Spine Surgery News

The Ins and Outs of Spinal Fusion Surgery

Have you been told by your spine expert that spinal fusion surgery is right for you? If you have been living with spine pain, spinal fusion surgery may be a great option for eliminating your spine pain once and for all. In fact, it can be performed on its own or in combination with other spine surgeries. However, before you make the decision to undergo spinal fusion surgery, it is important to know exactly what the procedure entails.

What is Spinal Fusion Surgery?

Spinal fusion surgery is a procedure used to join two or more vertebrae together. In many cases, it is used as a method to correct the movement between two vertebrae that are rubbing against each other and resulting in pain. During spinal fusion surgery, the two trouble vertebrae are fused together, eliminating any movement between them. In many cases, spinal fusion surgery can lead to a long-term pain resolution for the right candidate.

What Conditions Does Spinal Fusion Surgery Treat?

A spinal fusion can be used to treat a number of spine conditions, such as the conditions below. If you are suffering from one of these conditions and believe a spinal fusion may be right for you, speak with a spine expert today.

  • Unstable or weak spine
  • Spinal fractures
  • Deformities
  • Lumbar Spondylolisthesis
  • Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Scoliosis

What Does a Spinal Fusion Involve?

When it comes to a spinal fusion, there are several approaches your spine surgeon may take to provide relief. However, most spinal fusion procedures involve a bone graft being applied to the affected area of the spine to form a bridge between the vertebrae and encourage new bone grow. Metal implants may be used to hold the vertebrae together until the new bones have formed. The procedure usually lasts several hours and when performed correctly, should eliminate pain immediately.

What are the Risks involved with Spinal Fusion Surgery?

As with any surgery, there are always risks involved. Before undergoing surgery, it is always important to understand the risks. The risks for spinal fusion surgery include:

  • Damage to the spinal nerve resulting in weakness, loss of sensation, pain, or problem with the bowels and bladder
  • Infection of the vertebral bones or wound
  • Increased wear and tear on nearby vertebra

Learn More

If you would like to learn more about Spinal Fusion Surgery, we invite you to explore Pacific Spine Specialists. Dr. Timothy Keenen specializes in minimally invasive procedures, such as spinal fusions, and would welcome the opportunity to learn more about your condition. Take advantage of our free MRI review and contact us today to schedule your appointment with us.

5 Tips on How to Find a Great Spine Surgeon

Finding a great spine surgeon can make a significant difference in the outcome of your spinal surgery. Therefore, you should evaluate a variety of spine surgeons in your area rather than choosing the one that is closest to your home or is available to perform a surgery on a day that’s convenient for you. These tips on how to find a great spine surgeon will help you ensure you’ve chosen the right individual to treat your spine related condition.

How to Find a Great Spine Surgeon:

1. Read Reviews

Thanks to the internet, you can easily read patient reviews on different spine surgeons from the comfort of your own home. Keep in mind that the reviews a spine surgeon places on their website are likely to be all positive as their website is designed for marketing purposes. If you’d like to read honest reviews from real patients, check out third party review sites such as Healthgrades, Vitals, or RateMDs.

2. Ask Your Social Network

It’s a good idea to reach out to your friends and family to find out whether they have any recommendations for a great spine surgeon. Keep in mind that you should look for overall trends when evaluating a spine surgeon so one bad review from a friend or family member shouldn’t convince you to completely dismiss a certain surgeon. Multiple bad reviews, however, should encourage you to look for someone else.

3. Check Certifications

Be sure to choose a spine surgeon who is board-certified and fellowship-trained in spinal surgery. You should also make sure that they devote the majority of their time to spinal conditions and are up-to-date with the latest developments in the field.

4. Search for a Surgeon Who Specializes in Minimally Invasive Surgeries

Many spine surgeons specialize in minimally invasive surgeries. These surgeries are highly effective and typically safer than traditional, open spine surgeries. In addition, they offer a shorter recovery period. If possible, choose a spine surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive treatments.  

5. Meet with Several Surgeons

You should schedule appointments with several surgeons so that you can determine which one you believe is most qualified to perform your surgery. You will likely have a gut feeling about whether or not a surgeon is a good fit so trust your intuition.

Contact Pacific Spine Specialists Today

Dr. Timothy Keenen of Pacific Spine Specialists is a board certified and fellowship-trained spine surgeon who is highly experienced with minimally invasive spine surgeries as well as motion preservation surgeries, cervical fusion, lumbar fusion, and micro-discectomy. Call us today at 503-885-9391 to schedule a consultation for your spinal surgery.

When to Seek Medical Treatment for Whiplash


Whiplash is a neck sprain that occurs when the neck experiences hyperextension and hyperflexion, or for those of us who don’t speak in medical terms, when the head forcefully moves backward and then forward. In most cases, whiplash is caused during car accidents, such as a rear-end collision when force from the accident propels the neck forward. Each year, it is estimated that approximately 3 million people across America are affected by whiplash.  

Causes of Whiplash

Although car accidents are the leading cause of whiplash in most people, whiplash can also be caused by several other situations, such as one of the below:

  • Falling
  • Sports
  • Being shaken
  • A punch or blow to the head

whiplashWhat Happens During Whiplash

As an important part of the spine, the neck, also referred to as the cervical spine, is made up of spinal bones, intervertebral discs, muscles, ligaments and nerves. When whiplash occurs, the sudden impact forces the neck’s lower vertebrae one way and the upper vertebrae another way, creating an S-shaped curve. This unnatural position damages the soft tissues of the neck, such as the ligaments, muscles, and tendons.

Symptoms of Whiplash

For most whiplash sufferers, the number one symptom is neck pain. However, there are other symptoms that may be present, such as the following:

  • Muscle tenderness or stiffness
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion and memory issues
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Ear ringing

When to Contact a Doctor for Whiplash

For most whiplash sufferers, symptoms tend to last for one to two months. In extreme cases, whiplash consequences can last up to two years. Whiplash can even be traced to other injuries, like joint, disc and ligament damage. Therefore, if you have been in an accident or suffered an injury and fear you may have whiplash, it is best to consult a spine expert. Even if your symptoms are mild, it is recommended to seek medical attention as symptoms may develop over time. Additionally, consult a doctor immediately if you experience any numbness, tingling or weakness around your neck or upper back, or if the pain spreads down to your arms or shoulders.


Learn More

If you are experiencing whiplash and are looking for relief from your symptoms, contact Pacific Spine Specialists today. Dr. Timothy Keenen is an expert, board certified spine surgeon who will diagnose and treat your whiplash using conservative, effective measures. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.

Is Spine Surgery Right For Me?

If you are suffering from an aching back, know that you are not alone as chronic back pain is very common in the United States. While spine surgery is an option for some patients with back pain, it is not right for everyone. Keep reading to learn more about spine surgery so that you can get an idea of whether or not it makes sense for your particular situation.

The Majority of Back Pain Does Not Require Surgery

Fortunately, most patients with back pain can find relief from their back pain without surgery. Conservative treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, ice, heat, spinal injections, and physical therapy may all help. Typically, doctors only recommend spine surgery if these conservative treatments have not been effective.

When Spine Surgery is Necessary

In order to determine whether you could benefit from spine surgery, you should schedule an appointment with the spine expert at Pacific Spine Specialists, Dr. Timothy Keenen. Dr. Keenen can diagnose the cause of your pain and provide you with treatment recommendations. If conservative treatments have not been successful in the past, surgery may be a viable option. Spine surgery may become necessary to treat pain that stems from the following sources:

  • A herniated disc
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spinal fracture or instability
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Facet disease
  • Sciatica
  • A tumor or infection

Types of Spine Surgery

There are a variety of different spine surgeries available. Your doctor will suggest the surgery that is ideal for treating your particular pain. Here at Pacific Spine Specialists, Dr. Keenen likes to recommend minimally invasive surgery so that he can use a smaller incision and leave the strong muscle fiber intact with the spine. Although he performs other types of more invasive spine surgeries on the cervical, lumbar, and thoracic spines, he advocates minimally invasive surgery whenever possible.

Benefits of Spine Surgery

The most obvious benefit of spine surgery is relief from chronic pain. However, spine surgery offers a variety of other benefits. It can make it easier for you to move around, improve your mood and physical health, and give you the opportunity to go back to work and live a productive, more fulfilling life.

Schedule an Appointment with Pacific Spine Specialists

If you’re tired of back pain and would like to find out if spine surgery is a good choice for you, we encourage you schedule an appointment at Pacific Spine Specialists. We can be reached at 503-885-9391 and look forward to helping you find relief from your back pain.

Opioid Use After Spine Surgery

Pain after a spine surgery is normal and expected. Often times, spine surgeons suggest the use of opioids to treat post spine surgery pain. If you are afraid to take opioids because you don’t want to become addicted or for other reasons, understand that managing pain is essential for a successful spine surgery recovery as untreated pain can lead to delayed recovery times and chronic pain. Let’s take a closer look at opioid use after spine surgery.

What are Opioids?

Opioids are powerful pain medications that alter the way pain is perceived. They attach onto molecules known as opioid receptors and send messages to the brain that are inaccurate measures of the severity of the pain that the body is actually experiencing. Their purpose is to diminish the perception of pain and help patients experience less pain. Some examples of the most common opioids include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Oxycodone with acetaminophen
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl.

Side Effects of Opioids

The powerful effect of opioids make them a good option for patients who have just undergone spine surgery and need to manage their pain. However, although opioids are effective, they do come with significant side effects. Nausea, drowsiness, constipation, vomiting, urinary retention, and impaired thinking skills are all side effects of opioids.

If your surgeon prescribes opioids and you experience side effects, you should let them know. A different type of pain medication or dose may reduce uncomfortable side effects and make post-surgery life easier for you.

Avoiding Opioid Addiction

Even though opioid use after surgery is a short term method to relieve pain while your body heals, addiction is still a concern. Fortunately, there are many strategies that can help you as well as others avoid opioid addiction if your surgeon decides that opioid use after spine surgery is right for you. Some of these strategies include:

  •         Taking your medication as your surgeon directed
  •         Not taking other drugs that your surgeon told you to stay away from while taking opioids
  •         Refraining from drinking alcohol while taking opioids
  •         Storing opioids safely
  •         Never sharing opioids with others
  •         Disposing of unused opioids

Contact Pacific Spine Specialists Today

If you are considering spine surgery or you have any questions regarding opioid use after spine surgery, do not hesitate to contact Pacific Spine Specialists today at 503-885-9391. In the event that you do need spine surgery, we’ll let you know if opioids are right for you.

4 Important Characteristics of the Best Spine Surgeon

When it comes time to choose a spine surgeon, it is important to be selective as not all spine surgeons are the same. In order to increase your chances of great results and a comfortable surgery, there are certain characteristics you should look for in a surgeon. Below is a brief list of the 4 most important characteristics you’ll find in the best spine surgeon.

  • Spine Specific Knowledge and Training

Rather than opting for a general orthopedic or neurological surgeon, you should find a surgeon who specializes in spine surgery. They should be board certified and fellowship trained to treat neck and low back surgical conditions. Finding a surgeon who is highly experienced with minimally invasive spine procedures is also a good idea as these procedures involve smaller incisions and minimal soft tissue damage.

  1. Experience

It’s crucial to ask a prospective spine surgeon how long they have been performing spine surgeries. You should feel comfortable with the level of experience they have with the specific spine surgery you’re considering. It’s vital that you gain an understanding of how many times the surgeon has conducted the surgery as well as the outcomes of the surgeries they’ve conducted.

  1.  Bedside Manner and Communication

Although you don’t have to feel like your surgeon is your close friend, you should feel comfortable asking them questions. Additionally, you want to make sure you receive the information you need to make informed decisions regarding your spine surgery. Refrain from having your surgery conducted by a doctor who rushes in to meet with you, fails to provide any type of introduction, and talks down to you. Surgeons who are always in a hurry and demonstrate bad manners can be hazardous to your health.

  1. Compassion

While a spine surgeon’s medical knowledge and experience is of utmost importance when you are receiving a spine surgery, compassion is also important. Compassion is defined as the ability of a surgeon to imagine what you are going through, connect with you on an emotional level, and be motivated to address your suffering and improve your situation.

When you are searching for the best spine surgeon for you, go with your gut feeling. If you don’t have a good feeling about a surgeon, meet with others until you find one that you like and trust. You can add unnecessary stress to your spine surgery if you are not confident in your surgeon’s abilities and turned off by their personality.

Contact Dr. Keenen of Pacific Spine Specialists Today

If you are searching for the best spine surgeon in the Portland area, we invite you to visit Pacific Spine Specialists. Dr. Timothy Keenen is a board certified and fellowship trained spine surgeon who has performed thousands of simple to complex spine surgeries.

With Dr. Keenen by your side, you can find the pain relief you’ve been longing for and enjoy the peace of mind of knowing your surgery is in the hands of a compassionate, experienced, and highly trained surgeon. Call Pacific Spine Specialists today at 503-885-9391 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Keenen.

Tips to Bend Properly Post Spine Surgery

Tips to Bend Properly Post Spine Surgery

If you have been suffering from spine pain and have made the decision to undergo spine surgery, you may be left with many questions. One of these questions is likely how to bend properly after spine surgery. Bending the wrong way could result in pain, or worse, further injury, causing a setback in your healing process.

Even if you opted for a minimally invasive procedure, it is still important to take precautionary measures post surgery, such as making sure to bend properly. If you follow the steps below and all goes according to plan, you should be as good as new in no time. However, remember that healing takes time, so follow the instructions of your surgeon and ease back into activities once given the go ahead.

Recovery from Spine Surgery
Recovery from spine surgery may require you to learn to sit, stand, and walk in a new manner. To ensure a proper recovery, prior to spine surgery, get your home ready by installing handrails, removing loose throw rugs, and adding a few mechanical “grabbers” to aid in reaching items from the floor or shelves. Following your spine surgery, a therapist from the hospital will begin physical therapy prior to discharge. Keep in mind that you may continue to experience radiating pain in your hips, knees or shoulders for a short time post surgery while you and your body figure out how to move with a tender spine.

While the goal of spine surgery is help the patient regain flexibility, immediately following surgery it is important not to bend. However, since bending is a large part of our daily activity — to tie shoes, stir a pot, open the car door, even to go up steps — it is important to learn how to bend properly after surgery.

4 Tips to Bend Properly After Surgery


  • Tip 1: Bend with your knees. When the time comes that you must pick something up off the floor, crouch down by bending at your knees. First, make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart for stability, then bend just your knees and slowly lower yourself down while keeping your spine straight and upright.
  • Tip 2: Put on socks in a recline position. If you can’t get away with going sockless after surgery, it is suggested to put on your socks while in the reclining position. Lay back on your bed, draw your knee to your chest, and carefully reach down to slip socks on over your feet.
  • Tip 3: Pivot instead of twist. Twisting your spine may cause pain post surgery. Therefore, try pivoting when you need to turn your upper body. Expert tip, rotate on your foot to turn your whole body to where you need to be. This may take some getting used to, but your spine will thank you.
  • Tip 4: Keep good posture: When standing at your kitchen or bathroom counter, resist the urge to bend or hunch over. One way to avoid hunching is to stand as close to the counter as you can while keeping your back straight. If you tend to lean over the sink while brushing your teeth, open the cabinet under the sink and put your foot on the cabinet ledge, which helps you keep your back straight while you brush.

The tips above are meant to help reduce spine pain through bending properly, however it is always suggested to speak with your spine expert and follow their suggestions for healing.

Learn More

If you are suffering from spine pain, contact Pacific Spine Specialists today. Dr. Keenen is board certified and an expert when it comes to diagnosing and treating spine pain. Learn more!

All About Diagnostic Imaging Tests

All About Diagnostic Imaging Tests

If you are experiencing spine pain, the first step in treatment is determining the source of your pain. Often times, your spine expert will order a diagnostic imaging test to aid in making an accurate diagnosis. Only with the proper diagnosis can a spine expert, such as Dr. Timothy Keenen of Pacific Spine Specialists, prescribe the appropriate treatment. For patients, there are many different types of diagnostic imaging tests available, so it is best to understand what these tests are and the purpose they serve.

Below is a detailed explanation of the 3 most popular diagnostic imaging tests used for spine pain. The type of test ordered by your spine expert depends on a number of factors since each diagnostic test can rel something new. If you are experiencing spine pain, you may receive one or more of the following:

  1. X-ray: In many cases, x-rays are often the first step to a diagnosis and work by taking pictures of your bones through the use of radiation.  X-rays are used to examine a patient’s vertebrae or spinal bones and identify any problems or conditions, such as misalignment or slippage of your bones. X-rays can be used to confirm a slipped disc or bone spur as the source of your pain.

  2. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An MRI is used to exam soft tissue, revealing problems with your vertebral discs, inflamed nerves, or even ligament, tendon and muscle damage. The MRI images can aid your spine expert in determining the cause of your spine pain that may not have appeared on a x-ray, such as nerve damage and inflamed tissue. An MRI is performed through the use of an MRI machine, which resembles a giant tube into which the patient is inserted. The tube initiates a magnetic field and radio waves are sent through the tube at specific locations to capture a cross-sectional image of the body. When an X-ray doesn’t show any abnormalities, an MRI is often the next step in the diagnostic process.

  3. Ultrasound: Much like an x-ray uses radiation to produce an image, an ultrasound uses sound waves. An ultrasound can be used to examine soft tissue to identify conditions such as muscle inflammation or tears. In certain cases where an x-ray may not be a safe option, such as during pregnancy, an ultrasound may be ordered. An ultrasound is performed using gel on the surface of the skin and passing a handheld device back and forth across the gel. The live images are then sent to a monitor.

Learn More

When you visit Pacific Spine Specialists for your spine pain, first and foremost Dr. Keenen will perform a physical exam, take your medical history, and ask you questions pertaining to your pain. From there, he may recommend one of the tests above to isolate the cause of your pain. Rest assured at all 3 of these imaging tests are safe and painless. Contact us today for more information.

Spinal Fusion Recovery

Spinal Fusion Recovery

If you are scheduled to undergo a spinal fusion, it is only human to be worried about the recovery following the procedure. When you chose to work with Pacific Spine Specialists, your spine expert, Dr. Timothy Keenen, will go over the entire procedure with you from top to bottom and give you a chance to ask questions, such as specifics on recovery times, limitations, etc. However, to calm your nerves in the meantime, we have put together a few helpful pieces of information regarding spinal fusion recovery.


Keep in mind that a spinal fusion requires a bone graft, which keeps maturing for as long as 12 to 18 months following surgery. During this time, the attention you pay to your recovery is extremely important. We suggest following your surgeon’s instructions in order to guarantee a successful operation.


    • Remain as healthy as possible. Prior to surgery, there are a few measures you can take that may aid in decreasing recovery time, such as:
      • Quit smoking
      • Avoid use of steroids
      • Lose weight if overweight or obese
      • Manage chronic illnesses, such as diabetes
      • Avoid use of narcotics


  • Plan ahead. Support is an important part of a spinal fusion recovery. Plan ahead for family, friends, or a caregiver to provide support and assistance for the days following

4 Summer Spine Injuries to Avoid


4 Summer Spine Injuries to Avoid

With warm temperatures, blue skies, and blooming flowers, there is no better time to get outdoors and get active than the summer months. However, summer fun can be put to a halt when a summer spine injury occurs. Therefore, it is best to be aware of the most common summer spine injuries in order to save yourself and your spine from a summer of unnecessary pain.

Most Common Summer Spine Injuries are a result of the following summer activities:

  • Water Skiing: Although water skiing is a fun summer activity, one wrong fall and the fun is gone. Water Skiing has been linked to serious spine  injuries as a result of falling at awkward angles. Unless you are an expert skier, it is best to avoid advanced maneuvers and high speeds.
  • Yard Work: For spine pain sufferers, it is no secret that yard work and gardening can be hard on your back. Bending, lifting heavy items, and twisting can all cause stress on your spine, resulting in pain or injury. Additionally, mowing the grass can put stress on your spine due to leaning forward to push the mower and start the mower. When out in the yard, always practice good posture and remember to bend at the waist. Taking breaks throughout the day to rest your back is best practice for avoiding a summer spine injury.
  • Biking: Whether you prefer a beach cruiser or a mountain bike, practicing bike safety is critical. When biking, be sure to always practice good posture and avoid rough terrain which may cause unnecessary stress on your spine, resulting in pain or injury. Summer spine injuries from biking can be avoided when safety measures are taken.
  • Golfing: In order to avoid a spine injury while on the course, always warm up prior to hitting the green and ensure your swinging with proper techniques. Golf has been known to cause spine injuries as well as lower back pain. For those of you who already suffer from spine pain, be sure to utilize a golf cart or caddie and do not attempt to carry your golf bag around the course.

Contact Pacific Spine Specialists Today

Do not let a summer spine injury stop you from enjoying your summer days. If you are suffering from spine pain, contact Pacific Spine Specialists today. Dr. Keenen is board certified and an expert when it comes to diagnosing and treating spine pain. Learn more!