tend to have pain in the area where the discs are damaged. The pain can generate in the groin, buttocks, and upper thighs. The type of pain reported by pain sufferers include dull aches that are mild to severe.

Pain Flare-ups

The individuals that have occasional pain flare-ups tend to suffer from increased aches for days or even weeks on end. After a while, the pain reduces to a moderate level. Then as the disc degenerates and gradually stabilizes, these flare-ups happen again.

Flare-ups are known to be sudden and severe, and in some instances can cause reduced mobility.

Localized Pain

If you’re feeling localized tenderness in your lower back, then this a potential sign of lumbar disc disease. It’s common for the disc that’s degenerating to become too sensitive to touch. This is because there’s inflammation and tension in the muscle around the damaged disc.

Leg Pain

All of your nerves coursing through your body connect through your spine. It’s not uncommon for low back pain to extend to other parts of the body, such as the legs. You may feel numbness, sharp shooting pains or numbness in your buttocks or back of your leg.

This tends to happen once the disc space collapses onto a nerve root, causing it to pinch. Some back pain sufferers complain of pinching in their neck and shoulders after sitting upright for too long.

Pain While Sitting

Ironically, a lot of back pain sufferers have issues with sitting for too long. It can lead to severe low back pain and stiffness, requiring you to change positions or stand up to alleviate the pain. The best way to sit for long periods of time is to sit in a chair that reclines and offers good lumbar support.

Walking and changing positions can help with the pain because you’re removing the pressure from the discs onto your joints and muscles.

Treatment Options for Degenerative Disc Disease

Now that you have a better idea of what DDD is, it’s time to look at some of the treatment options that are available.

Short-term treatment options include OTC and prescription pain medications. Using the heat and ice method, massage therapy, and chiropractic care are natural ways you can alleviate the pain. However, these are all for temporary relief and won’t treat the root problem.

This includes using epidural steroid injections, which reduce pain signals and inflammation. In many cases, patients use these injections with physical therapy.

But if your case is severe enough, surgery is a great option to consider. One type is lumbar spinal fusion surgery. It’s the standard procedure that grafts together two vertebrae to help reduce the pain by removing the motion of that part of the spine.

During surgery, the surgeon removes the entire disc from the space, then they either attach instruments or bone graft to the two vertebrae that will fuse together. This can take months to occur following the surgical procedure.

If this is something you’re interested in having done to treat your lumbar degenerative disc disease, then we can help. At Executive Spine Surgery, we offer surgical treatments and pain management services.

Contact us today to see how we can help you lead a life free of back pain!

bone spur symptoms

Bone Spurs: What Are They and Where Do They Come From?

Bone spurs can occur all throughout the body, including our hands, feet, spine, and any other joints within the body. However, you may or may not notice they’re there.

So what are bone spur symptoms, what causes them, and can they be removed? These are all common questions we receive from patients who receive a diagnosis, which is why we put together one cohesive blog to answer them all.

What are Bone Spurs?

A bone spur is when additional bone growth develops along the edges of your bones. Typically they occur around the areas where two bones join together, such as your joints or between the vertebrae in your spine.

They usually develop in response to wear and tear between your joints. Whether they’re harmful or not simply depends on how they grow and whether or not they impact the mobility of your bones.

What Causes Bone Spurs?

The most common cause of bone spurs is osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative bone disease that affects around 27 million Americans. Those with osteoarthritis experience a breakdown in the cartilage between the joints, which leads to friction between the bones.

This causes a host of different problems, including swelling, joint pain, and reduced mobility.

However, osteoarthritis isn’t the only cause of bone spurs. With age, injury, or wear and tear, the spine can develop spondylolithesis. Spondylolithesis is when an individual experiences damage or develops weakness in the facet joints and discs within the spine.

If this weakness is left untreated and continues to develop, it can lead to instability within the spinal structure. This creates stress within different parts of the spine, including the tendons, discs, and ligaments.

The body responds to this form of stress with new bone growth in an attempt to bring stability back to the spine. However, the development of these bones spurs can lead to other problems, including compression and pinched nerves.

Other causes of bone spurs include obesity, overuse of the joints, genetic predispositions, poor diet, and the narrowing of a patient’s spine.

What are the Most Common Bone Spur Symptoms?

As we stated before, some bone spurs may be completely asymptomatic. The only time symptoms occur is when the bones spurs impact the mobility of your joints or exacerbates them in some manner.

The type of symptoms you have depend on where the bone spurs are located.

Common bone spur symptoms include:

  • Difficulty bending or extending your leg due to pain within the knee
  • Feelings of numbness or weakness in your extremities due to pinched nerves or a pinched spinal cord
  • Difficulty controlling your bowels or your bladder due to pressure on your spinal nerves
  • Reduced or painful movement in your hip
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bumps that you can feel under your skin

You may discover these symptoms become exacerbated with exercise or joint use.

It’s important to keep in mind that experience these symptoms is not a guaranteed diagnosis. Because these symptoms can be indicative of other medical conditions or problems, you must receive a proper diagnosis from your doctor.

If you suspect bone spurs, your doctor will likely have you undergo tests in order to confirm or debunk this diagnosis. These tests usually include a physical examination as well as X-rays, CT’s, or MRI’s.

Your doctor may also conduct an electroconductive test to see if there is any nerve damage.

If you have questions about your diagnosis, symptoms, or causes, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor. He or she is responsible for answering any questions you may have regarding your health, treatment options, and any concerns associated with them.

How Do You Treat Bone Spurs?

If your doctor identifies that you have developed bone spurs that require treatment, he or she will provide you with options. Those options can vary depending upon where the bone spurs are located.

Depending upon the severity of your case, this treatment may be as simple as over-the-counter pain relievers to help with the side effects or therapy. In severe cases, you may require surgery in order to remove them.

Therapy options include steroid shots and/or physical therapy.

If you develop bone spurs within the spine, you may be required to undergo pain mapping prior to any surgical procedures. This is where a numbing agent is inserted into the area of the spine where the patient is experiencing pain.

Typically, this will temporarily relieve or stop the pain if your symptoms are caused by bone spurs. However, if your pain continues in spite of non-invasive treatment your doctor may recommend endoscopic foraminotomy.

Endoscopic foraminotomy is different from the more traditional means of bone spur removal. Safer and less invasive, it involves a very small incision as well as the use of a micro camera in order to remove the bone spur compression.

While this may sound indimidating, endoscopic foraminotomy is a much easier procedure than traditional surgery. It only requires a light, twilight sedation, and the incision is approximately the size of a fingernail.

This means less post-op pain and a significantly decreased recovery time for the patient. It is highly recommended for patients who require a spinal surgery in order to remove bone spurs causing nerve compression.

Explore Your Options for Bone Spur Removal in the Spine

If you have tried the more conservative options to bone spur treatment, but are still suffering from bone spur symptoms in the spine then it may be time to consider surgical options.

Make sure that you select a spinal surgeon with a good reputation and positive testimonials. Quality matters, especially when it comes to any sort of operation on the spine.

This area of your body houses multiple nerves and nerve endings that a good surgeon navigates with the utmost care. Careless or improper execution can lead to serious, and possibly permanent side effects.

If you are a patient within the Hackettstown or Newton, New Jersey area, give us a call. Dr. Carl Spivek is the President of Executive Spinal Surgery P.C. and he specializes in minimally invasive spinal surgeries.

These surgeries are safer and easier on the patient, making it the best available option today.

prolapsed disc

How to Know If You Have a Herniated Disc

Do you suspect you have a prolapsed disc in your back?

A herniated disc, also known as a slipped or prolapsed disc often causes intense back pain. If you’re not sure what the cause is, a prolapsed disc might very well be the culprit for your pain – but how can you tell?

A medical doctor is always needed for a certain diagnosis, but there are a few herniated disc warning signs to watch out for. In this guide, we’ll go over how to know if you have a herniated disc, as well as potential ruptured disc treatment and everything else you may need to know. Keep reading to learn how to make the pain disappear!

What is a Prolapsed Disc?

A slipped disc is often the cause of intense back pain with a sudden onset. It hurts because the disc usually presses a nerve in the spine, which can cause pain not just in the back, but in a leg or other body part.

The pain will often let up over the course of a few weeks, with rest and painkillers. However, if it doesn’t stop, you might need surgery or more intense treatment.

“Slipped” discs are somewhat misnamed: they don’t actually slip out of place. Instead, a part of the soft, inner part of the disc bulges through a weak point in the outer part of the disc. That’s why they’re called prolapsed or herniated discs.

The bulge of the disc is what pushes on the nerve, causing pain. Sometimes, the herniated area also becomes inflamed. This inflammation can further irritate a nerve and create swelling, adding even more pressure.

Any disk along the spine can become herniated. However, the issue happens in the lower back most often. The prolapse can be larger or smaller, but the larger ones tend to be more severe.

The Structure of the Spine

To understand how this can happen, it helps to understand more about how the back and spine work.

The spine is made up of small bones, or vertebrae. Each vertebra has a kind of flat, cylindrical shape and a disc rests between each one of these bones.

These discs are made of a kind of rubbery material, which gives our spine its flexibility. Each of these discs is constructed the same way: with a strong outer layer and a softer center.

Within the spinal cord are our nerves, which come from the brain and lead to every other part of the body. The spine keeps our nerves safe from damage, so they can do their job of sending messages from the brain to the body and vice versa.

We also have ligaments attached to our vertebrae. They offer more strength and support to the spinal structure. Muscles surround and attach to the spine as well.

When a disc becomes herniated, this seemingly small issue affects all of these different parts that work together. That’s why the symptoms of a prolapsed disc are often so severe.

Prolapsed Disc Symptoms

Is a herniated disc the cause of your back pain? Let’s take a look at the common symptoms that offer clues.

1. Back Pain

The most common prolapsed disc symptom is simple: pain in the back. However, this pain is usually severe and starts all of a sudden. If you have mild back pain or pain that starts out gradually, it’s probably not due to a herniated disc.

Laying still will usually make the pain feel better, but moving, sneezing, or coughing will increase the pain.

2. Nerve Pain

If you have pain in your nerve roots, that’s often another giveaway that the culprit is a slipped disc.

Nerve root pain happens because the slipped disc is pressing on a nerve that comes out from the spinal cord. It can also happen because the inflammation of the prolapsed disc is irritating the nerve root.

Even though the problem stems from the spine, you might feel pain at any or all points along the nerve’s pathway. For example, if the nerve extends down the leg, you might feel pain in your foot, calf, or knee.

The nerve root pain can be mild, severe, or anywhere in between. However, most of the time, it feels worse than your back pain does. This type of pain usually feels like a burning sensation.

Other nerves can be affected, but the nerve that’s affected the most often by a slipped disc is the sciatic nerve. This nerve is actually comprised of a number of smaller nerves that come from the lower back and extend down the backs of the legs.

3. Nerve Symptoms

In addition to pain, you might feel other symptoms because of the pressure of the prolapsed disc on your nerves. These symptoms can include numbness, weakness, or a “pins and needles” sensation. Again, the sciatic nerve is most often affected, so you’ll probably feel these symptoms in your foot or leg.

4. Cauda Equina Syndrome

In very rare cases, your nerve root issue could become cauda equina syndrome. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s a medical emergency and you must seek ruptured disc treatment right away.

In this disorder, the nerves being pushed on by the slipped disc are at the base of the spinal cord. In addition to pain in the lower back, the symptoms of this syndrome can include leg weakness, numbness between the legs, and issues with the bladder and bowels. For example, you might find yourself completely unable to use the bathroom.

If you don’t seek herniated disc treatments right away, this disorder could cause your nerves to sustain permanent damage, so don’t delay if you have these symptoms.

How to Treat a Herniated Disc

Minor prolapsed disc symptoms often go away on their own, with time. However, if you have this problem frequently or the symptoms don’t go away, you might need ruptured disc treatment.

Looking for reliable treatment for this and other spinal issues? Check out our treatment options here.