Spine Surgery News

How Does Bone Density Influence Your Spine Health?

bone density and spine health

Each year, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures worldwide. Due to lower bone density, the disease affects an estimated 200 million women, many of which are also diagnosed with spine conditions. On the flip side, many patients first diagnosed with a spine condition are later found to also suffer from low bone density. The connection between the two is undeniable. But, to what extent does bone density influence your spine health?

Bone Density and Spine Health

Osteoporosis by itself does not cause pain and many people will not know they have it until after it has progressed to a point that has severely weakened the vertebrae.
In some cases, as the density of the spinal vertebrae decreases, they may lose their normal height.

When this loss occurs, the front part of the vertebrae may take on a more wedged type of configuration, causing forward-leaning posture and increased curvature of the spine (kyphosis) that will sometimes cause back pain.

Whether the posture is affected or not, the primary risk of osteoporosis is a spinal fracture. When this happens, there is often sudden onset of sharp pain at the fracture site. Mild trauma, such as light lifting or even a heavy sneeze may be enough to fracture the weakened vertebrae.

Bone Density Test

The only test that can diagnose osteoporosis before a broken bone occurs is a bone density test. It will indicate if you have normal bone density, low bone density (osteopenia) or osteoporosis. It can also help you and your doctor:

  • Predict your likelihood of breaking a bone in the future
  • Determine if your bone density is improving, worsening and remaining the same
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of osteoporosis medication
  • Identify osteoporosis after you have broken a bone

The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends a bone density test for the following  individuals:

  • Women age 65 or older
  • Men age 70 or older
  • Anyone who breaks a bone after age 50
  • Women of menopausal age with risk factors
  • Postmenopausal women under age 65 with risk factors
  • Men age 50-69 with risk factors

It may also be recommended if an X-ray of your spine shows a break or bone loss, you suffer back pain with a possible break in your spine, you have lost half an inch or more within 12 months or you’ve lost one-and-a-half inches in total from your original height.

If you are looking for how bone density affects spine health, you should start by analyzing the effect on the backbone. It is very much known that due to a lack of bone density, bone loss is more prone to happen. Due to bone loss, there are chances one

A bone density test of the spine is performed using a central dual-energy X-ray (DXA) machine. If the spine cannot be tested, a central DXA test can be performed on the radius bone in the forearm. When a central DXA test is not available, other peripheral screening tests can help identify those who may benefit from further bone density testings. These can measure bone density in other areas of the body such as the lower arm, wrist, finger or heel.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The reason why bone density testing is often performed on the spine and hip is that evidence of low bone density or osteoporosis in these areas are often indicative of overall bone health throughout the body.

The results of a bone density test are called your T-score, which measures your bone density in relation to that of a healthy 30-year-old adult.

If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis that has resulted in a spinal fracture or chronic back pain, call (503) 885-9391 to schedule an evaluation with Dr. Timothy Keenen. Spine conditions and injuries including those caused by osteoporosis can significantly impede daily living. Serving the greater Portland area, the team at Pacific Spine Specialists can help you return to doing what you love with the ones you love.

5 Signs of Serious Back Problems

serious back problems

The most widely shared statistic regarding back pain is that an estimated 80% of adults will experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes. But, considering this accounts for a broad range of time, let’s put it in a different context.

Another survey shows that more than 1 in 4 adults has reported experiencing low back pain during the past 3 months. Due to its prevalence and the wide range of severity, many sufferers often attribute their back pain to normal aches or a normal part of aging and don’t consult a physician until the pain becomes debilitating. Before you write off your back pain as “normal,” here are five signs of serious back problems you should never ignore.

1. Continuous pain

Continuous pain in your back that interferes with daily activities including work and sleep, should never be ignored. When this pain doesn’t go away on its own or start to subside after a week of home treatment, get checked out by a medical professional. Don’t ignore pain that radiates beyond your back, such as pain that shoots down your leg.

2. Fever or other signs of infection

When your back pain is accompanied by a fever or other signs of infection, such as a headache or chills, it’s more than just a backache or a muscle strain. Left untreated, infections can worsen quickly and even become life-threatening if infection enters your bloodstream.

3. Unexplained weight loss

Losing weight without trying while you’re experiencing back pain is a sign that can signal a serious condition, especially if you also have pain in the abdomen. You should seek prompt medical attention if you have this combination of symptoms to rule out dangerous disease. If your back and abdominal pain is also accompanied by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or fever, you should seek emergency medical care.

4. Weakness, numbness or tingling

Back discomfort accompanied by weakness, numbness or tingling in your arms or legs signifies a medical condition that should be evaluated by a doctor. These signs often indicate a pinched or damaged nerve.

5. Problems with urination or bowel movements

When you’re having problems with bowel movements or urination at the same time as back pain, discuss your symptoms with a medical professional. This includes any pain when using the restroom or changes in frequency. Bowel obstructions, bladder infections, and kidney stones, infections or disease, are some of the conditions that commonly cause low back pain.

Getting Help for Serious Back Problems

Pain is your body’s way of getting your attention, so it’s important to listen to what your body is telling you. What you assume to be minor back pain can be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition.

If remedies such as ice and rest don’t bring relief for your back pain and inflammation, consulting a specialist can help identify the source and the best way to treat it. Only with an accurate diagnosis can a treatment plan be put in place to get you on the road to better health.

Dr. Timothy Keenen of Pacific Spine Specialists is one of the leading spine surgeons in the region and specializes in state-of-the-art procedures using leading-edge technology. His philosophy is to offer each patient the right surgery for the right reason at the right time. If surgery is not indicated, the team at Pacific Spine Specialists will facilitate your referral to expert non-surgical providers to manage your spine condition. To schedule an appointment, call (503) 885-9391 or complete our new patient self-referral form and our new patient coordinator will contact you to discuss your symptoms.

Tips to Prevent Osteoporosis

tennis to prevent osteoporosis

An estimated 54 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass. Osteoporosis, which means “porous bones,” refers to a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, doesn’t make enough bone, or both.

Peak bone mass is typically reached between ages 25 and 30. Whether we reach our full bone mass potential is largely determined by genetics and lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise. Most people will begin to lose bone mass beginning around the age of 40, however, there are some tips that can help slow or prevent osteoporosis.

Lifestyle factors in your life decide how much you could be at risk of osteoporosis. However, genetics plays a dominant role in determining whether you are more prone to osteoporosis or not. The lifestyle factors include the diet, health conditions and physical activities which are going to affect your bone health and development. The lack of nutrients also leads to serious damage to bones from your body.

Here are tips which help you to prevent osteoporosis.

1. Healthy Eating Habits

One of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis is to focus on healthy eating habits and proper nutrition. Most of the stagnant bone development and malnutrition comes from the fact that people are not aware of the nutrients that bones need. Here are some changes you can implement into your daily diet:

  • Drink milk: It’s no secret that milk is an excellent source of calcium–an essential mineral for bone health. You don’t have to consume whole milk to reap the benefits, low-fat and skim milk can also help. You should also mix in milk products like non-fat yogurt and cheese to your diet. Many milk products also contain vitamin D which helps the absorption of calcium in the body.
  • Eat green vegetables: It is recommended to consume three servings of vegetables of each day. At least one of these servings should include raw, leafy vegetables like spinach or kale. These vitamin-rich green leafy vegetables are packed with potassium and vitamin K which contribute to bone health. For this type of vegetable, one serving is considered 1 cup.
  • Avoid too much protein: There’s a lot of misconception about how much protein we actually need to consume. Excessive protein intake either through foods or supplements can increase the excretion of calcium in your body which can be harmful to your bones. When it comes to meat, the most popular source of protein, one serving size is only considered 2 to 3 ounces.
  • Don’t pick out the onions:  Women have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis, especially those over the age of 50. This is likely due to the tendency for women to have smaller, thinner bones compared to men and the decrease in estrogen that occurs with menopause. A recent study revealed that women who ate onions daily had 5% more bone mass than those who ate them once a month or less.
  • Consider soy products: An alternative source of protein, soy contains a high amount of calcium and plant estrogens which helps to maintain your bone density. You can incorporate soy flour in recipes you already make or consider giving tofu a try.

2. Lifestyle Changes

While you cannot alter your genetics, you can make simple lifestyle changes to help prevent or slow the development of osteoporosis.

  • Quit smoking: Smokers tend to be having 10% lower bone densities than non-smokers. It also increases the chances of hip fractures in cases of osteoporosis. Not to mention the other adverse effects that tobacco products can have on your body.
  • Prioritize your mental health: Depression and other mental health disorders can affect your body in many ways and manifest into physical symptoms. For example, depression triggers the creation of cortisol, a stress-related hormone that takes away minerals from the bones.
  • Limit alcohol consumption: Alcohol prevents the absorption of calcium into your body and intoxication increases your risk of slips, trips and falls. If your bone health is already compromised, even a minor misstep can lead to bone fracture. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an adult beverage on occasion, but you should definitely limit your alcohol consumption to protect your bone health.
  • Get moving: This may involve beginning to exercise regularly or changing up your current routine to include activities that improve your posture and flexibility. Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, hiking or playing tennis, force you to work against gravity and promote bone health. Resistance exercises like lifting weights can help strengthen bones. Regardless of how you decide to do it, the important thing is that you get moving for at least 30 minutes each day.
  • Taking vitamins and supplements: There are a lot of vitamins and supplements that can help maintain the nutrient levels in your body, but before taking them you should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional who can test for deficiencies and evaluate your bone density. For most, 1,000 mg of elemental calcium is recommended on a daily basis to prevent osteoporosis.

3. Annual Wellness Exam

It’s just as important to visit the doctor when you are well as it is when you are sick or experience an injury. Annual wellness exams, or physicals, can help establish a baseline for comparison and make it easier to identify changes or trends. Over time, it also helps you build a relationship with your doctor which leads to more personalized care and a positive patient experience. If you are concerned about your risks of developing osteoporosis, a doctor can perform several tests to identify any current bone problems or signs that may indicate future development.

When to Seek Help

Unfortunately, there is a limited timeframe that we can influence the development of peak bone mass. The best time to build bone density is during periods of rapid growth such as childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. But, old bones are constantly being broken down and replaced by new ones so it’s never too late to learn about how to protect bone structure and strength to prevent osteoporosis.

When diagnosed early, osteoporosis often responds well to treatment. Treatment may involve implementing the tips outlined above, but may also include treatment for fractures that may have resulted and medications to slow bone loss or increase bone production.

If you or a loved one is currently suffering from osteoporosis, call (503) 885-9391 to schedule an appointment with Pacific Spine Specialists. Dr. Timothy Keenen is a board-certified and fellowship trained orthopedic spine surgeon with nearly 40 years of extensive experience in treating a wide variety of spinal conditions including osteoporosis.

Does Cold Weather Cause Back Pain?

Whether a cold front or rainstorm, have you ever felt like you could predict the weather based on how much your back or joints ache? While there is minimal evidence to support a correlation between weather and back pain, it’s hard to believe their connection is merely a coincidence.

Fortunately for those with chronic back pain or a back injury, Portland winters are relatively mild compared to other parts of the country–with an average of only three inches of snow per year. However, its annual rainfall does exceed the national average.

The often dark and damp climate has the potential to exasperate back pain (and joint pain) especially for those with conditions such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. If you’ve ever wondered why your pain seems to be affected by the season, here are a few possible explanations:

  1. Barometric Pressure: There have been no scientific studies to prove a connection, but the anecdotal experience is far too widespread to ignore it. The most popular hypothesis regarding barometric pressure and back pain is that when the barometric pressure drops prior to a storm or when there is a drastic change in temperature, there is less gravity to prevent further swelling in joints. When your joints are already inflamed from an existing condition, previous surgery or injury, the swelling is compounded and results in increased pain.
  2. Vasoconstriction: When exposed to cold temperatures, the blood vessels in your extremities narrow to deliver extra blood to more vital areas such as your brain, heart, lungs and bowels–a process called vasoconstriction. This results in the tightening of your muscles, tendons and ligaments, which are all vital to supporting your spine. As these become stiff, it places extra strain on the back that may result in pain or discomfort.
  3. Lack of physical activity: Colder weather, frequent rain and shorter days may deter even those with the best intentions from getting enough physical activity on a regular basis. It may seem counterproductive, but outdoor activity and exercise actually help joint and back pain. Your muscles need continued exercise in order to fulfill their vital role of supporting the spine. Without it, you become more susceptible to injury. If the weather conditions aren’t ideal, find a way to stay active indoors.
  4. Abnormal physical activity: In the winter, you may find yourself doing back-intensive activities that you otherwise don’t perform or participate in during other times of the year such as raking leaves, chopping wood or learning to ski on vacation. When your back isn’t conditioned or strong enough to handle these activities, your risk of experiencing back pain increases. In 2017, more than 220,000 people were treated at hospitals, doctors’ offices and emergency rooms for injuries related to winter sports.
  5. Mind-body connection: Winter weather and less sunlight can take their toll both mentally and physically. The short dark days may increase your risk of experiencing the winter blues or developing seasonal affective disorder. There is a mind-body connection that can result in the physical manifestation of mental health symptoms. Seasonal depression can cause back pain, fatigue, increased perception of pain and decreased interest in daily physical activity.

Back pain doesn’t have to force you into hibernation this winter. Dress in layers to help keep your muscles warm especially when you’re outside. Swimming in an indoor heated pool, indoor aerobic exercise and walking are great activities you can do any time of year to improve back health. Whatever activity you choose, be sure to wear proper footwear. This can help reduce your risk of slips and falls–accidents that have the potential to result in a herniated disc or fractured vertebrae.

Contact Pacific Spine Specialists

If your back pain becomes more than you can manage on your own, call Pacific Spine Specialists at (503) 885-9391 or complete our new patient self-referral form. Our new patient coordinator will contact you to discuss your symptoms and schedule a consultation with Dr. Timothy Keenen–one of the region’s top orthopedic spine surgeons.

Dr. Keenen will evaluate the source of your spinal symptoms at our Oregon spine center through a carefully considered combination of history and physical examination combined with the appropriate diagnostic spine testing, and make recommendations about the best course of treatment so that you can get back to living the life you love with the ones you love.

How to Safely Use Back and Neck Pain Medication

As a nonsurgical treatment method or to help you manage pain following spine surgery, your doctor may prescribe pain medication. It is important to understand how to properly use these medications, as they can be the key to successfully recovering from spine conditions and spine surgery. Here are some helpful tips for how to safely use back and neck pain medication:

  1. Make a list of all current medications: Whether you suffer from chronic back pain or not, you should always be prepared to tell a medical professional about any medications you are currently taking. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbs and supplements. This list should include not only the names but also the frequency and dosage. If you find it easier, bring them with you to your next appointment. Additionally, if you have a past history of substance abuse, you should disclose that your provider as well. 
  2. Find a trusted pharmacist: Pharmacists continue to be ranked among the most honest and ethical professionals in the United States, but with the decrease of locally owned pharmacy, how well do you really know the person dispensing your medication? Your pharmacist is a key member of your healthcare team and by building a relationship, he or she can help identify possible risks as your drug regimen changes and protect against adverse drug interactions.
  3. Disclose allergies: Along with disclosing any medications you are currently taking, make sure your doctor and pharmacist are aware of any medications you are allergic to or that have caused an adverse reaction.
  4. Speak up: Can’t understand your doctor’s handwriting? Unsure about refills? Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification about anything that is unclear. Your doctor and pharmacist should be able to answer the following questions in plain language about your back and neck pain medications:
    • What is this medicine for?
    • Where and how should I store the drug?
    • How should I take the medicine and for how long?
    • What are the possible side effects? Are there any side effects I should contact a doctor about right away?
    • Is this medicine safe to take with the other medications, vitamins and/or supplements that I currently take?
    • Are there any foods, drinks or activities I should avoid while taking this medicine? Many back and neck pain medications may cause drowsiness and when taken, you should not drive or operate machinery. This may mean limiting medication use to before you would normally go to sleep or making sure you have someone who can drive you if necessary.
  5. Follow directions: Back and neck pain medications are can have significant side effects, particularly when directions are not followed carefully. Taking too much, crushing or breaking pills or taking them along with a medication or supplement you did not disclose to your doctor can alter the rate at which the medication is absorbed and lead to overdose or death.

When to contact a physician

Spine pain is one of the top five disabling conditions in the United States. When managed by a licensed medical professional and taken according to instructions, prescription pain medications can be an effective tool for managing back and neck pain.

To learn more about other treatment options including minimally invasive surgery, call Pacific Spine Specialists at 503.885.9391 to schedule an appointment today.

5 Ways to Improve Your Spinal Alignment

spinal alignment

If you are suffering from chronic back pain or recovering from a back injury, improving your posture and spinal alignment are great ways to get relief and prevent further damage. Improving your spinal alignment can yield positive benefits on your joints, muscles and nerves throughout your entire body, not just your back.

What is ideal spinal alignment?

Alignment refers to the way your bones fit in relation to one another and to the whole body. Spine experts judge alignment relative to a vertical line that runs through your center. Ideal alignment occurs at the joints when two bones meet at their centers resulting in the least amount of musculoskeletal strain.

How to improve your spinal alignment

The best way to improve your spinal alignment depends on your individual needs and lifestyle. Here are some great options to consider:

  1. Stretch it out: Make stretching a consistent part of your daily routine. This can be as simple as taking a break to stretch at your desk during the work day or signing up for a yoga class. Yoga can not only help with spine alignment and posture, but it can also help improve your mobility and decrease back pain. It also has mental health benefits to reduce stress. Keep in mind, as with any workout, you should always consult your physician prior to starting anything new.
  2. Get moving: Regular, low-impact exercise is one of the most effective ways to prevent and reduce back pain. Low-impact aerobic exercise helps develop strong abdominal muscles by teaching you proper spinal alignment. The most commonly recommended types of exercise for those who suffer from back pain include swimming, walking, cycling, and using an elliptical exerciser or ski machine.
  3. Go shoe shopping: The shoes you wear have a significant impact on your spinal alignment. It’s important to choose the right shoes for both your feet and your back. High heels result in a more unstable posture and wearing them should be limited. Flip flops or flat-style shoes like ballet flats can be just as bad for your back because they offer little to no support and can cause stress and strain on your joints and tendons. If you need help selecting what’s best, consult a podiatrist.
  4. Evaluate your workspace: Whether you have an office job where you sit for long periods of time throughout the day or spend the majority of the day working on your feet, make sure your work area is optimized for you. Depending on the nature of your work, you may want to invest in an ergonomic desk chair, padded floor mat or a stand to bring your computer to eye-level height.
  5. Catch some Zzz’s: The average person spends one-third of their life sleeping. Your pillow, mattress and sleeping position can all impact your spinal alignment. Whether you prefer to sleep on your side, back or stomach, make sure you choose the right pillow to help maintain the natural curvature of the spine while you sleep. This may mean placing an extra pillow between your legs or under the small of your back. If you’re in the market for a new mattress, you may find this how-to video helpful.

When to contact a physician

In some cases, a condition or back injury may prevent you from being able to correct your spinal alignment on your own. The experts at Pacific Spine Specialists will conduct a complete, mindful assessment to identify the source of your spinal symptoms and recommend the best course of action for treatment. Call 503.885.9391 to schedule an appointment today.

How to Use the Pain Scale to Best Explain Your Back Pain

Back pain

Pain can be a tough thing to explain because everyone’s tolerance is different. What you may be debilitating back pain to you might be manageable to someone else. But, the universal pain scale is the best way to explain your back pain in order to help your physician understand and diagnose its source.

What is the pain scale?

The pain scale measures discomfort on a range from 1 to 10. It is commonly used by healthcare professionals to determine if pain interferes with a patients daily life, and if so, to what extent. A zero equates to being completely pain-free, whereas a 10 is inconceivably painful.

How the pain scale works

The pain scale isn’t an exact science because it is highly subject, but it still remains one of the best ways to help your doctor understand how you are feeling. Understanding how the pain scale works can help you more accurately explain your back pain.

0- No pain at all; You can function completely without any pain or discomfort.

1- Pain is present, but you only really notice when you stop to think about it.

2- Pain is annoying; You may experience stronger, occasional twinges, but you’re able to tolerate it. It’s not enough to slow you down.

3- Pain is distracting; You can still work around it, but you may try to find relief by changing your routine or behavior.

4- Pain is moderate; It can still be ignored for a short time period but eventually builds to a point that you are unable to focus on anything else.

5- Pain is moderately strong; With some effort, you can still manage through it, but this pain can’t be ignored for more than a few minutes.

6- Pain is interfering; This level of pain requires so much concentration and energy to work through that you are unable to concentrate on anything else. It takes up enough space in your thoughts that normal daily activities are not possible.

7- Pain is dominating; The pain has taken complete control of your senses and significantly hinders your ability to perform normal daily activities such as sleeping or maintaining social relationships.

8- Pain is intense; Its intensity often causes you to catch your breath, stop conversations and change your breathing patterns.

9- Pain is excruciating; Not only are you unable to carry out a conversation, but you may also find yourself uncontrollably moaning or crying out unexpectedly as a result of the pain.

10- Pain is unspeakable; This level of pain is rare but certainly possible. It can lead to delirium and unconsciousness.

pain scale to explain your back pain

Using the pain scale to explain your back pain

If you are suffering from a back injury or condition, the location of your pain is equally as important as where it falls on the pain scale. The more information you can provide your doctor to describe the pain, the better. Other questions you should be prepared to answer include:

  • How long have you had this pain?
  • How frequently does it occur?
  • How long does the pain last?
  • Have you noticed anything in particular that worsens or lessens your pain?
  • Is your pain limited to a specific area of your back or does it extend to other parts of your body?

It’s also important to understand that there is more than one type of pain. You may experience one or more of the following types:

  • Sharp stabbing pain
  • Extreme heat or burning sensation
  • Extreme cold
  • Throbbing, swelling, or inflammation
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Itching
  • Numbness, tingling or pins and needles

It can be helpful to keep a daily log of this information and bring it with you to your appointment with a spine specialist. Doing so will decrease the likelihood that you’ll forget something important and help you get the most out of your appointment.

Contact Pacific Spine Specialists

Our goal at Pacific Spine Specialists is to understand the source of your back pain so that you can resume doing what you love with the ones you love. Dr. Keenen has more than 20 years of experience performing the most technically advanced spine surgeries resulting in faster recovery times. Now that you understand how to effectively use the pain scale to best explain your back pain, call our new patient coordinator at 503-885-9391 to discuss your symptoms and schedule an appointment today.

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.