Spinal Surgery: Where Should You Start?

If you’re here, chances are you’ve been told you need back surgery. Your back pain is unrelenting. Physical therapy, lots of different pain medications, epidural pain injections (EPI), massage therapy, acupuncture, hot and cold compresses — you’ve tried it all, and nothing seems to work anymore. Maybe back surgery wouldn’t be so bad, you think.

Regardless of why you’re here, welcome! We’re glad you stopped by. The goal of this blog is to provide credible, timely information on various surgery options to treat your ailing back. We’ll share some of the latest news and research on spine surgery, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of various procedures, and listen to what you have to say.

Surgery: Yes or no?

Before recent medical advancements, it was common for specialists to cut muscle and bone to reach the region of the spinal canal that needed to be treated. This was traditional open-back spine surgery, and patients who underwent this surgery often had eye-opening stories to tell. Some patients spent months in pain, recovering from the damage done during the open back procedure. Is it any wonder that prospective open-back surgery patients might be reluctant to sign up for surgery, in spite of their pain?

It’s not unusual to hear neck and back pain sufferers repeating their primary care physicians’ warning: “Delay spine surgery for as long as you can — until you can’t handle the pain.” However, this view of spine surgery is outdated, thanks to minimally invasive techniques that have been improved over the last 30 years. Of course, anyone who has neck or back pain should make the best attempt to treat their pain through non-surgical means.

Minimally-invasive spine surgery vs. minimally-invasive spine surgery

When physical therapy, EPI and other treatments no longer work, minimally-invasive spine surgery (MISS) could be the answer — but first, let’s define the terms here.

Generally speaking, the phrase “minimally invasive spine surgery” refers to procedures that require only a stitch or Band-Aid when surgery is completed. This makes MISS very different than open-back spine surgery, and frankly, very attractive. A reasonable option. Yet not all “minimally invasive” spine procedures are truly minimally invasive.

For instance, many MISS procedures use a dilator to insert a hard catheter to hold multiple tools, and diagnostic testing to accurately pinpoint the causes of pain (an MRI, for example) is completed prior to the procedure. One side of the spine is treated at a time, and traditional surgical instruments are used, tearing muscle and drilling bone. Patients who have initially undergone “successful” minimally invasive procedures such as this may learn later they need multiple procedures to fully treat their debilitating pain.

On the other hand, North American Spine’s AccuraScope® procedure uses a very small, flexible catheter — the size of a coffee straw, and in some cases only a needle — to enter the spinal canal. Real-time diagnostic testing to evaluate pain is part of the procedure. Pain mapping, a high-definition camera view of multiple spine levels and nerve monitoring are used to more accurately pinpoint the causes of pain. The tiny catheter maneuvers up and down the lumbar spine to treat multiple pain causes in one procedure, and a targeted laser is typically used to repair damaged discs, minimizing scar tissue. All this is accomplished without tearing muscle or drilling bone.


Hope for Failed Back Surgery Syndrome patients

Even patients who unsuccessfully tried back surgery before, and now suffer from Failed

Back Surgery Syndrome, can be hopeful today. In a recent survey of 83 AccuraScope patients,

NAS found that pain relief and quality of life improvement for people with previous back surgeries was similar to those who had never had a back surgery before their AccuraScope procedure.

The AccuraScope procedure: what patients say

Although many patients feel immediate pain relief and return to light activities the day following their AccuraScope procedure, every patient’s condition is different, and results can vary. At North American Spine, AccuraScope procedure patients are sharing their own personal experiences, concerns and complaints about various spinal surgery procedures.

How Swimming Can Help You Manage Spine Pain

Every year, millions of people across the United States injure their backs. Back pain can make it difficult to manage many aspects of a normal life. For those with active jobs, severe back pain may require time off from work. While it’s important to visit a physician for extremely severe pain, there are several effective ways that an individual can manage spinal inflammation and pain.

Spinal pain can be caused by a variety of different health issues. If an individual lifts a very heavy object in an unsafe way, the discs between the vertebrae of the spine can slip out of position. Under normal conditions, these discs act as lubricated sponges that allow for spinal flexibility. If a disc slips out of normal alignment, the area surrounding it may become very inflamed. If the disc slips back into its normal location, the inflammation may not always go away.

One of the best ways to minimize spinal inflammation is through low-impact exercises. However, standing or bending over can put excessive amounts of strain on the vertebrae of the back.

Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for those suffering from severe back injuries. While swimming can exercise many different muscle groups that surround the spine, the spine itself isn’t subject to the normal compressive force caused by gravity.

There are several swimming exercises that are recommended for those with spinal injuries. Repeated back arches and forward crunches can be an effective way to make sure the spine retains its full range of movement.

Treading water is also very good for the back. When an individual treads water, movement of the arms and legs creates a series of non-repeated movements in the spine. These movements can help reduce inflammation and improve range of movement.

Most important of all, a cool swimming pool can help eliminate painful inflammation. After a severe back injury, soaking in a swimming pool for 30 minutes can often reduce pain by 40 percent or more.

That said, there are some injuries that could be exacerbated by swimming. If you’re suffering from spinal stenosis, it’s important to work with a physical therapist to find the best exercises for you.

For some severe spinal health issues, a spinal surgery may be necessary. Contact a local healthcare provider to learn more about the benefits and disadvantages of spinal surgery.

Effective and Natural Relief for Chronic Back Pain

Nearly 80 percent of all adults are going to experience back discomfort at some point in their life, and this can range from a simple inconvenience to debilitating pain. While the cause of back pain may be obvious in some situations, many are at a loss of where it is stemming from and what can be done to remedy it. For those that are ready to move past this discomfort naturally, here is a closer look at the most effective back treatment options as well as an overview of back health in general.

Understanding the Causes

The back not only surrounds and supports the spine, it is also comprised of a wide variety of nerve bundles, tendons, bones, cartilage, muscles, and other soft tissue. This means that pain can stem from a wide variety of causes, but the two most common are degenerative issues and mechanical issues. Degenerative conditions, such as osteoporosis, will require a lifestyle change and patients should immediately seek out the assistance of a specialist to discuss their options for long-term treatments. Mechanical damage can stem from a wide variety of catalysts, but it typically means that some form of trauma happened to the area including auto accidents, falling over, lifting heavy items, or even long-term problems with posture and support.

Immediate Changes to Make

As with almost all medical conditions, the first step is to immediately rethink one’s overall health. Whether it is maintaining a healthy weight or mild exercising and stretching at least 5 days a week, this will prepare the body for any long-term remedies that will be used. Good posture is also going to be key during this process and individuals should reevaluate their mattress, the support in their shoes, office chairs, and anywhere else that they spend a large period of time and do not have excellent back support.

Long-Term Changes

If a specialist has been seen, the diet has been changed, and there is no immediate trauma to the back, it is time to begin thinking about long-term health. The easiest way to protect the back is with preventative care to improve overall back health. This means slowly strengthening the supporting muscles in the back as well as promoting flexibility. These two steps can be carried out in a wide variety of ways, but those with back pain should be sure to take this process slowly and pay attention to any signals that their body gives them.  If all of these options haven’t resolved the symptoms, spine surgery may be next consideration.  Specialists like North American Spine offer minimally invasive procedures to address chronic back pain symptoms, and may be a good place to start if you’ve had an MRI.