Spine Surgery News

6 Tips for Spine Surgery Recovery

Spine surgery procedures can range from non-invasive surgery to highly in-depth surgical procedures that require extensive recovery time. Regardless of how complicated your spine procedure, it is best to know what to expect when it comes to your surgery recovery.

The best way to prepare for recovery is by talking to your spine surgeon ahead of time, so you and your caregiver can prepare prior to surgery. Below you will find six tips for spine surgery recovery, however, it is best to consult your doctor on the following:

  • When it’s appropriate to use certain aids
  • How often to use them
  • How long you should continue using them
  • When you should ask for help

Six tips for spine surgery recovery are as follows:

1. Prevent Constipation
Unfortunately, constipation is a common complaint during spine surgery recovery. Whether it is a result of the surgery itself or from the medicines you’re taking. Eating healthy is important, including plenty of water.

Narcotic pain medication are a significant cause of constipation after surgery, and talking to your surgeon or his physician assistant is best for a preoperative plan. Laxatives with sena and docusate tend to work the best. Fiber products are the least effective against narcotic induced constipation. There is a newer medication, Movantik, that works well, but oftentimes requires insurance pre approval for use.

2. Manage Your Pain
When undergoing spine surgery, it is common to need a pain medication to help with pain during recovery. If you need a prescription filled, it may be possible to have it filled ahead of time so that it is available for you when you arrive home. At times, you may only need acetaminophen or another over-the-counter pain reliever. However, you do need to have it available and close at hand during your spine surgery recovery. It is recommended to stay ahead of the pain, so follow the instructions provided by your surgeon.

3. Wound Care
It is very important to take care of your incision during your spine surgery recovery. To avoid infection, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter. You may have dissolving stitches and a simple covering, but since it can be difficult to see the incision, make sure your caregiver has been provided the instructions as well and knows who to call in case of complications.

4. Rest and Recovery
After spine surgery, rest and sleep is key. Although you may find it difficult to sleep comfortably, sleep should be high on your priority list. Sleep helps your body heal, so it’s essential to have several aids on hand such as extra pillows and/or a body pillow. Also, it is wise to keep blankets, water and anything else you may require to get comfortable within arm’s reach, especially if you’re not supposed to be moving around too much.

5. Ice and Heat
Ice and heat are both recommended ways to aid in recovery from spine surgery. Prior to surgery, be sure to have Ice packs and heating pads on standby. Your spine surgeon may have specific instructions on how to apply ice and heat to reduce inflammation and/or to encourage mobility. Others may instruct you to do whatever feels best to you at the time. In general, cold aids in the prevention of swelling while heat helps pain relief and encourages healing.

6. Walk It Out
You may be surprised how quickly you are encouraged to be up and walking following spinal surgery. Although spine surgery recovery may include a lot of bed rest for healing, walking every hour for 5 minutes during the day keeps your blood moving and limits the chance of a leg blood clot. Ensure that you have the necessary walkers or canes that you’ll need to get out of bed safely. Additionally, clear your hallways and walking areas of loose rugs that could cause tripping hazards and make sure your pets are out of your way.

The best way to proceed with your recovery is to discuss what to expect ahead of time with both your spine surgeon and your caregiver.

Let Pacific Spine Specialists Help!

If you have made the decision to undergo spine surgery, Pacific Spine Specialists can help. Our expert spine surgeon, Dr. Keenen, specializes in minimally invasive techniques that aid in reducing spine surgery recovery times. Learn more or schedule a free MRI review today.

Treatment Options For Herniated Discs

Treatment Options For Herniated Discs

If you are experiencing pain in your back and lower extremity caused by a herniated disc in your back, relief can be found. The term “herniated disc” is a medical phrase that is often used interchangeably with other terms, such as ruptured disc, bulging disc, pinched nerve, slipped disc sciatica,or disc disease. No matter the term, a damaged disc can cause back and extremity pain that can make everyday tasks daunting. Treatment for a herniated disc can range from simple lifestyle changes to more invasive measures, such as microdiscectomy.

Diagnosing A Herniated Disc

The first step in determining a treatment for your herniated disc is to find the cause of the pain. An effective treatment plan requires an accurate diagnosis. That is why spine expert Dr. Keenen of Pacific Spine Specialists you will complete a thorough physical exam as well as a series of diagnostic tests when warranted. The tests will aid Dr. Keenen in making a diagnosis and developing a treatment plan. Recommended tests may include:

  • A detailed interview with a pain drawing
  • Complete review of medical history including previous treatments
  • A detailed physical exam assessing sensation, reflexes, muscle strength, and range of motion
  • Diagnostic tests such as an MRI, CT scan or x-ray
  • Review of previous injections, if any

Nonsurgical Treatments For a Herniated Disc

The best course of treatment is determined by first considering your clinical situation. Once your spine expert determines the cause of your pain, a nonsurgical treatment may be recommended. Nonsurgical treatment options may include one or a combination of the following:

  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic Treatment
  • Acupuncture
  • Pain medicationss/li>
  • Injections: cortisone / PRP / stem cell

Surgery for a Herniated Disc

Before surgery is recommended, your spine expert will first take into account the amount of pain you’re experiencing, how much disability is occurring as a result of that pain, and how long you’ve had the symptoms. A non surgical plan is sought, but less commonly the pain is severe or the disc herniation is causing weakness, then urgent surgery could be advised.

Where the rupture is located and the size of your spinal canal are other important factors considered with determining if surgery is needed. A very small spinal canal can lead to a pinched nerve even when the bulge is minor, whereas a sizable rupture can cause very little pain in a large spinal canal.

The goal of spine surgery is to remove the part of the disc that’s pressing on your nerves. Often times this can be achieved through a minimally invasive surgical procedure called a discectomy. In the past 10 years, minimally invasive spinal surgery has improved so much that your spine surgeon can perform the surgery with a relatively small incision and much less soft tissue damage than previous surgical techniques. Due to these advances in minimally invasive surgery, at times surgery is a more viable and economical treatment option versus years of paying for non-invasive treatments, such as physical therapy.

Herniated Disc Recovery

If minimally invasive surgery is performed to repair a herniated disc, chances are you’ll be able to go home the same day of the spine surgery. With sufficient rest, and a recovery plan that includes daily walking, you can be back to a much less painful life in as little as a few weeks time.

Visit Pacific Spine Specialists for Herniated Disc Relief

If you are suffering from a herniated disc, take advantage of Pacific Spine Specialists complimentary MRI review. Our highly skilled spine expert, Dr. Keenen, will work with you to eliminate your pain using the most minimally invasive procedures. Schedule an appointment today.

Say Yes to Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Each new year brings new advancements in the area of spine surgery. In fact, at Pacific Spine Specialists, our expert surgeon, Dr. Keenen, specializes in minimally invasive techniques. This means that the scary surgery you have been dreading has just gotten a whole lot less intimidating.

Pacific Spine Specialists Offers Minimally Invasive Procedures

Pacific Spine Specialists is proud to offer minimally invasive surgery (MIS). Minimally invasive surgery provides an ideal alternative to the invasive surgical treatments of the past, including the extensive recovery that spine surgery previously required. Today, with the use of small incisions and advanced technology, surgeons are able to use techniques that allow for quicker recovery.

Minimally invasive surgery is the treatment of choice whenever possible. And the good news for patients is that techniques keep improving. Dr. Keenen specializes in minimally invasive procedures and makes it his personal goal to avoid extensive spine surgery when possible. Dr. Keenen offers:

Benefits of Minimally Invasive Surgery

If you are a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery, you may reap the following benefits:

  • Less blood loss
  • Less, if any, time spent in the hospital
  • Quicker recovery time
  • Decreased stress on your body
  • Reduced risks of damage
  • Access for patients previously unable to undergo back surgery
  • Reduced costs

Minimally Invasive Surgical Techniques

Some of the latest minimally invasive surgical techniques can be performed as outpatient procedures, meaning you may be able to go home on the same day the procedure is performed. This is due to minimally invasive spine surgery techniques being much less invasive than traditional back and spine surgeries.

For example, Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion (XLIF), which is a procedure used to alleviate symptoms of degenerative disc disease, is performed through an incision in the patient’s side to avoid major muscles in the back. Through the use of a microscope, the instrumentation placement is guided with the use of a fluoroscopy machine, which is a special x-ray. Additionally, a low radiation dose protocol is used which is safer than standard techniques.

Advancements in Endoscopic Procedures

Dr. Keenen at Pacific Spine Specialists stays abreast of the technological advancements in minimally invasive spine surgery techniques. Over the past 10 years, astounding accomplishments have been achieved in the area of endoscopic procedures.

A few examples include:

  • Spinal fusion procedures that need one-half to one-inch-long incisions
  • Percutaneous insertion of clamps, rods and screws through small incisions
  • Damaged disc removal from small incisions
  • Intraoperative X-ray imaging for precise computer-guided placement of hardware into the spine with no extra cuts
  • Microscopes inserted into the tiny incisions to provide an excellent view of your nerves

Say Yes to Pacific Spine Specialists

If you are ready for a year of no pain, look no further than Pacific Spine Specialists. Dr. Keenen specializes in Minimally Invasive Surgery which leaves the strong muscle fiber intact with the spine. Dr. Keenen has studied with national experts on minimally invasive techniques and advocates the use whenever possible. However, only a consultation regarding your specific case will be able to reveal whether endoscopy is appropriate for you, so contact us today.

Spine and Back Surgery Options: What You Need To Know

It is no secret that remaining active on a regular basis is good for your overall health. In fact, the medical community at large promotes an active lifestyle. However, if you are suffering from a back or spine injury, getting up and getting active may be a painful task. Furthermore, everyday activities such as walking, standing, or even sleeping can cause discomfort.

Treatments for Back and Spine Pain

It has been estimated that nearly 80 percent of Americans will feel some form of back pain during their lifetimes. Although back pain can be common, at times it can be predictive of more serious back or spine injuries. If you suffered an injury while performing an activity, such as playing sports or snow skiing, the treatment options below are a great first step in eliminating pain. These options include:

  • Massage and stretching
  • Heat, ice, compression and elevation
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories
  • A period of rest
  • Physical therapy

If your back or spine injury does not show improvements with the treatment options above, your doctor may need to treat your pain or injury with a procedure that is a little more involved, yet remains non-invasive. These procedures allow you to very quickly return to your lifestyle. Some of the less invasive treatments for injuries to your back and spine may include:

  • Back brace
  • Epidural steroid injection
  • Trigger point injection
  • Nerve block
  • Minimally Invasive Surgery

Spine and Back Surgery Options

At times, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair an injury or to fix a repetitive motion problem in your back. If surgery is recommended, you’ll be in good hands at Pacific Spine Specialists. Spine Surgeon Dr. Keenen uses the latest surgical techniques and specializes in minimally invasive techniques. Dr. Keenen will go over all spine and back surgery options in depth and provide you with the knowledge needed to make an informed decision. Chances are, with Dr. Keenen’s help, you’ll be back on the slopes or playing your favorite sport with the same vigor you always had.
If you have been diagnosed with a back or spine issue such as herniated disc or spondylolisthesis, the good news is that it can be treated. Often times following surgery you are approved to return to your activities in anywhere from four to 12 weeks. A few surgical treatments for back and spine injuries include:

Don’t prolong treatment for back and spine pain any longer. Start 2017 off with a pain free, new you.

Learn More

If you are ready for a pain free start to 2017, look no further than Pacific Spine Specialists. Board certified surgeon, Dr. Keenen, is knowledgeable, qualified, and comes highly recommended. Dr. Keenen offers many back surgery options to treat a number of back and spine conditions. Learn more about Pacific Spine Specialists or schedule a complimentary MRI review by calling 503-885-9391.

Spinal Fusion Surgery: Are You A Good Candidate?

Spinal fusion surgery is a type of spine surgery that is undergone to prevent movement between vertebrae that are rubbing against each other and causing you pain. During the procedure, the vertebrae are fused together, eliminating any movement between them. Following the spinal fusion procedure, your pain should be permanently eliminated. While the Dr. Keenen, spinal surgeon at Pacific Spine Specialists, prefers minimally invasive treatment options prior to recommending surgery, spinal fusion surgery can lead to a long-term pain resolution for the right candidate.

The Approach to a Spinal Fusion Procedure

While there are a number of approaches your spine surgeon can take to provide relief, most spinal fusion procedures involve:

  • Bone grafts applied to the affected area of the spine
  • Setting up the right biological responses between the vertebrae to initiate and support the graft taking hold
  • The actual spinal fusion to stop the movement in the painful joint

When is a Spinal Fusion Procedure Recommended?

Spinal fusion surgery comes highly recommended to treat people with:

Are You a Good Candidate for a Spinal Fusion Procedure?

Your physician will determine whether spinal fusion is right for you based on a number of factors that they will discuss with you. Ideally, the procedure works best when there are only two affected vertebrae requiring the graft, called a one-level fusion. With a one-level fusion, you may not notice any limitations in your movement following the procedure.

Spinal fusion on two levels may feel slightly restrictive, depending on the location of the afflicted vertebrae. Once you go beyond two levels, though, you’ll definitely notice a marked reduction in movement. Lack of movement often results in more pain, which is why the expert surgeon at Pacific Spine Specialists seldom perform the procedure on three or more levels. Typically, spinal fusion of three or more levels is reserved for those with the most severe spinal handicaps, such as extensive scoliosis or life-threatening deformities.

Spinal fusion works best on people who do not smoke, are not obese and live a relatively healthy lifestyle. As with any surgery, a positive attitude goes a long way. Additionally, you must be motivated to pursue the physical therapy that’s going to be required following your spinal fusion surgery. You’ll work with an experienced physical therapist whose goal it is to get you back to your regular daily functions as quickly as possible.

Learn More About Pacific Spine Surgical Options

If you are considering Spinal Fusion Surgery, when you choose Pacific Spine Specialists you stand a very good chance of being relieved of your back pain permanently. Spinal fusions almost always lead to pain-free living with little or no residual complications. Learn more about Dr. Keenen and request a free MRI review today.

Genetics: The Role They Play In Spine Problems

Genetic Spine Problems
To many, genetics is a just a term used to explain why you were born with a certain hair or eye color, or why we are more likely to get sunburn. However, genetics are proving to hold the answers to many of life’s persistent questions and may even explain the source of your spine pain. Until recently, little has been done in the study of genetics and the spine, but new research is suggesting that genetics may play a role in spine conditions, such as ankylosing spondylitis.

It is common for back and spine pain to be related to lifestyle issues, such as bad posture and the quality of your back exercises. However, while lifestyle still plays a significant role in preventing back and spine pain, you may want to pay extra-special attention to your back exercises if your mom, dad, aunt, uncle or second cousins have spine problems of their own.

In-Depth Research on Genetics and Spine Problems

Researchers have trouble identifying genetic patterns in spine problems because back pain is so ubiquitous. Ruling out environmental causes of back and spine pain is difficult since more than 13 million people visit their doctors each year complaining of pain in this region. Age, posture, working conditions and lifestyle choices like diet, exercise and smoking all play a role in developing back or spine pain.

More than one-third of women between the ages of 30 and 50 experience degenerative disc problems. Nearly eight out of 10 adults report lower back pain in their lives. It’s no wonder that researchers have so much difficulty isolating genetic factors.

Research Findings on Genetics and Spine Problems:

A number of exhaustive studies have begun to shine light on the genetic factors that contribute to spine pain:

  • The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases reports that African-American women are two to three times more likely to develop spondylolisthesis than Caucasian women. The condition causes vertebra in the lower spine to slip out of place.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis, a form of ongoing joint inflammation that primarily affects the spine, has been linked to heredity, according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. Several genes influence the risk of developing the chronic inflammatory arthritis condition while lifestyle issues exacerbate the risk.
  • Scientists have believed for some time that genes are involved in the development of lumbar disc degeneration because as many as four out of five people with LDD have family members with the same condition. In 2012, the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases reported that researchers isolated the gene responsible.
  • An exhaustive twin-spine study performed over a period of more than 20 years across a number of countries (including the U.S.), also came to the conclusion that genetics play a significant role in the development of lumbar disc degeneration

Tips For Fighting Off Genetics

As genetic studies continue and researchers isolate the culprits that put you at risk for developing certain spine problems, such as spondylitis, it becomes more important than ever to maintain effective back exercises — strengthening exercises that support your back — in addition to a healthy diet and proper body mechanics.

Learn More About Pacific Spine Specialists

If you are experiencing spine pain, Pacific Spine Specialists may be the cure you have been looking for. Spine Surgeon, Dr. Timothy Keenen<, specializes in minimally invasive approaches to reduce pain and eliminate symptoms. Regardless if it is genetics or a spine injury causing your pain, Pacific Spine can help. Contact us today for a free MRI review.

Holiday Physical Therapy Guide


Following spine surgery, your doctor may have recommended physical therapy to aid in your recovery. Finding time for physical therapy can be challenging any time of the year, so it is understandable to be concerned about keeping it up over the holidays, especially if you are planning to host family or do any traveling.

One of the main reasons you’re undergoing physical therapy is to get back to your life, with all its challenges and joy. So if you’re worrying about how your regular physical therapy session will work during the holiday season — stop right there. Because worry and stress are the last things you need during a spine surgery recovery.

It is no secret that the holiday season may contribute added stress to your days. Family pressures, money issues, time constraints, too many (or not enough) invitations to follow up on… the list is endless. Remember to take care of yourself and everything else will work itself out. The key is to stay focused and follow the tips below for successfully completing holiday physical therapy.

Tips For Holiday Physical Therapy

Plan Ahead

Scheduling in advance is very important, so use your calendar and mark the appointments in bold. Of course there may be times when a conflict arises, but planning ahead helps to avoid situations where you may have to cancel or reschedule. Stick to a routine that involves regular PT appointments made well in advance.

  • Whenever possible, schedule your holiday physical therapy appointment on days you have planned for wrapping presents or baking, days you’ll keep your workload light and at home.
  • Let friends and family know that physical therapy is an integral part of your life at the moment, but that you can schedule parties and plans around your appointments.
  • Create menus when you are hosting events that include the kinds of foods on your diet. Bring dishes to potlucks that will help you maintain your health and speed your recovery.
  • Ask guests in advance to help you set up and clean up so that you don’t have to tax your body any more than necessary while you’re still recovering from spine surgery and going through physical therapy.
  • Carry your calendar with you at all times so that you can say “no” when you already have time set aside for a holiday physical therapy session or for much-needed rest.

Line Up the Coping Techniques

Many people undergoing physical therapy to regain their strength after spine surgery dread the holidays and all the pressures it brings. While you may try to plan for every contingency, remember that you will likely have to deal with potentially negative feelings that creep up and put a damper on your holiday spirit.

  • Talk to your physical therapy specialist or your spine surgeon about your concerns. They may have just the right tips for you to get you through the tough times.
  • Share your feelings at a support group or with a trusted friend who won’t judge you or try to change how you feel. You’ll find that often just saying it out loud releases an emotional pressure valve.
  • Ask your spine surgeon for a referral to a counselor if your feelings are interfering with your ability to function or if continuing depression lingers. Acknowledging your feelings to a professional can help you lessen the stress you’re feeling.
  • Put some mental health plans in your holiday schedule. Turn off the phone, lie down, take a walk or do some gentle yoga exercises approved by your therapist.
  • Watch your alcohol intake. While drinking may seem to lighten your mood, it is a depressant that can end up adding to your distress. Furthermore, it can put you in dangerous physical situations you can’t handle while undergoing physical therapy. Check with your spine surgeon to make sure alcohol will not have an adverse effect with medications you may be taking.

Physical therapy is designed to enhance your life, not cramp your style. So keep your appointments, talk to your physical therapist about your concerns and above all, enjoy the holidays, knowing that you are on the road to recovery.

Suffering From Spine Pain?

If you are suffering from spine pain, Dr. Keenen at Pacific Spine Specialists can help. Dr. Keenen is knowledgeable, qualified, and comes highly recommended. Read our Commonly Asked Questions to learn more about Pacific Spine Specialists or schedule a complimentary MRI review by calling 503-885-9391.

Recovering​ ​From​ ​Spine​ ​Surgery:​ ​The​ ​Caretaker’s​ ​Role

Recovering from Spine Surgery

When you make the decision to undergo spine surgery, planning ahead is an important part of your recovery. Part of that planning involves making sure you have enough support in the days following your surgery. One or more caretakers, depending on your needs and the length of your expected recovery, will put your mind at ease and allow you to focus on getting well. And that’s essentially the caretaker’s role: letting you relax and heal, knowing that everything else is under control.

Arrange for a Caretaker Right Away

Your spine surgery recovery begins the day of your procedure. So have someone available that day for assistance, such as family member, a good friend, or a paid professional. Whether you are undergoing an outpatient procedure or receiving inpatient care, you’ll need someone as soon as you’re released to help get you home, organized, and comfortable.

Although it is likely that on the first day home you will require the most assistance, a caretaker’s duties continue until you’re well enough to fend for yourself. Your caretaker(s) will be that friendly presence that you can count on right from your first day home.

Choosing the Right Caretaker for the Job

When selecting a caretaker, the main thing to remember is that a caretaker needs to focus on your “care.” It helps if your caretaker knows what to expect during your recovery, from medical issues that might arise to your preference for movies, books or games. So share information from your surgeon and spell out your wishes regarding what you’ll want as you recover.

If your doctor wants you up and moving following your surgery, your caretaker can assist with this. A good caretaker can devise a schedule that includes appropriate exercise and meals, managing your pain medication, and arranging fun downtime. Recovery from spine surgery is a serious matter, though, so follow your surgeon’s instructions closely.

Spine Surgery Recovery Takes Time

Measure your recovery in weeks or months, not days. Every day brings you closer to a complete recovery, but only if you do the work — such as the prescribed exercises to gain strength and heal fully. Armed with a schedule, your caretaker(s) can make sure you eat right, exercise regularly, get your meds on time and have enough distractions to help you through the days. Until you gain enough strength and flexibility to manage for yourself, your caretaker(s) can assist with everyday activities, such as:

  • Helping you in and out of bed
  • Keeping your incision clean
  • Getting to the bathroom
  • Bathing and grooming
  • Getting dressed
  • Fixing your meals and cleaning up
  • Running errands and grocery shopping
  • Monitoring your medications
  • Providing company
  • Taking care of your pets
  • Making sure you don’t overexert yourself
  • Keeping you positive and focused

You will find that having a caretaker you can rely on when will be a huge asset as you recover from spine surgery. Don’t forget to thank them for all the support they will provide you as you focus on healing.

Learn More

If you are considering spine surgery, look no further than Pacific Spine Specialists. Board certified surgeon, Dr. Keenen, is knowledgeable, qualified, and comes highly recommended. Read our Commonly Asked Questions to learn more about Pacific Spine Specialists or schedule a complimentary MRI review by calling 503-885-9391.

MRI: Tips for Reducing Stress

Reduce MRI Stress

Why Have an MRI?

When it comes to diagnosing and treating back pain, it is helpful for your doctor to see images of the inside of your spinal cord and back tissue to see if you have any spinal cord injuries that aren’t obviously apparent.

An MRI can help identify the following:

  • Tumors
  • Signs of a stroke
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Bone infections
  • Arthritis
  • Disc abnormalities

There are very few risks associated with an MRI, but be sure to tell your spinal doctor if you are pregnant or have any metal in your body, such as a pacemaker or cochlear implant.

What is an MRI Machine?

An MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, test is a procedure similar to an X-ray. However, unlike an X-ray, the MRI captures images of your tissues and organs instead of your bones. The machine uses radio waves inside a magnetic field to create faint signals that form cross-sectional images. MRI images look a bit like slices of bread.

Most MRI machines resemble big tubes into which you are rolled. If you’re at all claustrophobic, the experience can be excruciating. And while the test itself is painless, you have to lie perfectly still inside this big, magnetic tube while a clamoring of loud banging, thumping and pounding surround you. It can be enough to frighten anyone. Although like most things, its bark is worse than its bite.

When you’re inside the machine, you may find yourself in a stressful situation. It is possible for more thorough tests to last up to 60 minutes to complete. Below are a few MRI tips to endure the procedure and come out feeling fine.

Helpful Tips for an MRI

  • Wear earplugs to block the repetitive, loud sounds of the test.
  • Ask for a mild sedative, especially if you have a touch of claustrophobia.
  • Practice deep, meditative breathing techniques. Breathe in through your nose to a count of six and out on a count of 10.
  • Try aromatherapy. Studies show that lavender and vanilla are calming scents for most people. Put some essential oil on a scarf or pillowcase that can accompany you inside the machine.
  • Seek out a therapist with experience in treating claustrophobia and other fears. Perhaps a couple sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy can help tremendously.
  • Distract yourself by making mental lists. Think about your grocery list, or get lost in reciting a list of vegetables in alphabetical order.

Be sure to talk to your doctor about your concerns and fears. They may be able to help ease your fears or keep the test short.

Did You Know?

Did you know that Pacific Spine Specialists offers on site MRIs as well as complimentary MRI reviews? If you are experiencing back or spine pain, request an appointment with Pacific Spine Specialists today. Dr. Keenen is a highly trained and recommended spine surgeon whose focus on minimally invasive procedures will have you feeling like yourself in no time.

Holiday Travel: Tips For Avoiding Back Pain While Driving

Holiday Travel Tips


With the Holidays quickly approaching, you may find yourself with an impending road trip ahead of you. The Holidays are the ideal time to visit with family and friends, but for those who suffer from back and spine pain, the thought of spending hours in the car may put a damper on your holiday excitement. If you plan to spend considerable time behind the wheel this holiday season, follow the spine tips below, keep yourself comfortable, and enjoy the ride.

Tips For Avoiding Back and Spine Pain While Driving:

  • Take a few seconds to get comfortable when you first get in the car. The slightest irritation can end up creating major back discomfort and pain after a long drive.
  • Adjust the seat upright and move it forward so you are sitting up straight. Your arms should comfortably rest on the steering wheel. When your seat is too far back, you must bend your back to reach the wheel and the controls, straining your back.
  • Place a small pillow or a rolled towel behind your lower back to give your lumbar extra support. This is particularly important when you undertake long drives.
  • Take your wallet out of your back pocket before you get in the car. A wallet, cell phone or any other item in your pocket immediately sets your back out of alignment when you sit on it.
  • Pull your chin in slightly to your chest. This helps you keep your head straight and not bent out of alignment.
  • Adjust your seat so that your knees are slightly higher than your hips.
  • Change the settings on your seat every 20 to 30 minutes to prevent your body from staying in one position too long. Your body instinctively needs to move to keep limber.
  • Apply ice, wrapped in a towel or t-shirt, to your back the minute you feel any pain. Carry an ice pack in your drink cooler — because the sooner you ice any discomfort, the better chance you have of staving off even greater pain. Most back pain results from inflammation, and ice is a sure way to reduce it.
  • Alternate the ice with heat from a heating pad you plug into your car’s power or from a hot water bottle or heated gel pack.
  • Stretch your back and hamstrings at every rest stop. Walk around to loosen up tightened muscles. Walking also helps to increase blood circulation that will reduce inflammation.

Although the tips above will aid in keeping back pain at bay, if your back pain becomes unbearable while driving you may have to give up the wheel to a passenger and take a break. If you are traveling solo, remember to make frequent stops and if needed, break up the trip over a few days. You don’t want to overdo it.

Learn More

If you are suffering from back or spine pain, we invite you to learn more about Pacific Spine Specialists. Dr. Keenen is an orthopedic spine surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive surgical procedures.  Take advantage of our free MRI review and request an appointment today.