Spine Surgery News

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.

What You Need to Know About Spine Disease

When you think of the word disease, you often think of a life hindering aliment. While spine disease can often lead to pain and mobility issues which make everyday tasks more difficult, the good news is that with the help of an expert, even with a spine disease you may be able to live your life with less pain or possibly pain-free. Therefore, if you are experiencing spine pain, do not hesitate to visit a spine expert who can conduct a physical exam and use imaging tests such as x-rays, MRIs, and CT-scans to determine whether you have a spine disease.

Most Common Types of Spine Disease

In order to better understand spine disease, it is important to first look at the different types. The type of spine disease your provider  diagnoses you with will dictate the type of treatment necessary to relieve your symptoms. The most common spine diseases that we treat at Pacific Spine Specialists include the following:

Herniated Disc

Also referred to as a ruptured disc, this type of injury occurs when the inner core of your spinal disc pushes through the outer layer of your disc. A herniated disc often causes a sharp pain in the spine which radiates down through the leg. In many cases, repetitive motion injuries, also known as wear and tear can result in herniated discs.


Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a term used to describe the narrowing of the spinal canal, which may put pressure on the nerves that travel through your spine. Spinal stenosis is usually found in the neck and lower back. Symptoms of spinal stenosis include pain, weakness, and numbness that worsen over time.



Spondylolisthesis occurs when one of the lower bones that makes up the spinal column slips forward to rest on the bone that is directly underneath. Spondylolisthesis spine disease to when mild can often cause little to  no symptoms, but if your case of this spine disease  is more severe, you may experience lower spine pain, back and leg stiffness, and thigh pain.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is caused by the deterioration of spinal discs due to age or injury.

As you age, your discs may lose their elasticity and flexibility, leading to degenerative disc disease. There are many symptoms of degenerative disc disease, such as pain that worsens when sitting, bending, lifting or twisting, pain that hurts the low back, buttocks, and thighs, periods of severe pain that come and go and numbness and tingling in the extremities.

Spinal Fracture

In a majority of cases, a spinal fracture occurs as a result of trauma to the spine. Examples of traumatic injuries that may cause spinal fractures include sports injuries, falls, or car accidents. The location of the fracture will determine where you may experience symptoms such as severe pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling, and paralysis.

Treatment of Spine Disease

When determining  the most effective course of treatment for your spine disease, you first must be diagnosed by a spine expert. Your spine expert will use your diagnosis to develop a treatment plan that offers the highest chance of pain relief and recovery. In many instances, conservative measures such as rest, cold and hot therapy, medications, and physical therapy may be recommended first and foremost to relieve symptoms. In cases where conservative measures fail to produce results, surgery may be recommended.

Learn More

If you believe you may be suffering from one of the spine diseases above, we invite you to explore Pacific Spine Specialists. Dr. Keenen and our team of experts would welcome the opportunity to learn more about your condition, provide education, and ultimately provide relief. Contact us today to get started.

Questions to Ask Before Your Spine Surgery

If conservative treatments such as medications and physical therapy have not helped ease  your back pain, spine surgery may be the next appropriate step.  In the event your spine surgeon does suggest spine surgery, there are several questions you should ask to help ensure that you are informed and comfortable with proceeding. These questions will help you understand what to expect and ensure you are well-prepared if you do choose to undergo the surgery.

Questions to Ask Prior to Spine Surgery Include:

  1.    What is the purpose of this surgical procedure?

Your surgeon should thoroughly explain how the recommended surgical procedure will work to eliminate or improve your condition. This way you’ll gain an understanding of its purpose and can determine if it is the right decision for you.

  1.    What are the risks of this surgery?

As with all surgeries, spine surgeries come with associated risks. Even if the surgery your surgeon recommends is minimally invasive, you should find out what the risks are and how likely they are to occur.

  1.    How many times have you performed this type of surgery?

If you decide to proceed with the surgery, you should learn about your surgeon’s experience in performing the procedure. By doing so, you can ease your concerns and feel more confident in your surgeon and  surgery.

  1.    What is the success rate for this surgical procedure?

Ask your surgeon what the success rate is for the surgical procedure he is recommending for you. Understanding the likelihood of the surgery improving your back pain will make it easier for you to make an informed decision.

  1.    What is the recovery process like?

Finding out about the recovery process is just as important as finding out about the surgical procedure itself. Your surgeon should explain how long your recovery will take, whether you’ll be able to recover at home, and what limitations you may face during the healing process. They will discuss  whether you’ll need to take time off from work or the need physical therapy or another type of rehabilitation service.

  1.    How can I pay for this surgery?

Prior to committing to spine surgery, you should determine if your insurance policy will cover the procedure. By knowing whether you’ll be responsible for any of the costs, you can be prepared financially and avoid surprise bills.

Contact Pacific Spine Specialists Today

If you’ve been living with back pain and conservative treatments have not provided you with the relief you deserve, spine surgery may be the next step. Contact Pacific Spine Specialists today to schedule an appointment and find out if spine surgery is a viable option for you.

Signs You May Be Suffering From Spine Arthritis

If you have been experiencing spine pain or stiffness, you may be suffering from arthritis of the spine. Also known as osteoarthritis, spine arthritis can cause both physiological and psychological problems when left untreated. For this reason, if you suspect you may be living with arthritis of the spine, contact a spine expert, such as Dr. Timothy Keenen of Pacific Spine Specialists, today for evaluation.

What is Spine Arthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition of the spine. It commonly causes inflammation, swelling, and stiffness in the facet joints of the spine. Facet joints are important because they allow the vertebrae of the spine to move freely. Therefore, spine arthritis has been known to limit mobility in the spine.

Signs You May Be Suffering From Spine Arthritis

If you are experiencing pain or stiffness in the lower back that is worst upon waking, tends to ease with activity, then worsens toward the end of the day, you may be suffering from arthritis of the spine. Pain that presents in this manner is generally caused by fluid that has built up in the joint due to inactivity overnight. However, any of the symptoms below may be an indication that you have arthritis of the spine:

  • Stiffness of the spine, specifically in the morning or after performing physical activity
  • Pain in the spine and back that comes and goes
  • Abnormal curvature of the spine or a spinal deformity
  • Lower back pain that radiates into the thighs, buttocks, or pelvic region
  • Lower back weakness or numbness
  • Neck pain,tenderness, or numbness
  • Pain or tenderness in other body parts, such as hips, knees, heels, or shoulders
  • Pain or tenderness at the joint in the spine
  • With movement, the sound of bone rubbing on bone can be heard (or a crunching feeling felt)
  • Limited range of motion
  • Difficulty bending or walking
  • Swelling and/or warmth in surrounding joints
  • An aching pain in a surrounding joint

Spine arthritis can present itself different in everyone, so in order to confirm your suspicions, it is important to visit a spine specialist for diagnosis.

Contact Pacific Spine Specialists for Spine Pain

Dr. Timonthy Keenen of Pacific Spine Specialists in an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis of the spine. Dr. Keenen is an advocate for noninvasive and minimally invasive treatments and prefers to treat arthritis of the spine without surgical intervention when possible. To learn more about Dr. Keenen’s treatment methods, or to schedule an appointment with Pacific Spine Specialists, contact us today.

Spine Anatomy: The Basics

Are you suffering from a condition causing back or spine pain? If so, let’s take a minute to discuss spine anatomy. In order to fully understand the cause of your back pain and the right approach for treatment, it’s important to understand the anatomy of your spine. Let’s start with the basics. Your spine is the structure that allows you to stand up, move, bend, and twist. It also protects your spinal cord which connects your brain to your nervous system.

Spine Anatomy: Five Regions of the Spine

Your spine has 33 bones or vertebrae that are stacked on top of one another and divided into five regions. Vertebrae come in all sizes and provide support to your body. The five regions of the spine include:


spine anatomy

  • Cervical Spine. The cervical spine is another name for your neck and features seven vertebrae that run from the stem of your brain down your neck. It is considered the most mobile section of the spine.


  • Thoracic Spine. On the thoracic spine, you’ll find 12 vertebrae on your upper and middle back. The range of motion in the thoracic spine is limited.


  • Lumbar Spine. The lumbar spine has five vertebrae and begins below your shoulder and goes down to your abdomen. Since these vertebrae are larger, they are able to handle the stress of carrying heavy objects and lifting.


  • Sacral Spine. On the sacral spine, there are five fused vertebrae that form the sacrum. This region starts in your lower back, extends to your tailbone and connects your spine to your hip bones.


  • Coccygeal Spine. The coccygeal spine contains four fused vertebrae referred to as the coccyx. It is located at the bottom of your spine and provides attachment for the ligaments and muscles of the pelvic floor.

Why an “S” Curve?

When you look at a normal spine from the side, you’ll notice a curve that is in the shape of an S. The S curve allows a healthy spine to withstand all types of stress. While the cervical spine curves inward, the thoracic spine curves outward, and the lumbar spine curves inward. Each region of the spine depends on the strength of the others to function at its optimal level.

Since we rely on our spine to move, daily life can be very difficult when it causes pain. At Pacific Spine, we see patients that are living with back pain for a number of different reasons. In most cases, back pain is caused by muscular problems, degenerated discs, tumors, infections, sciatica, scoliosis, or osteoarthritis.

Contact Pacific Spine Specialists 

If you would like further information on spine anatomy or are living with back pain and would like to find relief, contact Pacific Spine today at 503-885-9391 to schedule an appointment.

All About Spine Bone Spurs

If you are experiencing a dull pain in your neck or back, spine bone spurs may be to blame. Known medically as osteophytes, the term “bone spur” is actually rather misleading since bone spurs are in fact smooth in nature. A spine bone spur is an enlargement of the normal bony structure in the spine and quite common in adults over the age of 60, thanks to spinal degeneration.

Symptoms of Spine Bone Spurs

Since spine bone spurs are usually a result of aging, at times a person may have no symptoms at all. In other cases, one or more of the symptoms below may be present:

  • Back pain or neck pain, specifically when walking or standing
  • Pain that radiates into the shoulders
  • Pain that radiates into the buttocks and thighs
  • Pain that worsens with activity and often improves with rest
  • Symptoms improve while bending forward and flexing at the waist, such as while pushing a walker

It is important to note that the symptoms above could be an indication of many different medical, spine, or back conditions. Therefore, it is recommended to schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable spine expert for a proper diagnosis.

Risk Factors for Bone Spurs

In most instances, since a spine bone spur is a natural part of aging, there is little that can be done to prevent them from occurring. However, the following risk factors may increase an individual’s chance for developing a bone spur:

  • Genetics
  • Nutrition and lifestyle
  • Injury, such as a sports or automobile accident

Maintaining good posture and staying active may help to reduce your chances for developing a spine bone spur later in life.

Treatment Options for Spine Bone Spurs

Bone Spurs can typically be treated without the need for surgical intervention. Non-surgical treatments for bone spurs include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Cortisone epidural steroid injections
  • Rest
  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Chiropractic adjustments

If surgery is warranted, a procedure such as a laminectomy may be performed to relieve the pain and neurological symptoms caused by the spur. Although surgery is rarely the first line of treatment, in many cases patients who undergo surgery for spine bone spurs experience wonderful results and relief for many years following.

Learn More About Bone Spur Treatment at Pacific Spine Specialists

At Pacific Spine Specialists, our spine expert, Dr. Timothy Keenen, is a master at diagnosing and treating bone spurs. Therefore, if you are experiencing spine pain and fear a bone spur is to blame, we invite you to schedule an appointment with our office today. Call to take advantage of our free MRI review. Your spine will thank you.

Obesity and Back Pain

Obesity and Back PainIf you are overweight and experiencing back pain, there may be a simple reason: your weight. When it comes to obesity and back pain, the two go hand in hand. Studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between those who have been classified as obese and an increase in back and joint pain. Therefore, if you are suffering from back pain, it may be time to shed unwanted pounds prior to undergoing treatment. Not only can extra weight exacerbate back pain, you may not be a candidate for surgery unless you lose some weight prior.

Why Do I Need To Lose Weight Prior to Surgery?

When it comes to major surgery, it is important to go in to the procedure as healthy as possible. Below are reasons why a surgeon may suggest weight loss prior to back surgery:

  • Added weight may be a hindrance to recovery
  • Anesthesia use may be more dangerous
  • Extra weight can cause breathing issues or heart problems, both of which can make surgery riskier

Even if you are undergoing a minimally invasive procedure, ultimately, the healthier you are, the faster and easier you recover. Additionally, undergoing weight loss may result in the disappearance of pain all on its own without intervention.


How are Obesity and Back Pain Related?

Obesity and back pain are related for many reasons. It is no secret that extra weight can put a strain on your back and joints, specifically your intervertebral discs. For patients who have curvature of the spine, or scoliosis, extra pounds could make the curvature even more pronounced– and painful.  Furthermore, the risk of injuring your back increases due to the strain placed on it by the added weight.

Tips for Losing Unwanted Weight Prior to Back Pain Treatment

For patients who are obese, it may be difficult to exercise for many reasons, such as fatigue and shortness of breath, not to mention the lingering back pain. However, exercise is an important part of spine and back health, as well as crucial for losing weight. The very best way to protect your back, joints and muscles is by exercising regularly. Therefore, it you are overweight and ready to start an exercise regimen prior to back surgery, here are a few low impact exercises to try that are easy on the back but effective for weight loss:

  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Yoga
  • Dancing

Prior to beginning an exercise program, we suggest you get approval from your spine surgeon or doctor. Your provider can help you devise a plan to protect your back and ease into exercise.

Learn More

If you have been living with  back pain, it may be time to seek help. Contact Pacific Spine Specialists today for a free review of your MRI results.  We can determine if your condition may require surgery or not.  If surgery isn’t the best option for you, we can help by referring you to a non-surgical provider.   

Fall Activities That Can Increase Back Pain

Now that the fall season is in full swing, you are likely spending your days participating in a wide variety of fall activities. Although you may not be thinking about your back while engaging in them, you may notice an increase in back pain after the fact. Let’s take a closer look at some fall activities that can increase back pain.

4 Fall Activities That Can Increase Back Pain:

  1. Hiking

One of the best ways to enjoy the brisk fall weather and colorful leaves is to go for a hike. If you are going for a hike this fall, you should warm-up and stretch in advance. Your backpack should also be light and feature two thick shoulder straps that you wear at all times. In the event you struggle with posture, you may want to bring hiking poles with you as they can help you maintain good posture throughout the entire hike.

  1. Pumpkin and Apple PickingFall Activities That Can Increase Back Pain

Two of the most festive fall activities include pumpkin and apple picking. There is no better way to spend a fall day than out in the orchard or in the pumpkin patch with family and friends. Prior to participating in one or both of these activities, you should be mindful of your back. When lifting a pumpkin, bend your knees, keep your back straight, and refrain from twisting your body while the pumpkin is in your hand. Lastly, make it a priority stretch before you haul a pumpkin or pick apples as stretching will increase your flexibility and decrease your risk of back injury.

  1. Yard Work

On the top of the list of fall activities that can increase back pain is yard work, such as raking leaves. Raking leaves is a time-consuming, strenuous task that requires you to bend over and place a great deal of stress on your back. In order to get leaves off the ground while still keeping your back in good shape, you should perform gentle stretches and take regular breaks. If you experience any sharp pain in your back while raking, put an end to this task for the day. In addition, be sure to only lift small bags of leaves that you can easily manage.

  1. Household Chores

Last on the list of fall activities that can increase back pain is housework. In addition to bringing out your coats, sweaters, and blankets, you will likely spend the fall season preparing for winter and holiday house guests by performing various house chores. Whether you’re cleaning the gutters, bringing your patio or deck furniture indoors, or sealing cracks around your doors and windows, you should always stretch before, try to maintain proper posture, and avoid completing too many chores in one day.

Contact Pacific Spine Specialists

If you’d like more information on how to reduce fall back pain or if you experience a back injury this season, you should contact Pacific Spine Specialists. Dr. Timothy Keenen is an expert at diagnosing and treating conditions of the back and spine. Call us at 503-885-9391 today.