Author Archives: Admin Admin

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Lumbar Stenosis Versus Cervical Stenosis

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Stenosis is a medical term used to describe an abnormal narrowing of a bodily passage. When dealing with back health, there are two major areas we see problematic stenosis. One is the lower back, or lumbar; the other is cervical, or up near the neck. While there are cases of congenital spinal stenosis, most spinal stenosis is the result of normal aging. It’s another common condition that’s important to be aware of for a several reasons. First, the risk of developing serious complications as a result of spinal stenosis can be reduced by taking the kind of preventative measures essential to overall spine health, such as regular exercise, proper nutrition, and modifying workplace or lifestyle behaviors that jeopardize spine health. Second, in certain cases, spinal stenosis can pose serious health risks, so it’s crucial to stay alert to signs something dangerous is developing.

Symptoms

Spinal stenosis of either variety generally places more pressure on nerves as it grows more severe. A lucky few may experience no symptoms, but overwhelming spinal stenosis compressed nerves cause uncomfortable sensations such as numbness, weakness, tingling, and/or pain. These symptoms can be similar for lumbar and cervical stenosis patients, although some are more indicative of one form.

Lumbar stenosis compresses the spinal nerve roots in the lower back. This can lead to symptoms associated with sciatica, namely tingling, numbness, etc. that radiates down the lower back through the legs. It can also lead to leg pain that occurs while walking, a symptom that may be alleviated when sitting or leaning forward, as when pushing a supportive device.

Unpleasant though its symptoms may be, lumbar stenosis doesn’t present as much danger overall health as cervical stenosis. Whereas lumbar stenosis compresses the spinal nerve roots, cervical stenosis causes compression of the actual spinal cord–a condition known as myelopathy. Myelopathy can lead to extreme weakness and paralysis. Early signs include loss of fine motor skills, “electric shock” sensations shooting through limbs, and arm pain.

Stenosis can occur in the mid, or thoracic section of the spine, but it’s rare, and much less likely to lead to any serious problems.

Treatment

Lumbar stenosis is often treatable with a combination of physical therapy, pain medications, and bed rest. Corticosteroid injections may also offer relief in some cases. Myelopathy, which can develop from cervical stenosis, is a significantly more threatening condition, and one which likely merits surgical intervention.
Diagnosing the source of spinal stenosis is an important step in establishing a long term wellness plan. If you’ve started experiencing symptoms of spinal stenosis, we encourage you to request an appointment with our spine care specialists.


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Understanding Discogenic Disease

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If you suffer back pain, the internet can be a convenient tool for exploring potential causes. But sometimes, it can also lead you to diagnosis that sound misleadingly exotic or just downright confusing, but which in reality are common and treatable. Such is the case with discogenic disease, a scary term for a condition which is not really a disease so much as a natural side effect of aging.

   Specifically, discogenic disease refers to the gradual deterioration of the intervertebral discs–something which happens as we age. Unfortunately, this process can have some painful consequences.  Degraded discs are prone to herniation and bulging, which can place pressure on the nerves. Material from inside these disks can leak out and irritate the nerve further, or pieces of the disk can break off and shift into the spinal column. This can lead to reduced mobility along with severe pain.

   The good news is that there are ways to help preserve disc health, lowering the risk of suffering some of those complications of damaged discs. Plus, there are ways to treat discogenic disease injuries. Discogenic disease is, after all, something all aging humans deal with, and one medical professionals have had ample opportunity to study.

   There’s quite a bit of overlap between discogenic disease prevention and best practices for preventing other conditions associated with ageing, like osteoporosis. Make sure to include plenty of bone building calcium (leafy greens, dairy) and vitamin D (sun exposure, oily fish, dairy) in your diet. Consult a medical professional about the potential addition of supplements or medication to promote bone density. Exercise regularly but with attention to form; if possible, try aqua exercises to take some pressure off joints and bones. Maintain a healthy weight. Be smart about what your lug around. Minimize lifestyle and workplace risk factors–if you work at a desk, make sure to take breaks to stand and stretch hourly, and if you perform manual labor, talk to a physician about bracing and/or posture corrective exercises to insure you’re able to protect your back.

   If you’re already dealing with discogenic disease related pain, there are a variety of options. Medication, physical therapy, bracing, and complementary medicine can all help alleviate pain and make for a strong recovery. In rare cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to correct severe, potentially mobility-altering issues.

We encourage you to request an appointment if you believe you are experiencing back issues due to discogenic disease or simply want to make sure you’re on the right track to keep your spine healthy far into retirement. Our New Jersey team brings decades of spine care expertise offers comprehensive support through diagnostics, treatment, and wellness plans designed to help you stay healthy, stay strong, and feel great.


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Sports Injuries to The Back in Young Athletes

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“Oh, my back!” isn’t really a phrase we expect coming out of a teen or preteen’s mouth. But actually, young athletes are prone to several sports injuries affecting the spine. Most can be treated with rest, but it’s important to pay attention to any signs and symptoms of potential back injury. These can have serious repercussions down the line, so it’s crucial to make sure the source of back pain or stiffness is known and strong preventative measures are applied.

Below, some of the most common kinds of back injuries experienced by young athletes.

Strains and Sprains

Strains and sprains can happen anywhere in the body, including in the muscles and ligaments of the back. These are by far the most common source of back pain in young athletes, and can be caused by overuse, improper body mechanics, poor technique, trauma, and lack of appropriate conditioning or stretching. Usually in these cases, an athlete will only experience the pain when moving, and it will be relieved when they rest. Strains and sprains should be treated first with rest and anti-inflammatory pain medication. Ice packs or heat packs applied to the affected area may also be helpful. Once the athlete has recovered, the return to exercise should be slow and cautious. A sports medicine professional or physical therapist can test to see if there’s an issue with body mechanics or technique and prescribe corrective exercises accordingly.

Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolysis is a stretch fracture in the vertebrae. It’s most often found in the fifth lumbar vertebra in the lower back. Spondylolisthesis occurs when the fracture weakens the bone to the point where it begins to shift out of position. Gymnasts and other athletes who do a lot of twisting are particularly vulnerable. Athletes suffering from these conditions usually complain of pain that gets more intense when they attempt to arch their back. X-rays and other imaging studies are used to confirm the diagnosis. Rest, medication, ice, and targeted rehabilitative exercises are the normal course of action, though severe cases of spondylolisthesis may require surgery to correct. Patients with spondylolisthesis should be monitored for slippage of the affected vertebrae regularly as they continue to grow. If the vertebrae slips too far out of place, it may be necessary to reconsider or switch sports.

Nerve Pinch Injuries

Trauma, particularly in contact or collision sports, is a common cause of nerve pinch injuries. These occur when the nerves off the spinal cord in the neck are pinched or stretched. These injuries, sometimes referred to as “stingers” result in pain, weakness, and “electectrical” or other strange sensations in the neck, shoulders, and arms. Usually, these injuries resolve themselves quickly but are very likely to recur–and potentially worsen. Athletes who’ve experienced these injuries should seek medical attention to prevent the injury from getting worse. Cervical collars and corrective exercises are among some of the treatments that may be prescribed.

Juvenile Kyphosis

Juvenile kyphosis causes pain in the mid-back. Young athletes suffering this condition display a back deformity caused by the wedging of three or more vertebrae. This wedging of consecutive vertebrae results in a rounded curve of the mid-back. Exercises and stretches can help with the pain, but can’t correct the curve. Back bracing or even surgery may be necessary in serious cases. If a young athlete is experiencing mid-back pain and/or their spine seems to be taking on a dome-like shape, it’s important to see a professional for a diagnosis and help managing the condition.

Although this list includes some of the most common causes of back pain sports injuries  and conditions in young athletes, it’s by no means exhaustive. Concerned about your back health? Call us to request an appointment – 732.720.2569.


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Osteoporosis and Back Pain

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If you’re over 60 and experience sharp back pain when moving, there’s a good chance a compression fracture caused by osteoporosis could be to blame. If you haven’t, are under 60, and don’t want to experience this pain, read on anyway–because this is one of those many situations where prevention is the best medicine.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis means your body produces too little bone mass or loses too much, resulting in brittle bones that are extremely vulnerable to injury. Research suggests that as many as one in two women and one in four men over the age of fifty will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

Compression Fractures

Vertebral compression fractures are broken vertebrae. They are most commonly caused by osteoporosis, though other causes include certain cancers and trauma. In some cases, prednisone, a steroid-based medication that can soften bone, may also be to blame.

Compression fracture pain is often described as feeling like a painful muscle spasm. The pain is experienced when moving, and subsides when the patient is still.

Prevention

No matter what your age, there are ways you can minimize your risk for osteoporosis.

Nutrition: Incorporate vitamin D and calcium rich foods into your diet.

Exercise: Exercise regularly and safely–certain activities, like weight lifting, can be detrimental or put you at risk for injury if done incorrectly.

Testing: If you’re over 50, consider getting a bone density test. Consult this guide for details.

Supplements & Medications: Consult a physician and/or professional nutritionist to see if calcium or vitamin D supplements could be right for you. For some patients, bone-bulking bisphosphonate medication may also be helpful.

Treatment

Typically, the first step is to treat the pain caused by compression fractures, usually with medication, followed by bed rest. Once the patient has some relief, they may be prescribed physical therapy or fitted with a brace.

If these more conservative options don’t work, surgery may be suggested. Some of the surgeries used to treat compression fractures include  kyphoplasty, vertebroplasty, and spinal fusion.

Worried you may be suffering from compression fractures? Request an appointment with our spine care professionals.


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Scoliosis

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Scoliosis, a condition characterized by an abnormal curvature of the spine, can be a scary and confusing diagnosis. The severity of scoliosis can vary greatly, but with proper treatment, most patients can live a normal life. Usain Bolt, Kurt Cobain, Elizabeth Taylor, Shailene Woodley, Yo Yo Ma, and Sarah Michelle Gellar are among the many scoliosis survivors who’ve had successful careers despite their diagnosis. Read on for more on scoliosis symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Symptoms

Symptoms of scoliosis most often appear in puberty, which is why screenings are mandatory in many public schools. Some signs to watch for include:

  • Legs may be different lengths
  • Asymmetrical rib cage
  • Shoulders at different heights
  • One shoulder blade and/or hip being more prominent
  • Head not centered directly above the pelvis
  • Back pain
  • Heart and lung issues (in very severe cases)

In some cases, infants may have symptoms as well. These include:

  • Bulge on one side of the chest
  • Odd posture, such as laying curled and favoring one side.

Causes and Risk Factors

Signs of scoliosis usually appear just before puberty, and are more common in those who have a relative with the condition. Women are more likely to experience more severe symptoms.

Most cases of scoliosis are idiopathic, meaning they have no known cause. However, scoliosis can be caused by neuromuscular conditions, like cerebral palsy, uneven leg lengths, and abnormal fetal development.

Treatment

Most children diagnosed with scoliosis don’t require treatment, as the curvature corrects itself naturally as they grow. Some others may need a back brace for a short time. Yoga and other stretching exercises may be prescribed to help with pain or to encourage healthy development. Only in rare cases is surgery required.  

Although intervention is rarely necessary, it’s extremely important to get regular checkups to prevent the condition from developing into something more serious. Untreated scoliosis that does not correct itself can lead to severe heart, lung, spine, and pelvis damage.

Concerned for your child, or worried you may have an undiagnosed case of scoliosis? Request an appointment for a screening a treatment plan.


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Spine-Saving Back To School Bags

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Whether you’re heading back to school or to the office, chances are you’ve got some extra baggage on your back weighing you down. Laptops, planners, smart-phones, bottled water, cosmetics–it adds up fast and takes a real toll on your back. We’re not just talking one time aches and pains–all that stress, every day, can contribute to more significant injuries or conditions down the line. Here, our tips for minimizing your risk.

Think Small

Go with the smallest bag or purse possible to avoid the “goldfish effect” of gathering more stuff to fill extra space. If you like to have lots of “just in case” supplies, take a new approach. Instead of keeping those supplies in your back, get backups that stay in your office or locker. One big culprit to look out for? Keychains, which, when loaded up with assorted baubles, old cards, tchochkes, etc., can weigh several pounds. Make sure any old keys are off, along with anything else that can possibly go.

Backpacks: No Longer Just for Kids

Backpacks are the best bet for your back. Worn correctly, they disperse weight over a wider and more symmetrical area than messengers or other styles. For more conservative looks, try browsing the reviews here. Something like these simple, clean looking Knomo styles work for men and women in more formal business environments.

Wide Load

If you just can’t go with a backpack, then at least make sure to find something with wide straps that will distribute weight as evenly as possible.

Switch It Up/Break It Up

Another must if you go for a messenger bag or other asymmetrical style: switch shoulders regularly on your commute, and/or break things up into two small bags when possible.

Still struggling, or worried years of lugging too much around have caught up? Contact our office to request an appointment with our spine care experts.


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Four Lifestyle Changes To Reduce Back Pain

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If you find yourself frequently battling back pain, chances are that there are some easy lifestyle changes you can make to better support and care for your spine. Below are four tips for incorporating back-friendly habits into your day.

Bend Back

For those of us who spend most of our day sitting, it’s extremely important to stretch every twenty minutes or so. Since most of us bend forward over our workstations, generally the best direction to bend while stretching is backwards.

Lower The Heels

A healthier back doesn’t necessarily mean no heels–just trade stilettos in for something a bit shorter and more comfortable. Pinterest has great visual guides to fashionable short heels, and many retailers now provide filters on their website for heel heights, making it easier than ever to find low heels or flats that match your style and sensibilities.

Make Your Workplace Back Friendly

Use a chair that provides lower back support, allows your feet to be planted firmly on the floor, and is set up so that you do not need to hunch forward to work.

Nix The Nicotine

Need another reason to quit smoking? Smoking can increase your risk for osteoporosis of the spine, and other complications that spell bad news for your back.

If you’re still struggling with regular back pain, check out this post to see if it’s time to visit a help, or request an appointment with Spine Care New Jersey today!


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Pain Plane: Your Guide to Back-Friendlier Air Travel

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It all seems so simple: just hop on a plane, doze off, and wake up across the country–or even the world! But the truth is, air travel can take a toll on your back. Try these tips to reach your final destination a little fresher, and with less back pain!

Be Smart With Your Luggage
With all the various checked bag fees–not to mention, anxiety over checked bags–the pressure is on to stuff that carry-on to the brim.
Two things to keep in mind: first, studies suggest that cases of lost baggage have dropped in the past years, perhaps by as much as 60%. So if you’re still tormented by that memory of a lost suitcase decades ago, perhaps it’s time to let go!
Second: if you do have a big carry-on for whatever reason, lift it in stages to the overhead bin. Take a moment to rest the bag on the seat below the bin before doing the final lift. And remember: always lift from the knees to avoid placing undue stress on your spine!

Back Up Back Support
Support your lower back in an airport seat using a lumbar pillow. If you don’t have one, roll up a sweatshirt or blanket to place in the lower curve of your back. Neck support is also important, and can be aided by one of those ubiquitous U-shaped pillows or by rolling a blanket or sweater into a similar shape.

Don’t Forget the Feet
Supporting your feet is vital to supporting your back. If your feet aren’t firmly on the floor during flight, find something to use as support. Perhaps that extra “stow under the seat in front of you” item? Alternately, rolled up clothing, books, or other items can be used to help.

Get Up
We know– it can feel obnoxious to be the one getting in and out of their seat all the time. But the spine was designed to move–and sitting still for hours isn’t doing it any favors. Try to get up and walk down the aisle when possible and get a little stretching in on your way to the restroom. Aim for a time when there’s a bit of a wait to insure you’ll be able to have a minute to really move your muscles.


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Three Signs It’s Time to Seek Medical Attention for Your Backache

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For many of us, back pain a fact of life–the student recovering from marathon study sessions in an unforgiving library chair, a young professional burning the midnight oil and under stress, parents or grandparents hauling babies around, or simply an active, happy person enjoying any number of favorite activities. Stress, poor posture, heavy lifting, and overexertion are all common back pain culprits.

Most of our movements cycle through the back one way or another–and when it’s in pain, the quality of life impact can be devastating. Worse, a achy back can be a sign of a more serious problem. If you experience any of these warning signs, please contact a medical professional immediately.

No Improvement After 72 Hours of TLC

Take time to treat back pain as soon as it starts. Use basic at home remedies. These include rest, pain relievers like ibuprofen, lots of water, and alternating hot or cold treatments. Moderate exercise may be indicated if you suspect your pain is related to stress or a sedentary lifestyle. Listen to your body and give it the care it needs. After three days of R&R, if your symptoms have worsened or failed to improve, schedule an appointment with a medical professional ASAP. Don’t take chances when it comes to your spine!

Pain Extending to The Leg

Sciatica, or back pain that extends down the spine to the leg, is a sign to seek health care immediately. Sciatica is often caused by a herniated disc pressing on the central nerve of the spine, the sciatic nerve. Other signs of sciatica include a sharp pain that makes it difficult to stand or walk, pain that it worse when sitting, and numbness or weakness in an lower extremity. Generally, the pain is experienced in the spine and radiates down one side of the lower extremities. Fortunately, permanent damage to the sciatic nerve is rare. Reduce your risk– and get relief–by seeing a specialist immediately.

Any Other Accompanying Symptoms

Pay attention to other symptoms accompanying your back pain. Back pain occurring in conjunction with a fever, loss of bladder or bowel control, and back pain when coughing is cause to seek medical attention.


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Five Tips to Recover From Surgery Faster, Stronger, and Better Than Ever

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Surgery is, as is any invasive treatment, a big deal. Make the most out of yours by taking steps toward an effective, complete recovery.

Think of Surgery as an Investment

Surgery is an investment. You have invested your time, money, emotional and physical energy into this. Chances are, your loved ones have, too. That’s why it’s important to think of it as more than just a cure or solution. It’s something to get the most value out of you possibly can. This may sound obvious now, but sometimes it’s easy to get impatient, or to be so excited for any improvement we forget to think of surgery as an ongoing investment–one we can make even more worthwhile with the right lifestyle choices.

Follow a Comprehensive Post Surgery Plan

Don’t just do the bare minimum. Consult with a specialist to explore all your options to aid in your recovery. These may include physical therapy, holistic medicine, or nutrition consulting. Remember: your surgeon is on your side. They want you to experience the best possible outcome. If you have insurance limitations or scheduling issues, don’t be shy about bringing them up to find a strategy that you can stick to.

Beef Up Your Protein Intake

Nutrition is essential to recovering from surgery. Protein is especially vital to rebuilding and repairing muscles and other tissue. Fish, chicken, and other lean proteins are obvious health food picks. Kale, that trendiest of greens, is also a surprisingly rich source of protein as well, and can be quite tasty (really! we promise!) when blended in a smoothie or prepared using one of these recipes.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Chances are, you’re well aware of the need to drink more water– 2-3 liters for a healthy adult. Try these tips to remind yourself to drink up. A hydrated body is better prepared to recover.

Join A Support Group

Ask your doctor about support groups for patients recovering from surgery in your area, see if there are group classes for recovery patients at your physical therapy center, or try online forums, like this one. Spine surgery, back pain, and recovery can all be exhausting, isolating experiences–it’s nice to have someone who’s been there to share with. Do keep in mind that you should never follow medical advice, including tips for stretches or exercises, without consulting your physician first.

We hope these tips help! It takes courage to commit to surgery. Our team is honored to work with individuals who have taken this important step in improving their lives, and are dedicated to helping you live a healthier, happier life.


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