Spine Surgery News

Spinal Trauma: When to Consult a Specialist

spinal trauma

Spinal trauma, or a spine fracture, is caused by a sudden blow or injury to the vertebrae from incidences such as car accidents, falls and sports injuries.

If you think you have experienced a spinal trauma, you should consult a specialist immediately to prevent further damage.

Signs and Symptoms

There are five sections of the spine—cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back), lumbar (lower back), sacrum and coccyx (tailbone). Spinal trauma can occur in any one of these areas. Similar to fractures that occur in other areas of the body, the first symptom is usually pain.

Depending on the location of the fracture, the damage can extend beyond the structure of the spine itself and cause injury to the spinal cord or spinal nerves. In cases when the spinal cord is injured, you may experience weakness, lack of sensation, or even paralysis.

Other areas of the body may also be affected including the bowel, bladder or sexual reproductive organs.

Diagnosing a Spinal Trauma

Due to the complicated structure of the spine, you may need to see several different specialty physicians throughout the course of your diagnosis and treatment.

The first spine specialist you will most likely see is an orthopedic surgeon, like Dr. Timothy Keenen at Pacific Spine Specialists. Depending on the nature of your injury, you may have already been to the emergency room or evaluated and referred to a specialist by your primary care physician.

An orthopedic surgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of disorders of the musculoskeletal system. He or she will conduct a physical exam asking you about where you feel pain, loss of sensation and/or difficulty moving.

While an X-ray will show most broken vertebrae, other imaging technology (MRI or CT scan) may be required to identify hard-to-see fractures.

If an injury to the brain, spinal cord or nervous system are suspected, you will also need to consult with a. neurosurgeon or neurologist.

The specialists above often work with occupational therapists, physical therapists and chiropractors during the pre-habilitation, rehabilitation and recovery phases.

Treatment of Spinal Trauma

Once the fracture(s) is identified, your physician will recommend a course of treatment designed to realign the broken pieces and keep them in alignment until the bone has healed.

Specific treatment for spinal trauma depends largely on the location of the fracture, the severity of the fracture, and whether the tissue and nearby nerves have been affected.

Minor fractures in some locations may heal well with external bracing. Cervical fractures can sometimes be treated with a halo vest—a ring attached to the skull and attached to a vest worn around the chest).

In some cases, the only course of treatment is surgical stabilization. This involves implanting screws, hooks and connecting rods to fuse that portion of the spine. Placing bone graft helps facilitate the bones to grow together.

When neurological damage is present, bone or disc material may be removed during surgery to relieve any compression on the neural structures.

Pacific Spine Specialists

Dr. Keenen of Pacific Spine Specialists is a board certified and fellowship trained orthopedic spine surgeon that specializes in treating neck and low back surgical conditions in the Portland area. If you have experienced a spinal trauma, call 503-885-9391 to schedule an appointment today.

Tricks to Avoid Back and Neck Pain this Halloween

Tricks to Avoid Back and Neck Pain this Halloween

Halloween is right around the corner. For kids, that means costumes and candy. But, if suffer from chronic back pain on a normal day, then Halloween can be a real nightmare. Whether you’ll be pounding the pavement going door-to-door with your kids or constantly getting up and down to pass out candy when your doorbell rings, here are some tips to help you avoid back and neck pain and survive trick-or-treating this Halloween.

  • Plan Ahead: Think ahead about the route you plan to walk and make sure you have a pair of supportive shoes. You may want to take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory before you set out, or bring it with you if you think you may need it later. A stick-on heat pad could also help relieve discomfort while you’re on the move.
  • Hydrate: Start hydrating a couple days before Halloween, and carry a bottle of water with you. Dehydration takes the water from the discs in your spine causing back pain.
  • Choose Your Costume Wisely: Choose a lightweight costume that is easy to walk and move in. While wearing a giant mascot head or another large headpiece may win you the neighborhood costume contest,  it could also cause back and neck pain.
  • Beware of How You Move: You may not realize it, but trick-or-treating requires a lot of twisting, turning and bending. If you have toddler-age kids, consider pulling a wagon to avoid carrying them when they get tired. If you’re staying home to pass out candy, a porch party is a great way to avoid the neck and back strain. Grab a comfortable chair and maybe even a small table to set the bowl of candy. This will prevent you from getting up and down throughout the night every time a trick-or-treater rings your doorbell and leaning down dole out candy.
  • Watch Out for the Heavy Candy Bag: It doesn’t take long before the trick-or-treat bag gets heavier than what your child can carry. This is where that wagon comes in handy again. Another great alternative is to wear a backpack. When your child’s bag gets too heavy, empty it into a backpack. This will distribute the weight more evenly than carrying it in one hand or over one shoulder. If you’re neck or back pain is too severe, avoid carrying a heavy bag altogether. Use this as your cue to make your way back home to rest.
  • Limit Your Candy Intake: One of the best parts about Halloween is sifting through your child’s haul and sneaking a few of your favorites. But, keep in mind that overindulging for an extended period of time can result in added weight gain. You’re more likely to suffer from back pain if you are overweight or obese, or quickly gain a significant amount of weight.

Trying to avoid neck and back pain this Halloween may seem like it will take all the fun out, but with these few simple tips, you can still have a great time. If pain and discomfort continue to disrupt your everyday life, contact Pacific Spine Specialists at 503.885.9391 to schedule an appointment today.

5 Tips to Help You Recover from Back Surgery

recover from back surgery

Minimally invasive or not, spine surgery of any kind is a serious procedure. If you want to safely strengthen your spine and prevent future injuries, you must take the recovery process as seriously as the surgery itself. Here are five tips to help you recover from back surgery.

1. Follow Post-Op Instruction

Post-op instructions are not merely suggestions from your physician or care team. Listen carefully, read any instructions that are given to you and ask questions about anything that you don’t understand prior to being discharged.

Additional instructions may be given, but they will include guidelines for physical activity, incision care and prescription pain medication. There will be restrictions on bending, lifting and twisting, so you may need to use adaptive devices like a walker, cane or elevated toilet seat.

If you have questions after you return home, contact your physician’s office for clarification.

2. Take Spinal Rehabilitation Seriously

Your doctor will likely recommend a spinal rehabilitation program that is customized to your unique lifestyle and needs. This program may require one or several types of treatment including therapeutic exercise, an at-home program, functional training, or techniques to improve posture. Follow all recommended guidelines, be prompt and engaged at any physical therapy appointments and follow through with at-home exercises that are advised.

3. Listen to Your Body

Immediately after surgery, taking pain medication as prescribed will help you stay ahead of the pain. Substantial pain can hinder you from getting the rest that your body needs in order to heal.

These medications won’t provide instant relief and in most cases do not relieve 100% of the pain, they lessen the pain, so taking them as directed before you need it will help the recovery process. If you have a history of drug addiction or concerns about using opioids, discuss them with your surgeon prior to surgery.

Ease yourself back into your daily activities but pay attention to cues from your body so that you don’t do too much, too fast. There is a difference between normal discomfort and pain.

4. Ask For and Accept Help

When people ask if there’s anything they can do to help, don’t let your pride get in the way of accepting. Better yet, don’t wait for them to offer and ask for help if you need it.

You won’t be able to drive for several weeks, so make sure you prearrange transportation for follow-up appointments and picking up prescription refills. Don’t forget about menial tasks like grocery shopping, laundry, cooking and washing dishes.

Support from those around you will have a larger impact on your recovery than you might realize.

5. Be Patient

Spinal rehabilitation is different for everyone. More invasive procedures like traditional open back surgery will experience longer and more difficult rehabilitation compared to the shortened recovery lengths of those that are minimally invasive. Regardless of which category you fall into, it’s important to be patient and allow your body the proper time it needs to heal.

Contact Pacific Spine

Following these five tips are critical to the overall outcome of your spine surgery. They will reduce the risk of infection, enhance your results, promote faster healing, and overall make for a more satisfying experience.

Dr. Keenen of Pacific Spine Specialists is highly experienced with state-of-the-art procedures and leading-edge technology for faster recovery times. Learn more about his approach to surgery and call 503-885-9391 to schedule a consultation today.

How to Care for a Whiplash Injury

whiplashIn the United States, there are an estimated 3 million new whiplash injuries each year with 35-50% of these victims suffering from long-term pain and around 14% becoming disabled. Given the prevalence of this type of injury, it’s important to understand what it is, how to recognize signs of injury, the leading causes, and how to care for it.

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash, or neck strain, is a common injury resulting from the force of sudden acceleration-deceleration caused by rapid, unrestrained forward and backward movement of a person’s head and neck.

When this occurs, the structures in your neck including discs, ligaments, nerves or muscles, are damaged. In some cases, a small vessel may even tear and release inflammatory substances in the neck causing swelling and pain.

What is the Leading Cause?

Auto collisions are one of the leading causes of whiplash, and in Oregon, vehicle-wildlife collisions will increase significantly during the upcoming fall and winter months. In the last decade, the number of motorists hitting deer, elk, coyotes, bears and other wildlife has skyrocketed.

Statistically, one out of every 17 car collisions in the United States involves wandering wildlife, with a collision occurring on average every 39 minutes. Thanks to Oregon’s sprawling national forests and thriving wildlife populations, the likelihood of a collision is higher than in other parts of the country. The upsurge is likely due to increases in distracted drivers (cell phone use) and higher numbers of wildlife on and near roadways caused by weather conditions.

If you find yourself in an auto-wildlife collision, or any type of collision, learn to recognize the signs of whiplash.

What are the Signs of Injury?

Usually, the signs and symptoms of whiplash develop within 24 hours of the injury, but not ways. These may include:

  •       ­Neck pain
  •       Muscle spasms
  •       Decreased range of motion
  •       Neck stiffness
  •       Headache, most often starting at the base of the skull
  •       Dizziness
  •       Fatigue
  •       Pain (or tenderness) in the shoulder, upper back or arms
  •       Tingling or numbness in the arms

Some people may also experience blurred vision, ringing in the ears, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, irritability, memory disturbances, anxiety or depression.

How is Whiplash Diagnosed?

You should always consult a physician if you have neck pain or other symptoms after a car accident, sports injury or another traumatic injury to make sure there isn’t another underlying major spinal injury or condition.

Based on your symptoms and examination findings, a doctor may place a collar on the neck to offer additional support and prevent further injuries. He or she may also request a computed tomography (CT) scan or x-ray to check for more serious injury. A magnetic resonance image (MRI) may also be requested if there is concern about soft tissue injury.

What is the Treatment for Whiplash?

Until you are able to see a physician, an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), may help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. You can also apply heat, rather than cold, to help loosen tight muscles.

Upon diagnosis, a doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatories and/or muscle relaxers. The treatment of whiplash can vary depending on the symptoms present.

If there is no evidence of abnormal spine alignment or other major injuries that would require extended immobilization, the likely course of treatment will involve a series of at-home exercises that include stretching, rotating and moving the neck back and forth.

Contact Pacific Spine

Most people who experience whiplash will feel better within a few weeks. However, some may continue to have chronic pain for several months or years after the initial injury. If you are experiencing ongoing, chronic pain in the neck or back, complete Pacific Spine’s patient self-referral form. Our new patient coordinator will contact you within 1-2 business days to speak with you about your symptoms.

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Back Spasms

Back spasmsBack spasms cause sudden, sharp pain triggered by an involuntary muscle contraction, and often occur in the lower back. While they are sometimes temporary, back spasms can also be debilitating. Either way, it’s important that you listen to your body. The spasms could be a warning that there’s a more serious underlying spinal issue, or simply telling you not to perform a particular activity again.

What Causes Back Spasms

Back spasms are most often the result of back strains—or tears to a muscle, tendon, or ligament.  Strains often occur from improper heavy lifting techniques or repetitive athletic sports that require the back to turn suddenly. Other causes include:

  •       Bulging disc
  •       Skeletal irregularities (like scoliosis)
  •       Weak abdominal muscles
  •       Tight hamstrings
  •       Weak lower back muscles
  •       Dehydration

What To Do If You Experience a Back Spasm

Your first instinct may be to immobilize completely, but that can actually be more detrimental.  First, find a position that is less painful. Try lying on a firm surface, either on your back or your side with a pillow between your knees.

As long as the pain is tolerable, you can resume light physical activity to help increase circulation.

For the first 2-3 days, you can apply an ice pack for 15-20 minutes no more than three to four times a day to reduce inflammation. If that doesn’t provide relief, you can try a heating pad or alternate between ice and heat. Scheduling an appointment for a massage or with your Chiropractor can oftentimes help ease a muscle spasm.

An over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), may also help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.

When to Consult Your Physician

If you are not feeling some improvement after 72 hours, you should contact your healthcare provider. If you develop any of the following symptoms along with your back spasm, you should contact a physician immediately:

  •       Sudden difficulty controlling your bowel or bladder function
  •       Increased pain when lying down
  •       Inability to sleep at night
  •       Muscle weakness in your arms or legs, particularly if it makes you feel unstable when you walk or decreases the distance that you are able to walk
  •       Pain and numbness that travels down your arms or legs
  •       Fever, sudden weight loss or other signs of illness

Contact Pacific Spine

The occurrence of back spasms can range from mild discomfort infrequently to severe chronic pain. They can typically be treated without surgery, but in cases where the pain is related to nerve problems surgical intervention may be necessary. Don’t let back spasms prevent you from returning to work or doing what you love. Call Pacific Spine Specialists at 503-885-9391 to schedule an appointment today.

Continue playing golf despite your back pain!

Now that the spring season has finally made its debut, golfers are excited to get back to their game. If you play golf on occasion or consider yourself an avid golfer, know that you can enjoy your time out on the course without experiencing any back pain. Here are some tips that can help you prevent golf related back pain:

Warm Up

One of the easiest ways to protect your back from golf related back pain is to warm up before you play. Begin by stretching your shoulders, torso, hips, and hamstring muscles. Next, gently swing your golf club to warm up the necessary muscle group and prepare it for the game. If your muscles have stretched and are ready for what’s to come, your risk of back pain is significantly reduced.

Carry the Golf Bag Safely

By repeatedly bending over to pick up your golf bag, you can stress your back and cause a muscle strain. If possible, invest in a golf bag stand that opens when the bag is set on the ground so you won’t have to bend over. You should also considering using dual straps on your golf bag so you can evenly distribute the weight across your back.

Take Golf Lessons

If your back pain prevents you from playing golf consistently, take lessons. A qualified instructor can help you let go of poor habits so you can reduce your risk of back injury while improving your game. Since you can’t see yourself swing, it’s wise to learn from someone who can. Taking lessons will ensure you are golfing with proper form and lessen the toll the game takes on your muscles.

Exercise Regularly

In order to improve your game and protect your back and the rest of your body, you should exercise on a regular basis. Whether you walk around your neighborhood, swim, take a yoga class, or engage in any other type of physical activity, you’ll be strengthening your core muscles and preparing your body for swinging.

Visit a Doctor Early

If you’re experiencing any back pain before, during, or after golfing, you should visit a doctor as soon as possible. Seeking medical attention early on will allow your body to respond to more gentle treatments and reduce your risk of requiring surgery.

Contact Pacific Spine

If you play golf and notice any back pain, you should contact our office as soon as possible. I’ll spine specialists will evaluate your condition and design a customized treatment plan so you can golf without any discomfort.

5 Reasons to Undergo Surgery at Providence Willamette Falls Hospital

If you’ve been suffering from back pain and believe surgery may be in your future, it’s important to select the very best hospital for your procedure. Providence Willamette Falls Hospital is the fourth and newest hospital in Providence, and an exceptional place to undergo spine surgeries in Oregon and Southeast Washington. Here are five of the many reasons you should consider undergoing surgery at Providence Willamette Falls Hospital:

  1.      Renowned Spine Surgeon, Dr. Timothy Keenen

Board certified and fellowship trained orthopedic spine surgeon, Dr. Timothy Keenen has successfully implemented the first JCAH-certified spine center in Oregon and is pleased to perform surgeries at Providence Willamette Falls Hospital.

He’s conducted thousands of simple to highly complex spine surgeries and taught at Oregon Health Sciences University for 8 years. Dr. Keenen is dedicated to ensuring every patient receives the most effective surgery to achieve optimal pain relief and function.

  1.      Specialization in Minimally Invasive Surgeries

Providence Willamette Falls Hospital is home to many renowned surgeons, such as Dr. Timothy Keenen of Pacific Spine Specialists, who specializes in minimally invasive surgeries. Minimally invasive surgery offers smaller incisions and the ability to leave the strong muscle fibers intact with the spine. Whenever possible, minimally invasive surgeries are recommended because they offer a variety of benefits that cannot be enjoyed with traditional open spine surgeries. Some of these benefits include less post-operative pain, minimal scarring, less soft tissue and muscle damage, and a faster recovery.

Lumbar partial discectomy, IMERGENT minimally invasive TLIF, and lateral lumbar interbody fusion or XLIF are examples of a few of the minimally invasive surgeries performed by Dr. Keenen at Providence Willamette Falls Hospital.

  1.      Surgeries for Various Spinal Conditions

At Providence Willamette Falls Hospital, Dr. Keenen offers a wide array of surgeries to treat various spinal conditions. Some of the most common conditions treated include degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, sciatica, scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, and spinal fractures.

  1.      Individualized Care and Attention

The staff at Providence Willamette Falls Hospital puts a patients care first. Whether you are going in for an outpatient or inpatient procedure, you will feel right at home. From the front desk staff to the nurses and aids, individualized care and attention is what you will receive at Providence Willamette Falls.

  1.      Access to Cutting-Edge Technologies

Spine technology evolves at a rapid pace and allows surgeons to perform safer, quicker, and less costly procedures. If you make the smart decision to undergo spine surgery at Providence Willamette Falls Hospital, you can expect access to the advanced technologies available.

Interested in Surgery at Providence Willamette Falls Hospital? Contact Pacific Spine Specialists

For more information on spine surgeries at Providence Willamette Falls Hospital, we encourage you to contact Pacific Spine Specialists today. We’d be happy to answer your questions and help you schedule the right procedure for your spinal condition.

The Importance of Rehabilitation

A spine surgery is a serious procedure. As you recover from one, it’s crucial for you to educate yourself on how to safely strengthen your spine to prevent future injuries and pain. In order to help you strengthen your spine and keep it in good condition for years to come, your doctor will likely recommend a rehabilitation program that is customized to your unique lifestyle and needs.

In many cases, a physical therapist will closely evaluate your condition and then design a rehabilitation program. They will determine the most optimal way for you to ease your pain and help your spine move properly.

You will find out how to take care of your spine so you can prevent pain and further injury. Your physical therapist may incorporate one or several of the following treatments into your rehabilitation program:

Therapeutic Exercises

These exercises are intended to help you maximize your physical abilities. They focus on stability, coordination, and flexibility.

Home Program

Once your strength starts to return, your pain subsides, and your range of motion improves, a home care program may be recommended. Your physical therapist will provide you with tips and tricks on how to keep working on your strength and motion at home.

Functional Training

Functional training involves exercises that are designed to improve the way you move in everyday life. After getting to know your lifestyle, your physical therapist may suggest functional training exercises that can help you perform certain activities safely and easily.


Proper posture is essential because it keeps your spine safely aligned and reduces the strain on the joints and tissues that surround it. Your physical therapist will teach you how to practice proper posture while you’re sitting, standing, and lifting so you can prevent spine complications in the future.

It’s important to understand that rehabilitating from a spine surgery is different for every patient. If you are recovering from a traditional open spine surgery, your rehabilitation experience and timeline will be different than someone who has undergone a minimally invasive procedure. Regardless of the type of spine surgery you’ve received, rehabilitation plays a vital role in your healing and the outcome of your procedure.

Contact Pacific Spine Specialists

If you’ve recently undergone a spine surgery, you shouldn’t overlook the importance of rehabilitation. The rehabilitation period after your surgery is just as crucial as the surgery itself. Contact Pacific Spine Specialists for more information on how an individualized rehabilitation program can help you.

Signs You May Be Suffering From a Sacroiliac Joint Disorder

The ligaments that connect the right and left bones that make up the pelvis to the sacrum, or triangular shaped part of the lower spine, are known as the sacroiliac joints. Sacroiliac joints differ from the majority of the spine and other joints because they are not intended to be overly mobile.

What Purpose Do The Sacroiliac Joints Serve?

These joints are considered a shock absorber for your spine and stabilize your body as you walk, run, or jump. Surprisingly, the sacroiliac joints move 2 to 4 millimeters at the most. However, each joint features various nerve endings that may cause serious pain if the joint is damaged or no longer able to move properly.

What Causes Sacroiliac Joint Disorders?

Although there are several causes of a sacroiliac joint disorder, the most common ones include arthritis, everyday wear and tear, or injuries which can damage the joints, alter their normal movement, and create chronic or debilitating pain. This joint pain usually feels like low back pain.

Signs You May Be Suffering From a Sacroiliac Joint Disorder

If you’re wondering whether you are suffering from a sacroiliac joint disorder, ask yourself if you feel stiffness in your lower back on either side of your spine where you can find the sacroiliac joints. In the event you do have this condition, you may notice pain that radiates to your hip, groin, abdomen, or leg.

You may also find it painful and challenging to put your shoes on, roll over in bed, or sit in a vehicle for an extended period of time. In addition, your pain may be intense in the morning when you wake up and begin to fade throughout the day.

Treatment for Sacroiliac Joint Disorders

Fortunately, there are many treatment options for this condition. If you are living with a sacroiliac joint disorder, your doctor may prescribe pain medications and encourage you to stop engaging in any activities that cause pain.

Additionally, your provider may recommend physical therapy so that you can improve your strength and become more flexible. Injections to reduce joint inflammation and chiropractic treatments may also help. A nerve treatment that involves using a needle to permanently damage the nerve that sends pain signals from your sacroiliac joint to your brain may be a viable treatment option as well.

Contact Pacific Spine Specialists Today

If you have noticed signs that may indicate you have a sacroiliac joint disorder, it is in your best interest to contact the highly skilled and experienced spine experts at Pacific Spine Specialists today. We’ll evaluate your situation and help you achieve the pain relief you deserve.

New Years Resolution: Ease Spine Pain with Pacific Spine Specialists

If 2018 is the year you have promised yourself you will live ease or eliminate spine pain then look no further than Pacific Spine Specialists. Dr. Timothy Keenen is an expert in the field of spine pain and is committed to helping his patients achieve a life with little to no pain. Through a combination of non-invasive, minimally invasive, and open surgical procedures, Dr. Keenen will assist you in making your New Year’s Resolution a reality.

Before scheduling an appointment with a spine expert, such as Dr. Timothy Keenen, here are a few tips to try at home to minimize your spine pain. If these fail to produce results, it may be time to seek the attention you deserve.

Tips for Living a More Spine Pain Free life in 2018

  • Quit Smoking. If your New Year’s Resolution is to have less spine pain, you should also add “quit smoking” to that list. Research has shown that smokers are more likely to experience back pain than people who don’t smoke. Therefore, it is time to make a conscious health change that is good for your whole body, from your lungs to your spine.
  • Exercise Regularly. There are so many reasons why regular exercise is good for your health. However, when it comes to spine pain, exercise  can help you strengthen and lengthen the muscles that support your spine, lessening pain. We recommend exercising at least a few times a week. Ideas of exercises that are effective but easy on the spine include fast walking, cycling, swimming, and elliptical training.
  • Adjust daily activities. If a daily chore or activity causes you pain, try modifying this activity to find a more comfortable position. For example,  when you are cleaning your home, stand upright and move with the vacuum instead of leaning over.  Also, when driving,  adjust the height of your seat so that your knees are slightly bent and your spine is supported by the back of the seat. Slight modifications such as these may make all the difference in your spine pain.
  • Watch Your Back. If you use a backpack on a regular basis or frequently carry heavy items on your back (think piggyback rides with the kids), spine pain may be a result. Try replacing your backpack with a shoulder bag, or if a backpack is a necessity, opt for one  that features wide, padded straps as well as compartments of various sizes that can help evenly distribute weight

Learn More About Living Spine Pain Free in 2018

If the tips above fail to produce results, schedule an appointment with Pacific Spine Specialists today. Dr. Keenen will have you living spine pain free in no time.