spinal surgeon

10 Crucial Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Spinal Surgeon

Every year, spinal surgeons perform over one million surgeries on individuals all across the nation. Have you been told that you need spinal surgery? Are you feeling a bit anxious about the procedure?

It’s normal to feel worried before undergoing any type of surgery, especially spinal surgery. One way to ameliorate this anxiety, though, is to make sure you’re working with the most qualified surgeon possible.

Not sure how to find such a surgeon? Start by conducting some interviews and asking the right questions.

If you’re currently trying to find the right spinal surgeon, be sure to ask each candidate these ten questions during the interview process.

1. What Certifications do You Have?

This is one of the first questions you ought to ask when interviewing a spinal surgeon.

Your surgeon should be certified through the American Board of Medical Specialties. They should also have completed between two and three years of specialty training.

These qualifications are not the only thing that matters, of course. They’re a great starting point, though.

2. How Much of Your Practice is Dedicated to Spinal Surgery?

You might assume that a spinal surgeon works almost exclusively on spines. That’s not always the case, though.

Ideally, your spinal surgeon should dedicate at least 50 percent of their practice to spinal surgery and procedures.

The more time they spend working on the spine, though, the better. They’ll most likely be familiar with the latest techniques and technology and will be better prepared to perform your surgery.

3. Can You Provide Me with Testimonials?

Any good spinal surgeon will be able to share lots of patient testimonials with you. Don’t stop with the testimonials available on their website, though.

Do some research on third-party sites to see what people are saying about this particular surgeon.

Have the majority of patients had good experiences? What did they like and dislike about working with this surgeon?

4. How Many Patients Like Me Have You Operated on Recently?

How familiar is your potential surgeon with your specific condition? How many other patients have they operated on who are of the same age and suffer from the same condition as you?

Remember, there are a lot of different spinal surgeries and procedures. Not all spinal surgeons will be equally experienced in the type of treatment you need.

5. What Type of Surgery do You Recommend?

When you share your specific medical information and diagnosis with the surgeon, what kind of surgery do they recommend?

Can they provide you with written information or other resources to teach you about the procedure? What kind of instrumentation (plates, screws, etc.) will they use? Is a bone graft necessary? 

Learn as much about this surgery as you can before you decide that it’s the right one for you.

6. What are the Benefits of This Surgery?

In addition to finding out what kind of surgery they want to perform, it’s also important to find out why they want to perform it.

What benefits will come from it? Will you experience significant improvements to your mobility and a dramatic reduction in your pain? What will your quality of life be like when the surgery is over?

7. Is Surgery My Only Option?

Some spinal surgeons recommend surgery to every single patient they see, even those who could benefit from other treatments.

There are many minimally invasive and non-invasive procedures that could be just as effective as actual surgery.

Ask your surgeon if they recommend alternative treatments first, such as pain mapping, spinal injections, or high-frequency stimulation.

8. What Risks are Associated with My Surgery?

No surgery is without risks. Your potential surgeon should be honest about the risks associated with your particular surgery. If they try to brush these off or say there are no risks involved, they’re probably not the right surgeon for you.

9. Where Will You Perform My Surgery?

Where will your surgery take place? In a hospital, or in an outpatient surgical center?

Most spinal surgeries are performed in outpatient centers. It’s still a good idea to find out the location of your surgery, though.

If your surgery takes place in an outpatient center, you won’t need to worry about making arrangements for an overnight hospital stay. 

10. What Should I Expect After the Surgery?

Finally, be sure to ask the surgeon what you should expect after the surgery is complete.

What will your pain level be? How long will you need to stay home from work? How much physical therapy will you need? 

Get as much information about the recovery process as you can. That way, you’ll be able to make arrangements and be prepared for when the surgery is finished.

Red Flags to Look Out for

During your interview with your potential spinal surgeon, it’s not enough just to get answers to these questions. It’s also important to be on the lookout for the following red flags:

  • Discouraging or not allowing for second opinions
  • Not taking the time to answer all of your questions
  • Making you feel bad for asking certain questions
  • Trying to pressure you or influence your decision about whether you want to have surgery—their job is to provide information, not to persuade you one way or the other
  • Bypassing more conservative treatment options
  • Not being forthcoming about the specific treatments, techniques, costs, and/or outcomes related to the surgery

Your spinal surgeon should be open-minded, empathetic, and willing to answer all of your questions. Don’t work with someone who rushes you, pressures you, or tries to discourage second opinions or taking time to do more research.

Find the Right Spinal Surgeon Today

As you can see, there are quite a few questions you need to ask when interviewing a spinal surgeon. It’s definitely worth it to be thorough during your search, though.

Are you looking for a spinal surgeon in the Hackettstown or Newton areas? Do you want to work with someone who meets all the criteria listed above?

If so, we can help at Executive Spine Surgery. We offer a variety of minimally invasive spinal procedures designed to treat a wide range of conditions, from ankylosing spondylitis to scoliosis.

Schedule an appointment with us today!

back surgery

7 Tips to Have a Speedy Recovery After Back Surgery

In 2017, 54% of adults in the US had suffered neck or back pain for five years or more.

Back pain is something that affects millions of people every year. And in some cases, the only solution is to turn to surgery.

Back surgery can help to alleviate the painful symptoms. But as with any invasive surgery, there will be a lengthy recovery period. There are steps you can take to minimize the length of your recovery, however.

So read on as we take a look at seven practical tips to have a speedy recovery from back surgery.

1. Listen to Your Doctor’s Advice

The first and most important thing you should do after any type of surgery is to listen to your doctor’s advice.

Your surgeon will have a great deal experience with people recovering from the same surgery that you have undergone. They will also have years of medical training. They will be able to provide you with a plan for your recovery, with realistic expectations of the path your recovery will take.

Make sure that you follow that plan to the letter, and don’t try to take on too much too early. You could find that you end up setting your recovery back.

2. Manage Your Pain

Even if your surgery was intended to reduce your pain, your recovery is unlikely to be completely pain-free.

There are steps you can take to help minimize the pain following back surgery. Pain medication is the most obvious, but should only be taken as prescribed by your doctor. Hot or cold packs can also help to reduce pain but make sure that you do not get your surgery site wet until it is safe to do so.

If it is recommended that you wear a brace, this can also help to reduce pain.

Your surgeon should advise you what to expect in terms of pain after your surgery. If you are experiencing pain outside of their expectations, then you should contact your doctor. 

3. Adapt Your Home

Recovering from back surgery is all about giving your body the best chance to heal.

So make sure that you do as much as possible to take the strain off you back within your daily life. Making simple changes to your home can really help to speed up the healing process. For example, try moving your bed to the ground floor to minimize the number of stairs you need to climb each day. 

Consider using a raised toilet seat to reduce the strain on your back, or a commode if your bathroom is not on the ground floor. Bath seats and reacher grabbers are also very useful items to use during recovery.

4. Get Some Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep can really help to speed up the recovery process.

Sleep not only helps your body to heal but will also keep you feeling positive and motivated throughout your recovery. But getting the right amount of sleep can be easier said than done when suffering from post-operative pain. Try to set yourself a regular sleep schedule so that you go to bed and get up at the same time every day.

You can also make use of pain medication before bedtime to help you be able to sleep more easily.

5. Ask for Support

Whilst you are recovering from your surgery, there will be a lot of tasks that are beyond you.

This is where friends and family can play a huge part. Simple errands such as going to the shops or cleaning the house can be a challenge when you’re recovering from back surgery. If your friends or family can help out with these chores, it will make your recovery both easier and quicker.

The most important thing to do is ask for help. If you don’t, you are robbing your friends and family of the opportunity of helping you when you need it most.

6. Make the Most of Physical Therapy

You may be required to do physical therapy as part of your recovery plan.

If this is the case, it is likely that you will be given some exercises to do in your own time at home. It is vitally important that you follow the regime that your doctor has set out. You may think that skipping a few session won’t do much harm. 

But it is likely to delay your complete recovery from your surgery if you don’t follow the plan properly.

The types of exercises you do, as well as the intensity and duration, are likely to change through the course of your recovery. Make sure that you are doing the right exercises at the right level of intensity if you want your recovery time to be short.

7. Maintain a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle

Whilst you are recovering it is important to give your body as much help as possible.

That means trying to be as healthy as you can. Eating properly will provide your body with the fuel and resources it needs to help you recover. Fresh fruit and vegetables are a must, as are foods that are high in protein.

Try to steer clear of any junk food for the duration of your recovery.

Drinking and smoking should also be avoided whilst your body is healing. Studies show that smoking can slow the rate of bone healing. And alcohol could be a dangerous mix when combined with your pain medication. 

Finally try to exercise as much as you can, within your doctor’s recommendations. Excess weight is one of the key factors in causing back pain in the first place.

Are You Considering Back Surgery?

If you’re considering back surgery then we may be able to help. 

We perform minimally invasive spine surgery that has several benefits, including less post-operative pain, less soft muscle and tissue damage, and reduced risk of infection. We can treat conditions ranging from sciatica and herniated discs to bone spurs and arthritis of the spine. We also offer pain management procedures to help alleviate chronic back pain.

We have locations in both Hackettstown and Newton. Contact us today to book a consultation.

signs of a pinched nerve

5 Signs of a Pinched Nerve You Can’t Ignore

Have you been experiencing discomfort but you’re not sure where it’s coming from?

If so, you might be experiencing a pinched nerve. Pinched nerves present themselves in many different ways. Some symptoms are the same as those for other causes. 

The symptoms associated with pinched nerves vary in strength, too. So it can be difficult to identify the problem correctly.

So how do you know if you have one or not? To help you assess what you’re feeling, we’ve created this list.

Here are five signs of a pinched nerve that you should know about.

1. You’re Feeling Numb

Numbness is one of the first symptoms you’re likely to experience. You’ll notice it when the feeling in your fingertips or another area of your body doesn’t seem to be as strong as usual.

Since numbness doesn’t always feel like a big deal, it’s easy to think you can ignore it. That’s not a good idea though. Allowing numbness to continue only allows the problem to continue.

A simple, momentary feeling of numbness might not be associated with a pinched nerve. But if you feel any numbing that’s significant, or numbness that seems to not go away, consult a doctor.

2. You Have Pins and Needles

This feeling may be closely associated with numbness at times, but it is a different thing. In this case, you’re feeling little pricks of pain all over a certain area of your body.

While they aren’t the same, numbness and pins and needles often go hand in hand. If they continue to show up in the same area on your body, you likely have a pinched nerve.

The feeling of pins and needles comes from a pinched sensory nerve. These nerves help you feel things like light touch.

3. Sharp Pain is Present

Numbness and pins and needles are on the lower end of the spectrum of what you might feel from a pinched nerve. On the other end, there’s pain.

Pain from a pinched nerve may be sharp or have a burning feeling. You might also feel like the pain is moving outward from somewhere deeper.

If you’re experiencing this, there’s a good chance the nerve is being pinched because something near it is inflamed.

Pain from nerve pinches can be sudden and very painful. If you notice this type of pain, consult a doctor to get the issue addressed.

4. Weakness is Affecting One Area of Your Body

Feeling weak in general may just be from not getting enough sleep or eating unhealthy food. If weakness is sticking around in one area of your body, though, you may have a pinched nerve.

This is because one type of nerve that’s housed in your body, the motor nerves, help your brain tell your muscles what to do. Weakness means there’s something wrong with the connection and your muscles aren’t getting the right message.

5. Part of You Repeatedly Falls Asleep

Have you ever had an arm or leg “fall asleep?” If you’re like most people, you probably have. While this is totally normal if you’ve been sitting on your leg for a while, it shouldn’t happen out of the blue.

If you get the feeling that an area of your body keeps falling asleep when you weren’t doing anything that warrants that feeling, you might have a pinched nerve.

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore It

A pinched nerve isn’t always a serious thing. At first, it may not be. But if left alone you may find yourself dealing with something worse down the line.

What might a pinched nerve come from? Pregnancy, diabetes, and repetitive physical stress are all on the list. A pinched nerve might also be a sign of something bigger, like a stroke or heart attack.

Since a pinched nerve may be a sign of something bigger or may turn into a bigger problem, it’s a good idea to get it checked if it persists.

Treatment for Pinched Nerves

The symptoms for pinched nerves range from annoying to painful. Luckily, though, there are remedies to help with each one.

Ultimately, you may need to visit a doctor to sort out the source of the issue. Real treatment may take time and the help of a medical specialist. There are some things you can do at home, though.

Here’s a look at some common treatment methods:

Rest

The area of your body that’s bothering you could benefit from some rest. This remedy is a good place to start.

You may find that the issue goes away, but if it doesn’t you know you need some extra help.

Physical Therapy

Depending on the severity of the pinched nerve you’re experiencing, you may need to do some physical therapy. This will help you work through your symptoms while addressing the issue at hand.

Surgery

Surgery likely won’t be required if the pinched nerve is a minor thing. In some cases, though, surgery may be required. It can help take the pressure off your nerve.

Medication

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs might be recommended by your doctor. Corticosteroids are an option too. These types of medications can help with the pain associated with pinched nerves.

Don’t Ignore These Signs of a Pinched Nerve

A pinched nerve might be something simple, but it also might be a sign of something bigger. Because of this, you should never ignore these signs of a pinched nerve.

The sooner you can figure out what’s going on, the better. So don’t hesitate to reach out to your physician to diagnose the problem.

Experiencing a pinched nerve in your back? Click here to learn about how our spinal injections can help.

spinal surgery

6 Important Reasons You Should Consider Spinal Surgery

If you suffer from back pain, you’re not alone. 80% of adults say they’ve experienced lower back pain at some point in their lives. 

In fact, back pain is only second to the common cold for the top reason people miss work.

So, this much prevalence must mean it’s a natural occurrence that very few can escape, right? Hardly. 

There are many reasons why people experience back pain. Slipped discs, pulled or strained muscles, and sciatica are only a few.

Most people can take it easy for a few days or apply heat and ice and be fine. Others aren’t so lucky. No matter what they do, they never get any relief.

For chronic back pain sufferers, spinal surgery is an option. While no one gets excited at the thought of going under the knife, there are several benefits. 

We’re taking a look at seven reasons you should consider spinal surgery below. 

1. Takes Pressure Off Nerves

Although, that is a very common cause of back pain. Pinched nerves are often treated with home remedies

But when you have a disc herniation or spinal stenosis, it can cause severe pain. These conditions compress the nerves in your spinal column. It leads to numbness/tingling, weakness, and even lack of bladder/bowel control.

In extreme cases, stenosis leads to paralysis. Spinal surgery relieves this pressure and gets you functioning at a normal level. 

2. Realign Crooked Spine

Scoliosis is the most well-known condition that causes a curvature of the spine. Between six and nine million Americans suffer from scoliosis.

It’s mostly diagnosed in children. Treatment usually involves exercise and is successful. But every year, 38,000 people undergo spinal fusion surgery.

Scoliosis isn’t the only condition that causes a spinal curve. Flat-back syndrome and kyphosis also affect the natural curvature.

Your doctor will likely recommend physical therapy and other non-invasive measures before considering surgery. 

3. Stabilize Instability

When healthy, your spine protects, supports, and provides structure for your body. When your spine becomes unstable, sometimes surgery is the only way to stabilize it.

Unstable spines happen as a result of different inflictions. Often, it’s the result of an injury — like a fracture. But an extreme disc injury will also cause instability.

An unstable spine isn’t only painful — it leaves the body vulnerable. 

4. You Can’t Function Properly

We rely on our backs for almost every function we go through on a daily basis. This puts a lot of pressure on our spine.

As we age, we lose mobility. Most of the time, this starts from our backs getting weakened over time. Remember, our backs are our support system.

When they lose stability, we have trouble working, walking, sitting, and even sleeping. This causes pain that can move into the legs. In some cases, neurologic problems from a pinched nerve emerge.

Fusing unstable parts of the spine through various surgical techniques can improve function.

5. Improves Your Quality of Life 

When your back pain reaches a point when you can’t function, it impacts your quality of life. Not only are you kept from providing for your family, but you’re inhibited from enjoying what life has to offer.

Severe back pain keeps you from playing golf, enjoying time with your family, and even going on vacation. It’s difficult to sit still in a car, airplane, or cruise ship. 

With new technology emerging, minimally-invasive procedures can give you a new lease on life. You’ll be able to enjoy activities that were once an impossibility. 

6. Your Condition Is Getting Worse

Many spinal conditions get worse over time. Degenerative disc disease is one of them. It’s caused by everyday wear and tear on your spine. 

This, in particular, will start causing pain in your legs. You’ll have chronic lower back pain, ranging from mild to moderate.

Other progressive conditions worsen in the same way. Your doctor will monitor your progress and discuss surgery when there aren’t any other options. This leads us to the final reason for considering surgery.

7. Other Treatments Have Failed

Unless you have a severe injury, your doctor will usually only suggest spinal surgery when other treatments aren’t working. There is a risk that comes with spinal surgery. A reputable physician will try other pain management procedures first. 

It’s important that you find a doctor that you can trust to treat your pain. They should discuss all your treatment options with you. This includes physical therapy, spinal injections, and other procedures.

What Procedures Are Available?

Most people consider the thought of surgery scary. When it’s spinal surgery, this fear surfaces tenfold. The good news is, back surgery isn’t what it used to be.

There are several minimally-invasive procedures now available. Yes, some invasive surgeries are still required for major spinal injuries. But, surgeons are finding new ways to limit the recovery time while preventing future issues. 

Some of the most popular minimally-invasive surgeries performed today include:

  • Facet Thermal Ablation (radiofrequency rhizotomy)
  • High-frequency stimulation
  • Spinal cord stimulation
  • Stem cell disc regeneration
  • Endoscopic spinal discectomy and decompression

These procedures are effective for treating pain. They’re also not so cumbersome that you’ll end up on bed rest for weeks.

Pain mapping is also a newer, more usual way to diagnose back pain. MRI, CT scans and X-rays are commonly used with great success. These methods of imaging help determine where the pain is.

But, it doesn’t determine why you’re experiencing pain. Pain mapping works to get to the root of the issue.

Your doctor will inject a medicine into or on the abnormal structure. If the pain stops, they can work on treating the abnormality. 

If the pain doesn’t decrease or stop, they know something else is causing your back pain. This also helps them figure out what the next course of action should be.

Are You Considering Spinal Surgery?

If you’re considering spinal surgery, the most important thing you can do is choose the right doctor. They’ll exhaust all non-surgical treatments before scheduling you to go under the knife. They’ll also use the least invasive techniques available. 

If you’re in North Jersey, and in need of a spinal specialist, contact us. Dr. Spivak is an expert and pioneer in the field of minimally-invasive and laser spine surgery.

We’ll be happy to schedule you for a comprehensive assessment.  

spine surgery

7 Great Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Undergoing Spine Surgery

When you live with chronic back pain, you would do anything for relief. 

And like 600,000 other Americans, you may decide that spine surgery is the right route for you. 

But before you agree to go into the operating room, you need to ask your doctor the right questions. Here are seven questions you need to ask to be prepared for your surgery. 

1. What Type of Surgery Do You Recommend?

There are many different types of spine surgery out there. It’s important to understand why your doctor is recommending this particular type of surgery. 

Ask your surgeon to explain the procedure and describe it to you in plain English. 

For example, you should find out where in the spinal column the surgery will focus and how big the incision will be. You’ll also want to know whether the surgeon will come in through the back (posteriorly) or the front (anteriorly). 

2. What Will the Procedure Do?

After the type of surgery, the next most important question is what the procedure will do. 

This is for two reasons. First, the doctor should have a clear understanding of what’s causing your pain. After all, if they don’t know what’s causing the pain, how can you expect them to recommend the right surgery to treat it? 

Second, if the doctor does know what’s causing your pain, they should be able to elaborate on what this procedure will do to alleviate your pain. 

3. Why This Procedure? Are There Alternatives?

This question goes hand-in-hand with the previous question. 

If your doctor has an understanding of your pain, they should be able to explain why this procedure is the best choice out of all the other available options. They should also be willing to explain what the other options are. 

In most cases, spinal surgery is viewed as the last option only after other, more conservative, non-surgical back treatments have failed. Ask your doctor if there are any other non-surgical options you could try. 

For example, if you have a bulging disc, you may benefit from ice and heat therapy. You may also want to consider stem cell treatments–it’s a quick, minimally invasive procedure that has been shown to slow or stop disc degeneration. 

4. What are the Benefits of This Operation?

When you ask your doctor why you should consider this procedure, you should also talk to them about the benefits of this particular operation. 

The most obvious benefit, of course, is relief from your chronic back pain. But the spine is more than just a row of bones–it’s the body’s central support structure, and the right procedure should correct a number of problems to improve your overall wellbeing. 

Ask your doctor about the benefits in terms of pain relief, restored function, mobility, and independence. Would the surgery allow you to return to work pain-free? Will you be able to walk upright for the first time in a while? 

Don’t forget to ask how long the benefits will last. If you’re only looking at a month of benefits after a long recovery, it may not be worth the time and money. 

5. What are the Risks of This Operation?

No one wants to think about surgical complications and risks. But it’s vital to understand the potential hazards of any operation before you agree to it. 

All surgeries carry some degree of risk, including things like: 

  • Potential infection
  • Anesthesia complications, including bad reactions to anesthesia
  • Excess bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Nerve damage
  • Delayed healing
  • Difficulty breathing after surgery
  • A bad reaction to implants, transfusions, or grafts
  • Injury during surgery
  • Paralysis
  • Poor results following surgery
  • Scarring after surgery

If you’re worried about anesthesia, it’s a good idea to talk to your anesthesiologist beforehand. The anesthesiologist, not the surgeon, is the one who will give you pain medication before surgery, so it’s important to talk to them about the potential risks of anesthesia in your case. 

Don’t be afraid to be blunt with your doctor about your worries, and don’t be shy when asking them how they’ll deal with potential complications during and after surgery. 

Remember, no one has to undergo surgery against their will. You always have the right to refuse surgery if you’re not comfortable with it. 

6. What are the Chances of Success?

When you talk to your doctor about benefits and risk, it’s important to bring up your chances of success after surgery. 

The success of any surgery is contingent on several factors. This includes anything from your medical history to your reaction to the anesthesia to the doctors and nurses working on you to how your body reacts to the surgery. 

This is to say that every patient is different, and no surgery has a 100% guaranteed success rate. Your doctor has to be honest about your chances for success based on the severity of the problem, your medical history, and the relative risk of the procedure. 

If a particular operation doesn’t have a high success rate, it’s important to consider whether the potential for success is worth the risk (and cost) of poor results. 

7. What Will My Recovery Look Like?

Finally, make sure to ask your doctor what your recovery will look like. 

Highly invasive operations typically have longer recovery periods. It takes longer to heal from a broken arm than a paper cut, and the same basic principle applies to spinal surgery. 

Ask your doctor how long they expect the recovery to take and what your limitations will be. For example, will you need assistance at home after surgery? For how long? How long will you have limitations following surgery? Will you need physical therapy or medications? 

This also applies to work and your personal life. When will you be able to drive again? What about lifting things, like kids or an infant? When can you return to work? When can you have sexual activity again? 

You’d be surprised by how much your life is affected when you can’t move freely. Make sure you understand how this will affect your life (and for how long) so that you can plan accordingly. 

If You Need Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

If you’ve asked all the right questions, or if you’re looking for the right doctor to perform your spine surgery, you’ve come to the right place. 

Not sure if you’re a good candidate for surgery? Read this guide to see if you should consider surgery as a treatment option. 

Want to talk about your options? Click here to book an appointment online. 

herniated disc treatment

What Is the Best Herniated Disc Treatment Option out There?

When you’ve hurt your back and you can’t get up what do you do?

If you can’t get up, you call for emergency help

We’re not making light of someone who truly can’t get up but most of the time when you hurt your back, you can get up and get to the doctor.

The key phrase here is get to the doctor.

Most people initially self-diagnose and take a few hours or a day or so and rest. 

A round of extra-strength over-the-counter pain medication is often taken.

But what if your back pain doesn’t go away? What is it’s something more serious like a ruptured or herniated disc?

Modern medicine has an answer for you!

If you do have a herniated disc, it’s not the end of the world. 

We’ve put together a mini-guide for people who are considering or are worried about herniated disc treatment. If you’re not sure you have a herniated disc, call your doctor today. 

In the meantime, read this guide so you’re prepared when it’s time for your doctor visit.

What Is a Herniated Disc?

Back pain is so common most people have either experienced it or have a family member who has suffered from it. A staggering 80% of adults experience back pain at least once in their lifetime.

Most people don’t immediately assume their back pain is caused by a herniated disc. The average person assumes they’ve over-exerted at the gym or lifted a heavy object the wrong way.

Back pain can be caused by either activity but it could also be caused by a herniated disc, also called a bulging or ruptured disc.

A herniated disc is a condition of the cervical or lumbar spine. The cervical spine relates to the neck. The lumbar spine refers to the lower back.

When a disc is herniated nerves around the disc compress creating pain in the back, neck, arms, and legs, depending on whether the disc is located in the cervical or lumbar spine.

Disc pain is most common in the lower back because that’s where most of the movement the spine occurs. 

Pain in the neck, arms, or legs should be investigated as well since a herniated disc in the cervical spine may be the culprit.

As soon as you tell someone you’re having severe back pain, they’re likely to tell you it’s a herniated disc. Beware of listening to anyone other than a doctor. Self-diagnosis of a herniated disk is impossible.

You may suspect you have a disc issue but your doctor is the only one who can confirm it. 

Once you have a diagnosis, your doctor will recommend the best treatment for your unique situation.

If you’ve avoided seeing a doctor because you’re afraid of surgery, keep reading because surgery isn’t normally the first treatment offered to a patient.

Rest First

Doctors don’t rush patients into surgery unless not having surgery poses a serious health risk. They prefer what is considered conservative treatment methods.

The most common first treatment for a herniated disc is rest. 

Most patients don’t have a problem resting since they’re often in so much pain they can’t do much else.

Rest means no lifting and no strenuous exercise. You won’t be joining your friends at the gym.

Some patients go overboard with rest and stay in bed way longer than they should. Rest beyond 1-2 days does more harm than good as it can cause stiff muscles

Rest is a wonderful first treatment but don’t most doctors also offer medication? 

Medication Second

Another popular conservative treatment options is medication.

Depending on your pain level, you may be prescribed one of the following medications:

  • Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
  • Narcotics like codeine or an oxycodone-acetaminophen combination.
  • Anticonvulsants are usually prescribed for patients who have seizures but they can help treat nerve pain caused by a herniated disc as well.
  • Muscle relaxers if you have muscle spasms-common with a herniated disc.
  • Cortisone injections for relief of inflammation.

Patients who follow doctors orders and their pain medication regimen normally feel relief within a few days or weeks.  

You may be thinking “I’ve rested. I’m taking my pain meds. I’m still in pain.”

Doctors have another conservative treatment they suggest for patients when pain isn’t significantly reduced within a few weeks.

Physical Therapy Next

Physical therapy is also considered a conservative care treatment for a herniated disc.

During physical therapy, patients learn techniques which help avoid activity that aggravates the disc. You may also learn ways you can improve your posture so that you reduce pressure on the disc.

Physical therapy is designed for minimization of the pain of a herniated disk.

The timeline for healing ranges from 2-8 weeks. Of course, healing depends on dedication to the physical therapy program. Dedication of the patient, not the physical therapy team.

Some patients simply don’t respond to rest, medication, or physical therapy and at that point, doctors begin discussing what are considered invasive treatment methods.

Before looking at those, however, let’s take a moment and discuss a few other ways doctors can help patients manage pain.

Alternative Pain Management

Medication isn’t the only treatment method used for pain management.

Doctors who treat disc herniation have access to a wide range of non or minimally invasive treatments.

If you’re more interested in trying pain management your doctor may suggest anything from surgical stimulation to spinal injections. Remember, each patient is unique and will respond to treatment in their own way. 

What works for a friend may not be the best pain management option for you. 

Let your doctor discuss the best options so that you have the best chance of successful treatment.

There will always be patients who don’t respond well to any of the already mentioned treatments for their herniated discs.

The best option may be surgery.

Surgical Herniated Disc Treatment

The most critical action you can take as a patient getting in for a visit with the doctor. You may only need rest or medication but the doctor is the best judge of what treatment method is best for your unique needs.

Surgery may be your answer!

Spine-health has come a long way. There are several minimally invasive surgical treatments available for treatment of a herniated or bulging disc.

Your doctor won’t make rash decisions when determining whether you’re a candidate for surgical treatment. Before any surgery is scheduled you’ll have a complete review of your MRI. Then, you’ll have a surgical consultation.

Modern surgical techniques include:

  • Minimally invasive decompression surgery
  • Endoscopic Cervical Discectomy
  • Anterior Cervical Discectomy

There are many other surgical treatments available and your doctor will go over each with you before you both determine which is best for you. 

Whichever treatment method you and your doctor decide is best, the end goal is life without the painful and debilitating effects of a herniated disc.

Which Treatment Option is Best for You?

Staff at Executive Spine Surgery get excited about helping patients enjoy spine health. 

If you’re experiencing back pain, or if you’ve already been diagnosed and are ready for herniated disc treatment, let us help you understand your treatment options. 

We invite you to get to know us and find out whether you’re a candidate

spinal fusion surgery

The Ultimate Guide on Preparing for Spinal Fusion Surgery

Eight out of ten Americans will experience back pain during their lifetime. For many of these sufferers, at-home care can sometimes reduce symptoms. But what if an operation such as spinal fusion surgery is necessary to ease the pain?

Back surgery may sound like a stressful and scary experience. A little planning ahead of time and knowing what to expect, however, can calm your worries.

Here’s everything you need to know about preparing for spinal fusion surgery and how to make your recovery easier.

Prep Your Home

One of the most important tasks to do in the weeks leading up to surgery is to make your home as comfortable and recovery friendly as possible.

You won’t be able to bend over for a while, so remove anything off the floor that you think you may need such as footwear and clothing. Place them in a dresser drawer or another easily accessible area that’s off the ground. That goes for personal care items, reading material, and anything else you’ll want access to.

Kitchen items that are stored close to the ground such as pantry food products, pots, and pans should be moved to a higher location. Refrigerated food should be placed at a comfortable level.

Throw rugs can be a safety hazard as they’re easy to trip over. Roll them up and store them so they’re out of the way. Place non-slips mats in the shower and bathtub.

You may want to prepare or purchase meals that be easily defrosted and heated up if you don’t want to deal with cooking after surgery.

Keep your cordless or mobile phone next to your bed for easy access. If your home has more than one story, try to confine what you need on one floor if possible.

Enlist Help

Managing your needs after surgery will be easier if you have assistance. You won’t be able to drive yourself home when you’re discharged from the hospital, so make arrangements to have someone dependable drop you off and take you home.

You’ll require a helping hand to do cleaning, run errands, or take you to your post-op appointments until you’re fully mobile and able to drive. Arrange for a friend, family member, or professional care to visit and help you until recovery is complete.

Just Before the Spinal Fusion Surgery

Depending upon your particular medical condition, your doctor may advise that you be fitted with a cervical collar or lumbar brace to help with the recovery. This is usually done in the months or weeks leading up to the surgery.

Your home may need to be equipped with a toilet seat extender, walker, and long-handled reacher to make going about your daily routine a little easier.

You may be required to undergo a blood test, electrocardiogram (EKG), and chest X-ray prior to surgery.

If you’re physically active, you should keep up with the regular exercise or activity until you have the surgery. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly can keep circulation healthy which can even help prevent post-op risks such as blood clots.

Some patients experience constipation after back surgery. You can help prevent this by eating foods high in fiber a week before the procedure and drinking plenty of water.

Your surgeon will most likely advise you to stop taking ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen about a week before the procedure. These medicines are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They can thin your blood too much, leading to complications.

Disclose to your surgeon all pills you take including over-the-counter medication and any herbal supplements. You may be instructed to stop taking certain prescriptions such as blood thinners until after surgery. You should abstain from drinking alcohol a week before the surgery date, as it can also thin the blood.

If you smoke, you may be required to quit using all nicotine products a few months before surgery. Smoking can make healing longer and more difficult.

The Night Before Surgery

Expect a call from the hospital with final instructions the night before your operation. You won’t be able to eat or drink anything after midnight the evening before your surgery, even if it’s taking place later the following day. Even water is not permitted after midnight.

You’ll need to bathe with an anti-bacterial soap and you may be required to take an enema. Remove all jewelry including wedding bands and other rings the night before, as swelling in the morning may make them difficult to slip off.

The Day of Surgery

You’ll meet with a nurse who will ask questions about your medical background as well as the anesthesiologist who will walk you through the sedation process.

Remove all jewelry including wedding bands and other rings the night before. On the morning of your surgery, you’ll be asked to remove any jewelry, dentures, hairpieces, contact lenses, and artificial limbs.

Bring a supply of your own toiletries and clothing including slippers to the hospital with you to make your stay more comfortable.

Recovery and Coming Home

Most spinal fusion surgery patients stay in the hospital between two and five days. Hospital staff will assess you to make sure you can take care of your personal hygiene and walk the hallway without assistance before you are discharged. Light physical activity is often an important part of your at-home recovery from back surgery.

The hospital will give you careful instructions on how to care for your dressing and any warning signs to be aware of.

When someone takes you home, you should be reclining in the front seat or lying down in the back.

At home, follow these seven must-have tips for recovering from spinal fusion surgery.

Be Prepared For Your Spinal Fusion Surgery

Now that you know what to expect for your spinal fusion surgery, you can better prepare yourself and your home for the procedure.

At Executive Spine Surgery, we specialize in a full range of surgical procedures and treat many back conditions that include bone spurs, bulging discs, and arthritis of the spine. To learn if you’re a candidate for back surgery, book an appointment with us online.

symptoms of spinal stenosis

5 Important Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis to Watch

Do you suffer from intense pain in your back?

If so, you’re not alone. The American Chiropractic Association reported most sick days at work occur due to back pain and that it serves as the single leading cause for disability in the United States.

Symptoms of spinal stenosis greatly contribute to this statistic. 

What is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis refers to narrowing of the spinal cord. Causes of this narrowing include:

  • arthritis
  • bone spurs
  • degenerative spondylolisthesis
  • a herniated disc
  • scoliosis
  • tumors
  • an injury to the back

As this narrowing occurs, it causes the ligaments to thicken and the bones of the vertebrae to overgrow. The spine can narrow in one portion or in multiple portions.

Narrowing can occur in the spaces between vertebrae, the space in the middle of the spine, and or the part of the spine where the nerve plexuses branch outward. Cervical stenosis happens up in the neck while lumbar stenosis occurs down in the lower back.

This common cause of back pain should not get ignored. You should know what stenosis symptoms to watch for as it can lead to nerve damage, resulting in serious problems.

5 Important Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis

Pain serves as an alarm from your body to signal possible danger to your health. Back pain can come from all sorts of causes. When you experience back pain, you should look for other symptoms that can help you find the cause.

If spinal stenosis is causing your back pain, then you need to see a professional. Read on to learn 5 important symptoms of this debilitating condition.

1. Numbness and Tingling

Sometimes you may experience a harmless bout of numbness and tingling when you sit with your legs crossed for too long, and it goes away within minutes. However, if you continuously experience this sensation for no apparent reason, then it may signal something more serious.

Anytime you experience numbness and tingling for a prolonged period of time, you should pay attention. It signals trouble with your nerves.

As spinal stenosis narrows the spinal cord, it presses on the nerve. Nerves constantly send impulses to help you feel and move and an interruption to these impulses creates that pins and needles sensation or a complete loss of sensation. When spinal stenosis causes this numbness and tingling, you may feel it in your arm, hand, foot, and/or leg, depending on the area affected.

2. Weakness

Nerves allow for voluntary muscle movement by allowing you to feel the area and therefore manipulate it through electrical communication. Sort of the way you move Mario with a Nintendo controller.

As the narrowing damages nerves and blocks the impulse, they will not work properly. If you damage your controller wires, you may find that Mario only moves limitedly or not at all.  In the same sense, blocking nerve communication means that you lose control of the area that particular nerve regulates. 

As a stenosis symptom, you will experience this weakness in the same areas that you feel the numbness and tingling. You should seek help at the first sign of weakness.

One common form of weakness from this condition comes in the form of foot drop. This means that the weakness in the foot or leg muscles makes the foot slap the floor as the person walks. Early treatment may reverse this symptom, but letting it go may lead to permanent nerve damage and loss of function in that area of your body.

3. Difficulty Standing or Walking

Weakness leads to loss of function.

Cervical stenosis can lead to shakey hands or clumsiness. This can make it difficult to write, drive, and do other important daily activities.

Lumbar stenosis can eventually make walking and standing painful and difficult, as it weakens the legs and feet. This also affects the person’s balance, causing falls.

4. Chronic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches begin in the neck and spine, resulting from the pressed nerves. This type of headache closely resembles migraine pain. It feels steady and does not throb.

It may start as an intermittent pain in the head. Over time, the pain occurs more frequently.

It often starts at the base of the neck or between the shoulder blades and spreads throughout one side of the head. Sometimes the person may also feel forehead and brow pain as well.

5. Bladder or Bowel Incontinence 

As spinal stenosis progresses, the scope of muscle weakness grows. Cauda equine syndrome refers to a seriously progressed version of this condition. 

As the bony protrusions and swollen ligaments continue to compress the spine, the damage can start to affect the entire lower region of the body. This leads to the inability to control the bladder and/or bowels.

Not only can this create embarrassing situations, but it alerts you to a serious compression of the spinal cord. At this point, you need to get to an emergency room. Letting it go any further can result in permanent paralysis of the legs.

Treatment Options

To treat spinal stenosis symptoms, you may use pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections, and special exercises. However, only spinal surgery fixes spinal stenosis at its source.

Device Implants

For a person not quite ready for a more serious procedure, a surgeon may provide the patient pain relief by implanting a device into the spine. This can help reduce pain by limiting the forward and backward movement to reduce spinal compression.

Minimally Invasive Laminectomy

This procedure allows surgeons to remove the lamina, a part of the vertebrae that protect the spinal cord, to relieve pressure. It can also involve fusing the spine, to create a single bone.

If possible, this provides patients with the best treatment option. It offers a long-term solution and does not require an extensive recovery time like the traditional, more invasive open spinal surgery.

Seek Professional Help for Your Back Pain

If you experience symptoms of spinal stenosis, then you should see a medical professional for diagnosis and treatment. Do not ignore your symptoms because they will not disappear on their own. Early detection of this condition can prevent permanent disability.

Living with pain greatly affects the quality of life. We want to help! Take your life back by booking an appointment with us today.

 

spinal fusion recovery

7 Must-Have Tips for Recovering From Spinal Fusion

Are you getting spinal fusion surgery and feeling nervous about the recovery?

The prospect of getting back surgery would make anyone worry. You’re expecting to be in pain. Plus, you’ll be losing some of your mobility, which will keep you from work. 

Of course, you want your recovery period to be over as quickly as possible. 

No, there isn’t a magic pill to get you back on your feet the next day. But, there are some things you can do to help the process along.

Though it will take some time, soon enough you’ll return to normal. This time, however, your new normal will be one that is free of back pain!

A speedy, healthy recovery plays an important role in your spinal fusion surgery. Here are seven tips to ensure a faster spinal fusion recovery at home.

1. Watch Incisions 

One thing that will set your healing progress back significantly is if you develop an infection. Not only that, it can be very dangerous and life-threatening.  

That’s why you have to be mindful of your incision area. 

Don’t touch this area, and if you do, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands before. Make sure that your clothes are soft and gentle. You don’t want to irritate the healing skin. 

Checking on the incisions periodically will allow you to catch an infection early if one develops.  

Signs of an infection include if the area is hot to the touch or looks very red and swollen. Other symptoms are fever and painful urination. If you notice these signals, always play it safe and call your doctor right away.  

2. Sleep in the Proper Position 

When you’re in recovery, you’ll be getting a lot of rest. You will likely be spending a lot of your time in bed. 

Make sure you’re resting the right way. This will help lower your pain levels. It will also help prevent you from injuring yourself.

Check with your doctor for the best way to sleep and sit. But, generally, you should sleep on your back with your head raised by pillows or a wedge.  

Another pillow or two should be put under the knees to raise your legs. This will align your spine properly. 

To get out of bed, keep your knees together and at a 90-degree angle. Roll onto your side. Then, push yourself up with your arms, pivoting your legs until they’re over the bed and you’re in a seated position. 

3. Manage Your Diet

Eating the right foods will help your body recover from surgery faster.

Be sure to get enough protein every day. Lean protein helps your body build strength. 

It’s also important to get a lot of fiber.

You’ll be taking pain medication which is bad for digestion. Eating foods with roughage will keep things moving. Similarly, you should avoid foods that will hinder digestion like cheese and rice.  

Staying hydrated will also help this problem. Plus, getting enough water will help you heal faster.

4. Take it Easy 

You live a busy life balancing work, errands, and relationships. After spinal surgery, that go-go-go lifestyle comes to a screeching halt.

It’s normal to feel antsy while you’re held up in bed watching TV all day. There are things that need to get done!

Though that may be true, resist the urge to do too much too fast. Taking it slow will keep you from injuring yourself. 

Until your fusion is fully healed, you shouldn’t be lifting things over your head. It’s also good to avoid any kind of twisting or pulling movements.  

If you wake up one day feeling like you’ve turned a big corner, that’s great. But, don’t celebrate this with a victory lap around the block.  

Exercising or lifting heavy objects too soon, even if you’re feeling fine, can put you back in pain.  

5. Keep Your Pain in Check 

Managing your pain will make your recovery time more bearable. Staying comfortable and in good spirits will help you heal faster. 

If you’re in pain, you won’t be as likely to stick with physical therapy or get up for a short walk.  

Take your pain medication as your doctor has prescribed it. Other ways to keep yourself comfortable is by frequently repositioning your body. Getting up periodically will also help.  

6. Build Your Strength

Although you should take it easy, that doesn’t mean you should just lay in bed for the next month. Just as important as being gentle with your spine is building up its strength. 

One way to do that is by getting up and moving around. Every day you should be going on a walk. 

You’ll have to start slow. The first few days after surgery the best you can do might be a walk to the kitchen and back. But, each day the distance should increase a little. 

Another way to build strength is by going to a physical therapist. They will work with you during your appointments to build strength. Your therapist will send you home with daily exercises to do.  

It’s important to keep up with the homework they give you. Follow their instructions to the letter and you’ll be healed in no time.

7. Listen to Your Doctor

You also need to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.  

There may be times when you think it’s fine to do the opposite of what they’ve told you. Maybe you think you’re fine to go back to work or take a shower before you’re supposed to. But, everything they are telling you to do has a reason behind it.

By following their directions, you will have the best chance of recovering quickly.  

Follow These Spinal Fusion Recovery Tips

Healing from surgery is never easy. But, these spinal fusion recovery tips will help you get well soon.   

If you’re getting surgery to correct chronic back pain, it should be minimally invasive. To learn more about your options for treatment, book an appointment at our Hackettstown or Newton, New Jersey office locations.  

stenosis surgery

How to Quickly Recover From Stenosis Surgery

Stenosis surgery is one of those “both a blessing and a curse” situations. For the estimated 35 million Americans with spinal stenosis, the surgery can be a way to conquer chronic pain. At the same time, you have to go through the surgical recovery before you can enjoy those results.

As important as the surgery itself is, few patients realize how much of an impact their recovery period has. It’s also something you have more control over than you recognize.

To make your stenosis surgery recovery as smooth and efficient as possible, try these tips.

Tips for Recovering from Stenosis Recovery

Every surgery patient wants to heal as soon as possible so they can get back to enjoying their daily life. For spinal stenosis surgery patients, these tips can help.

1. Follow Instructions to a T

We list this first because it’s the absolute most important thing you can do. Before surgery, your doctor will give you detailed instructions for pre-surgical and post-surgical care.

This will include what medications to stop or start taking and when. It will also explain how and when to care for your incision, how much you need to limit your activity, and much more.

Every surgery and every patient is unique, and your surgeon’s instructions are based on your specific needs. It’s vital that you follow them to the letter. That includes attending any and all recommended physical therapy sessions.

If you have questions about your spine surgery or your post-surgical instructions, always call your surgeon to ask. Your health isn’t worth the risk of making incorrect assumptions.

 

2. Prepare Your Home in Advance

The road to a fast and smooth recovery starts before your procedure. While you may spend a few days in the hospital after surgery, you’ll spend most of your recovery at home.

One important step is to get rid of anything that you need to avoid during your recovery. For instance, give away your NSAID pain relievers or lock them away somewhere inconvenient. You won’t be able to take them after surgery because they can interfere with your healing process.

On top of these pain relievers, get rid of any tobacco or vaping products you may have in the house. The nicotine has a serious impact on your body’s healing ability. Getting the nicotine out of the house will help you avoid the temptation.

Another great way to prepare your house is to think about the items you’ll need in your first weeks of recovery. Move these items so that they are all easy to reach around your waist or chest level. You can injure yourself if you try to bend down or reach up too high to get something.

3. Have a Helper

A great support system is a vital part of a healthy surgery recovery. You need people around you who can give you emotional support while also helping you with your day-to-day tasks.

If you live alone, it’s best to have a friend or family member stay with you for the first several days. You may need their help in the middle of the night with medications or trips to the bathroom.

It’s a good idea to have several people who are able to help. This lets them divide the responsibilities so one caregiver doesn’t get overwhelmed. After all, you don’t want to damage your relationship with your caregiver in the post-surgical process.

4. Walk It Off

One of the most important things you can do for your recovery is to stay active after surgery. You want to get up and move around at least every few hours.

This is most important because it lowers your risk of post-surgical blood clots, which can be life-threatening. It also helps your body maintain a healthy blood flow, which helps the healing process. 

Of course, it’s important that you don’t overdo it. Start small by strolling between rooms in your house. Ask you get stronger, you can progress to walks down the block or down the street.

5. Listen to Your Body

Speaking of trying not to overdo your activity, remember that pain is there for a reason. It’s your body telling you that it’s time to stop.

Recovering from surgery isn’t like exercising. You won’t heal faster or get better results if you “work through the pain.” Instead, you risk a serious injury and the added stress can actually slow down your healing rate.

This applies to any action you’re doing after surgery. If you’re trying to reach for something and you start to feel pain, ask someone for help instead.

6. Get Some Zzzs

Plenty of patients underestimate the role that sleep plays in the body’s recovery process. They think, “I spend most of the day resting, so why does my body need more rest through sleep?”

In reality, there are a variety of tasks your body performs while you sleep, and that includes healing. Getting plenty of sleep will give your body the time it needs to heal.

It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions about sleep as well. You may need to sleep at specific angles or avoid certain positions. While it might be hard to sleep in a non-routine way at first, stick with it and your body will adjust.

7. Don’t Be a Hero

Another common problem for stenosis surgery patients is that they think that the less they take their pain medication, the better.

Forgoing your pain medication won’t make you heal any faster. In fact, it can slow down the process because it puts you under more stress.

Instead of trying to “fight through it,” take your pain medications as prescribed or when you need them. While we recognize that patients are worried about opioid addiction, this is very rare for people who use their medication as prescribed for a short-term need like surgery.

It’s also important that you don’t try to “find a middle ground” by taking over-the-counter pain relievers instead of your prescribed medication. Most of those pain relievers have a risk of bleeding after surgery, making them dangerous for post-surgical patients.

Creating a Smooth Stenosis Surgery Recovery

Spinal stenosis surgery is an effective treatment that can open the door to a less painful life for stenosis patients. How you heal makes all the difference, though. To help your body in its journey toward a healthier life, follow the tips above.

If you’re still in the planning stages and you want to find out if stenosis surgery can help you, schedule an appointment at our spine center.