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.

 

spine exercises

Spine Exercises You Can Do at Home to Strengthen Your Back

Do you have chronic back pain that’s causing you to miss work? Are you looking for spine exercises that you can do from the comfort of your own home? 

If you have back pain that’s lasted for more than three months, you have a chronic condition. Surprisingly, more than 75% of all adults report that they’ve experienced pain in their back. 

Back pain is one of the primary reasons that people call off of work. Doing regular spine strengthening exercises, however, can help manage pain levels. 

If you deal with back pain every day, this article’s for you. We’ll describe some effective spine exercises and help you figure out if you’re a good candidate for spinal surgery. 

The Tree Position

One of the easiest spine alignment exercises to try is the tree position. Stand up and reach your hands as far as you can toward the ceiling. If you can’t move your arms very far, just stand as tall as you can with your hands by your sides.

If you can put your hands over your head, try to hold them there for a count of five. The next time you do the exercise, try for a count of six and increase from there. 

Just keep practicing the tree position every day, preferably in the morning before you go to work. You might be surprised to find that your back and neck pain levels are much lower. 

If you feel any pain during these exercises, it’s okay to stop. You can try to breathe through the pain, but pain is your body’s way of telling you it’s had enough.

The Rock Pose

The rock pose is one of the most simple spine alignment exercises out there. It’s actually an ancient yoga pose called Vajrasana, and it’s been done by people around the world for thousands of years. 

What you do is kneel on a soft surface and sit back onto your heels. Try to relax and breathe for about 30 seconds at a time. If your back is sore, you won’t want to do it for much longer. 

The great thing about these spine stretching exercises is that they’re effective in very small doses. If you can do them for longer than a minute, that’s great, but don’t push yourself at first. 

If you can, try to do the rock pose on a full stomach, before you go to bed. If you have a yoga mat, you can use it, but you can also do this exercise by kneeling on your mattress.

The Plank Stretch

People who hate working out are going to love this exercise. The plank stretch only requires that you lay face-down and try to support your weight on your arms. If you can’t support your weight, it’s okay to lay on your stomach for a few minutes. 

Plank stretches are great for improving your core strength, which in turn improves your spine strength. You’re not trying to do a push-up, but you’re putting your arm down from your elbow to your hand. 

Again, take your time and see how this exercise feels. You can do it standing up against a wall if that works better for you. Put your forearms against the wall and lean in just a little bit. 

Spinal alignment takes some time, and if your back has been “out of whack” for a while you’ll need to start slowly.

The Stand-and-Sit

Standing and sitting may seem like a really easy workout, but if you have back pain it could be a challenge. Take a minute or two each day to sit down and then stand up slowly. 

The reason that the stand-and-sit is one of the most difficult spine straightening exercises is that it forces you to focus on your alignment. If you need help standing up, you can use the wall or a cane. 

You don’t have to do the stand-and-sit every day, but try to do it at least once per week. If you spend a lot of time sitting at work, you might find that a standing desk is a big help for your back pain.

Keep an eye on your pain levels, though. If you have chronic lower back pain, you could have a problem with torn discs. Degenerative disc disease can come as a result of a car accident, or simply from growing older. 

Spine Exercises with Weights

If these exercises are making you feel better, try to extend your workout by a few minutes at a time. You can use light weights if you want to go for a deeper workout. 

If you don’t have weights, you can actually use something everyone has at home. Go to the pantry and take out two cans of vegetables or soup.

Hold them in your hands while you stretch, and they’ll give you the same benefit as regular weights. 

Another option for bumping up your home workouts is to get a resistance band. It’s a loop made out of rubber and it makes your muscles work a bit harder. Start with the lightest resistance band and work your way up from there. 

Is It Time for Spinal Surgery?

Unfortunately, your pain may not go away, even with regular exercise or physical therapy. You may have tried getting a massage, going to the chiropractor, and taking time off from work.

If you have problems sleeping and standing, you could be a good candidate for spinal surgery. There are options that aren’t invasive, and that are done on an outpatient basis.

You could be up and around within a few days instead of a few weeks. We offer a free assessment of your MRIs and can help you determine if spinal surgery is right for you. 

Spine exercises are a good place to start, but if your pain keeps getting worse, come in and see us. We’ll get your medical history and spinal images in order and see if you’re a good fit for decompression or stabilization surgery.

You can book your appointment online or give us a call. We’re looking forward to working with you! 

 

annular tear

How to Tell if Your Pain is Caused by an Annular Tear

Unfortunately for us, most people suffer from some type of back pain at some point in their lives. In fact, 80% of people will have back pain at some point, and it’s the leading cause of disability worldwide.

But there’s a difference between a sore back after hunching over your computer all day and a serious back injury. An annular tear is one type of back injury that you shouldn’t ignore.

But how can you tell whether your back pain is the result of an annular tear or if it’s just sore because you slept funny on your mother-in-law’s guest bed?

We’re going to go over exactly what an annular tear is, how you can tell if that’s what you have, and what you can do to treat your symptoms.

What Is an Annular Tear?

Our spines are made up of bones called vertebrae. In between the vertebrae are discs that help to protect and cushion the bones. This cushioning helps them to absorb any large shocks or pressure applied to the spine as well as distribute the pressure/weight on our back evenly to avoid one part of the back taking too much weight.

These discs are made of two distinct materials. One part is a soft, gel-like fluid that serves as the cushion.

The other part of the disc is made of something called annulus fibrosus. These are strong fibers that hold the disc together and keep them in place.

An annular tear is when these fibers, well, tear. These tears can be minor and small at the beginning with little to no symptoms. However, they get progressively worse, which can lead to the inner “gel” of the disc to leak out.

When this happens, the nerves in the spine can be impacts, which leads to a great deal of pain.

What Causes Annular Tears?

Most annular tears occur in the lumbar spine, which is a fancy way of saying the lower back. While it’s not impossible for them to happen in other parts of the spine, they’re most common in the lower back.

But what causes this to happen? One of the main causes is something we can’t do much about aging.

As we get older, normal wear and tear lead to parts of our body to weaken. This includes the parts of our back like the vertebrae and the discs. When these parts get weaker, it’s easier for injuries like tears to occur.

There are other factors that can lead to annular tears. If you’re overweight or obese, you’re at a higher risk of an annular tear. The extra weight puts excess pressure and weight on the spine, which leads to tears.

Annular tears can also be the result of accidents, especially ones with sudden or jarring movement of your weight. This could be a car accident, a sports injury, or even just lifting a heavy box incorrectly. When you combine these physical activities with age or obesity, you’re at a much higher risk.

Symptoms of an Annular Tear

Minor or small annular tears usually have no symptoms. However, as the tear gets bigger, symptoms will begin to appear.

The main symptom of annular tears is pain. You’ll have pain in your back that could radiate from the point of the tear to other parts of your back. You may also experience pain in your legs as well.

Difficulty Sitting And/Or Standing

We use our back for almost every movement or activity, even if you don’t realize it. Because of this, you may have trouble getting any relief at all when you have an annular tear.

Even sitting or standing can be very painful.

Consistent Symptoms

As we said before, we use our back all the time. This means that pretty much no matter what you’re doing, you’re going to still have pain if you have an annular tear.

Doesn’t matter if you’re on a hike, sitting in your car, or laying down on a fluffy soft bed. You’ll still be feeling pain.

Worsening Symptoms

If your tear isn’t treated, the condition will get progressively worse. You’ll experience:

  • Worsening pain
  • Tingling
  • Numbness in the limbs/affected area
  • General discomfort
  • Bulging Disc

If you notice symptoms worsening, you should definitely see a doctor that can diagnose an annular tear.

Diagnosis

On that topic, let’s look at how you can diagnose an annular tear. If you have any or all of the above symptoms, there’s a chance that it’s an annular tear. The likelihood that your pain is an annular tear increases if it’s lower back pain, if you’re older, if you’re overweight, and if you have all of the symptoms listed.

However, to get an official diagnosis you’ll need to see a doctor. They’ll do a full work-up and will probably order an MRI. An MRI will be able to definitively show an annular tear (if that’s what you have).

The doctor can also use a CT scan or a discogram to determine the exact location of the tear.

Treatment Options

If you do have an annular tear, there are several treatment methods. You’ll probably start conservatively in order to avoid surgery: pain medication, anti-inflammatories, weight loss regimens, physical therapy, etc. Annular tears can take up to 2 years to fully heal.

Only when these treatment methods fail, or if your condition is worsening, will a doctor recommend surgery. There are traditional surgery options, endoscopic surgical techniques, and even some experimental stem cell treatments you can try.

Contact Us for More Information

If you have an annular tear, it can progress into a serious and painful condition. Any sort of consistent or recurring back pain should be discussed with a doctor as soon as possible to rule out any serious condition and to get you started on a treatment plan as soon as possible.

Contact us to set up an appointment or to ask any other questions you have.

si joint pain symptoms

5 SI Joint Pain Symptoms and Potential Causes

Do you regularly experience pain in your hips and lower back?

If so, you could very well be suffering from sacroiliac joint pain. After all, such joint pain affects 15 to 20% of the world’s population.

The question is: how do you know if your SI joints are the cause of your pain? The answer is: by looking out for relevant symptoms. Here are 5 SI joint pain symptoms and some of their potential causes.

Understanding Sacroiliac Dysfunction

The sacroiliac joints are located at the bottom of the spine in close proximity to the hips, connecting the ilium and the sacrum bones. These joints are vitally important in regulating body weight throughout the pelvis, reducing the stress of this weight so that it doesn’t cause any undue pain.

The problems start when the sacrum and ilium bones lose alignment within the SI joints. As this happens, the weight of the body applies pressure to the nerve endings in the joints. This results in a shooting pain that is, at best, extremely uncomfortable, and, at worst, physically debilitating.

SI Joint Pain Symptoms

There are quite a few sacroiliac joint pain symptoms, some of which involve pain, some of which involve posture, and some of which involve coordination. While all of these symptoms alone can be indicative of other ailments, all of these symptoms together are typically indicative of sacroiliac joint issues.

They are as follows:

1. Pain in the Lower Back

One of the most obvious symptoms that your SI joints are impaired is if your lower back is in pain. Though lower back pain can be indicative of other physical ailments, it’s very often indicative of misaligned SI joints.

Typically, this pain will exist in one side of the lower back. However, if both SI joints have been impaired, you’ll be able to feel it on both sides of your body.

2. Rigidity

Another common sign of sacroiliac joint issues is rigidity. If you’re feeling stiffness in your pelvic area, your SI joints could very well be the cause.

Generally, this rigidity will prevent you from moving in the way that you would normally move. You might have to exert an unusual amount of energy in order to maneuver your body.

3. Lack of Balance

One of the fairly common sacroiliac joint pain symptoms is a lack of balance. If you have trouble walking in a straight line, your SI joints could be to blame.

This lack of balance typically occurs because the affected individual feels as if his or her lower back is going to give out. This can cause said individual to favor one side of the body over the other.

4. Weakness in the Legs

Do you feel as if your legs are going to give out every time you stand up? This is another common symptom of sacroiliac joint dysfunction.

5. Pelvic Pain

Pelvic pain can come from a variety of different ailments. However, SI joint misalignment is one of the most common.

Impaired SI joints can cause a shooting and stinging pain to travel through your groin area. This is especially true when you stand up or walk.

SI Joint Pain Causes

There is no shortage of causes of SI joint pain. Everything from diseases to injuries and improper movement can cause severe SI joint pain. Some of the more common causes are listed below.

Abnormal Walking Style

Did you know that the way you walk can actually lead to pain and discomfort in your back? Often times, an abnormal walking style will lead to SI joint misalignment.

Abnormal walking styles come about for a number of different reasons. In some cases, they arise simply because one leg is longer than the other. In other cases, they arise due to bad habits.

Often times, due to the seismic changes in their bodies, pregnant women will develop abnormal walking styles. Fortunately, in most cases, after they have delivered their babies, their walking styles go back to normal.

Gout

Gout is a form of arthritis which arises when an excess of uric acid develops in the body. Unfortunately, this acid travels to the joints, where it solidifies and causes severe pain.

While the joints in the feet are the ones which are most commonly affected by gout, the SI joints can be affected by gout as well. Gout is not a condition which presents itself at all times. Typically, it presents itself in short bursts, attacking quickly, and then retreating.

Arthritis

Apart from gout, there are two types of arthritis which can cause SI joint pain. These are osteoarthritis and AS, or Ankylosing spondylitis.

Osteoarthritis worsens with age, and involves the slow deterioration of cartilage in the body. It’s often accompanied by back pain, affecting the vertebrae and SI joints, particularly.

AS is a form of inflammatory arthritis which causes rigidity in the spine. Those who suffer from this disease typically also suffer from SI joint pain.

Pregnancy

As was discussed above, pregnant women often encounter SI joint pain due to changes in their walking styles. However, a change in walking style isn’t the only way that SI joint pain can present itself in pregnant women.

As hormones are released in the pregnant body, the body’s joints become more “stretchy”. This is done to allow for a more seamless delivery of the baby.

Unfortunately, stretchy joints are also vulnerable joints. Therefore, pregnant women stand a good chance of experiencing pain in their sacroiliac joints.

Direct Injury

In some cases, SI joints will become impaired through simple injury. Losing your balance and falling, getting in an accident, or hurting yourself while playing basketball are all ways that your SI joints could become misaligned.

Experiencing Sacroiliac Joint Pain Symptoms?

Are you experiencing SI joint pain symptoms? Looking for treatment for these symptoms in the Hackettstown, New Jersey area? If so, the doctors at Executive Spine Surgery are the people to see.

Using minimally invasive procedures, we have relieved sacroiliac joint pain in a variety of different patients. We would love to do the same for you.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

endoscopic discectomy

Is Endoscopic Discectomy Right for You? 5 Things You Need to Know

Do you suffer from chronic back pain?

If so, you’re not alone. The American Chiropractic Association reveals that back pain plagues approximately 31 million Americans. Back pain ruins the quality of life, as many sufferers miss work, stop engaging in physical activities, and turn to pain medications that can make them sleepy.

Back pain can be caused by a number of ailments, which all require different routes of treatment. If you suffer from chronic back pain caused by a herniated disc, then you may want to consider undergoing an endoscopic discectomy.

What Is an Endoscopic Discectomy?

This procedure removes herniated disc material through a minimally invasive surgical procedure. The surgeon makes a small incision to insert a camera and microsurgical tools. This avoids the need to make large, damaging incisions.

Why Choose this Procedure?

Herniated discs cause extreme pain. When an injury ruptures them, a jelly-like inside spills out and press on nerves. This results in serious pain that this surgery eliminates. Also, this surgery offers a much quicker recovery time than the traditional herniated disc surgery. It does not damage the neck muscles as the alternative does.

5 Things You Should Know

Before choosing any treatments, you should know exactly what you are signing on for. Read on for 5 facts you should know about an endoscopic discectomy.

1. You Reap Recovery Perks

Typically, the surgery ends in about a half hour, as opposed to hours on the operating table. The patient can go recover at home after a couple of hours and expect to resume normal activities within a couple of weeks.

This sounds especially amazing when you compare it to traditional herniated disc surgery. In comparison with an artificial disk replacement or spinal fusion, patients face up to a three month recovery time.

Furthermore, you will not need the cervical immobilization collar, if your herniated disc is in the cervical region. Patients who receive the spinal fusion require this uncomfortable device for anywhere from 4-6 weeks, to support their neck and allow for proper healing.

2. You Can Stay Conscious

Some people simply do not like the thought of going under anesthesia and therefore avoid surgery. Other people simply cannot go under due to life-threatening allergies or underlying conditions. If you’re one of those people, then you may want to think about choosing this procedure.

Though some surgeons do use anesthesia for this surgery, they often give the option to perform it under a local anesthesia. This means that they blocking nerve signals from reaching the pain, so the patient does not feel anything in that area.

This eliminates the groggy feeling along with the risks involved with going under. Patients may find this a better option since the surgery only lasts about 30 minutes.

3. You Can Choose Alternatives to Pain Medicine for Recovery

Following herniated disc surgery, many people take opiate-based pain pills and strong noninflammatory medications. This can lead to a serious addiction. You should know that after your surgery, you can choose from other options.

Acupuncture

Nearly every culture has used acupuncture for medicinal purposes throughout history. The acupuncturist strategically places thin needles into the skin in order to stimulate natural healing properties and block pain signals.

Because of our learned dependency on pharmaceuticals, some people view this as a type of pseudoscience, however, research says otherwise. An extensive study reveals that acupuncture worked just as well as traditional pain medications for the first few weeks of treatment, but proved superior for pain management in the long term.

Like the minimally invasive microdiscectomy, acupuncture comes with far fewer risks than the traditional alternative. Moreover, the treatment often involves a whole body healing in addition to minimizing the pain.

Therapy

Though you will feel real pain following surgery, underlying stressors and/or mental conditions can exacerbate your perception of it. Even if you typically do not suffer from anxiety or depression, surgery can sometimes trigger these conditions in some people, especially if they enjoy being on the go.

Consider seeing a therapist before and following your arthroscopic back surgery to help you cope with your emotional pain. This will help keep your physical pain under control.

Celery Seed Extract

This natural supplement continues to gain popularity, as the Arthritis Foundation reveres celery seed extract for its ability to reduce pain and inflammation. Its volatile components contain a number of healing properties that can help you eliminate the need for pain medications and NSAID’s following your surgery.

Though anything medicinal comes with some side effects, the mild side effects of celery seed do not compare those of prescription medications. Ask your surgeon if taking this supplement after your procedure can replace the medications.

4. You Need Physical Therapy Afterwards

Unfortunately, this surgery is not magic. You do not undergo it and effortlessly feel healed.

Though this procedure minimizes your risks of muscle damage your muscles do atrophy as you rest them for recovery. Weakened neck and back muscles leave your spine unsupported and can lead to pain and risk of further injury.

Seeing a physical therapist decreases your time to complete recovery. Strategically and safely working your muscles in a controlled setting will improve your overall quality of life following surgery. Your efforts will optimize your strength, flexibility, and mobility for the long run.

5. This Surgery Fixes Other Back Problems Too

Though surgeons often use this procedure to repair herniated discs, cervical, mid, and/or lumbar discectomy may also be used to fix:

  • brachial neuritis
  • disc bulges
  • disc tears
  • radiculitis
  • radiculopathy

If you suffer from chronic pain, ask your doctor if this minimally invasive surgery can help you. Regardless of what you need repaired, this procedure offers similar benefits to the ones discussed above.

Talk To Your Doctor Today!

Pain reduces the quality of life. If you do not want to suffer from chronic neck or back pain any longer, and open spinal surgery always sounded too risky, talk with your doctor about undergoing an endoscopic discectomy.

This minimally invasive procedure offers a faster and more complete recovery and safer surgery. You deserve your life back! Visit our website to learn the advantages of choosing us for your spinal surgery.