Helping College-Bound Students Deal with Chronic Pain

A recent story from NPR brought attention to the issues faced by teenagers who struggle with mental illness who want to go to college. These bright and motivated students face many complicated questions and concerns that their struggles with mental illness will cause them too much difficulty. In more serious cases, there’s the fear that the stresses of school and being away from home could exacerbate mental illnesses and lead to panic attacks and other problems.

But what about young people who deal with problems like chronic physical pain or injury that limits mobility or can hinder day-to-day activity? For these, students, trying to go to college can present many unknowns. In the case of chronic pain, many of these students also deal with depression or other mental illnesses that tend to coincide with pain disorders. Though we tend to think of chronic pain as an issue faced by older people, Dr. Sol Kamson notes that it can affect people of all ages.

Depending on the nature of the chronic pain, students may find it hard to perform basic tasks like getting up and getting ready for class, walking to and from buildings, carrying heavy books or backpacks, or sitting for long periods of time to do homework. For students dealing with an injury that limits mobility or functionality, college campuses can present all kinds of challenges, even with recent improvements that have been made to most old buildings to improve access for the disabled. While most schools have made appropriate adjustments to be in accordance with legal requirements that protect the rights of disabled students, these students are likely to still face challenges that their peers wouldn’t have to consider. For example, it may take them longer to get across campus, or they may need to have help provided by the school in order to get around. For some students, this can cause social concerns or can make students feel unfairly burdened. It’s hard enough to make the adjustment to attending college. What can parents do to help their children make the adjustment more easily?

• While you are with your son or daughter at orientation or while you are visiting the school in advance, take some time to explore the facilities to make sure your child knows how to get around during their first week. For example, if your teen needs access to a wheelchair ramp or elevators, visit the buildings where classes will be held to make sure they know where everything is. This will help alleviate some of their stress about being ready for the first week.

• Reach out in advance to the school to make sure you and your child have a thorough understanding about the support services available to your child. Know what your insurance will cover and what free supportive services the school offers. You may even ask to make a special appointment with a counselor or coordinator around the time of orientation so you and your child can have a good understanding of where they can turn if they need help.

• Know the emergency options. Make sure you know where the nearest hospital is and how they can get there. Understand what can be covered by your insurance. Know when the student health services office is open, and when your child will need to turn to outside services. If your child needs to come home or if you need to make a visit at short notice, figure out how you can make this happen. If you’re far away but you have family or friends living in the area of their school, make sure your child has all appropriate phone numbers in case they need help at short notice.

Going off to college is a scary time, no matter what your child’s situation. But being prepared for every scenario and understanding the options can take a lot of pressure off for both you and your new college student.

Looking at Future Cures for Spinal Problems

If you or anyone you know has ever dealt with a serious or chronic back problem, even if it isn’t a life-threatening problem, you understand how desperately some people want to find relief. In some cases, it can lead patients to consider medical options that are not yet widely available, either because they are still undergoing experiments in human subjects, or because they are unavailable due to bureaucratic restrictions.

In most cases, use of experimental procedures will not be appropriate for the majority of patients because the possible side effects or repercussions from pursuing experimental treatments can outweigh the advantages,. But in certain cases, people feel that they just can’t wait until a treatment option has become available in their area. For some of these people, the option to volunteer for clinical tests may be a good choice.

Why would someone want to volunteer for a clinical trial? The advantage is that patients will be able to get access to new treatment options right away. This can be very important for patients facing potentially fatal, extremely debilitating, or fast-acting diseases who are unhappy with the treatment they’ve had through more standard procedures. It can also be a more financially viable option for some people, if they might not otherwise be able to afford a new medication.

Why wouldn’t someone want to volunteer for a clinical trial? In most cases, standard medical options will be sufficient to treat most cases of common illnesses or injuries. For this reason, the potential cost and risk associated with pursuing an experimental treatment may not be worth it. In some cases, pursuing an experimental treatment may require visiting another state or another country.

What’s an example of an experimental treatment for back pain? Last year, researchers announced successful experiments in rats of a drug that released nerve fibers that had become trapped in scar tissue in the spine, preventing proper healing. After just a few weeks, rats had improved mobility in the back and improvement in bladder control. This was an especially significant result for patients who had experienced spinal injuries that caused issues with walking and bladder control. The next step is trial in human patients, which can take several years before the drug can be released to the general market.

Dr. Kamson recommends that any patients feeling frustrated with traditional treatment options for back pain talk to a specialist and get a second opinion before pursuing treatment through something like a clinical trial. There are a wide variety of treatments for back pain that are currently available and have FDA approval. It’s important to make sure that you have pursued all reasonable options before trying something else, especially if you aren’t clear on the potential side effects.

Therapies for Minor Back Pain

For many patients who deal with chronic back pain, there may come a point at which they feel that the standard available treatments are not adequately treating their pain. Back pain can at times be difficult to diagnose, which can mean that the process of finding relief can be long and complicated. This can be frustrating for patients who feel as though they need relief to their back pain right away. If you are experiencing pain that disrupts your life, Dr. Sol Kamson, founder of the Spine Institute Northwest, encourages you to see a back specialist in order to find the root cause of your pain.

For less intense back pain, however, lifestyle changes may help to improve your spinal health. Here are some of the common alternative treatments that can help ease minor or infrequent back pain.

Yoga has not only taken off as a hugely popular form of exercise, it’s also become a popular option for relieving chronic back pain. Yoga is a form of exercise that emphasizes flexibility and muscle toning. This can be incredibly beneficial for individuals dealing with back pain, as weakness in the muscles that support the spine can exacerbate pain. Sometimes something as simple as targeted stretches can offer significant relief for back pain; however, it’s important that you work with an instructor who has experience with gentle yoga and who understands your limitations. In addition, yoga is a great way for people who don’t exercise regularly to pick up the habit. Lack of exercise is a common problem in individuals who complain of back pain, and yoga is a very gentle way to ease into it.

Dietary Management
A poor diet is often linked to chronic pain problems. You may have been able to eat whatever you liked when you were younger, but as you age it doesn’t take long before bad nutritional habits start to negatively impact your health. Being overweight puts extra strain on their muscles and bones, and as muscles become weaker, they are more likely to experience pain and cramping. This often leads people to avoid exercise, which only exacerbates the problem. Eating a nutritious, balanced diet can help improve your overall health, including your back health. Additionally, there are certain foods that are especially beneficial for back health that you can learn about when consulting a dietitian.

Massage can be very helpful for people who have already identified the underlying cause of their pain and need temporary pain relief. When the problem results from muscle overuse or underuse, massage can help isolate and relieve the particular areas of the back where you are experiencing pain. For some people, it will be necessary to get regular massage treatments, as the relief from massage is usually temporary.

Similar to massage, acupuncture works by targeting the specific muscles or groups of muscles that are causing you pain. For most people, depending on the cause of your pain, you are most likely to feel the strain most in certain parts of your back. Acupuncture can be a good way to treat these specific spots. As with massage, it may be necessary to repeat this therapy regularly.

Make a Resolution for a Healthy Back

It doesn’t have to be the start of a New Year for you to make a plan to get healthy. If you have back pain, you may want to relieve the pain by resting your back. It’s actually much healthier to keep moving. Exercise will not only strengthen your core muscles, which are key to supporting your spine, it will also help to improve many other areas of your health. An important caveat: Before beginning any new exercise or diet, however mild, it’s important to speak to a physician like Dr. Solomon Kamson first. You want to be sure that you are not doing anything to exacerbate your back issues, either by doing the wrong type of exercise or by having improper form. Here are some tips for making healthy changes:
Choose the exercise that feels the least like exercise. If you don’t like going to the gym, don’t make that the cornerstone of your health routine. Instead, choose an activity that provides good exercise specifically for your back, but that you find enjoyable enough to do every day. For example, you might try taking a bike ride or a walk around town. The more that exercise feels like something you want to do rather than have to do, the more you’ll do it.

Change out one food at a time. If you’re worried about committing to long-term changes to the way you eat, start small. If you try to totally revamp your diet in one go, you’re more likely to give it up—cravings for your favorite comfort foods have a way of taking over. Instead of dropping everything, transition into a new diet by substituting one new item at a time. Give up one unhealthy food and incorporate one new healthy item in its place. For example, you could cut out salty deli meats like pastrami and switch to salmon or tuna salad in your sandwich (oily fish like these have back health benefits).

Try to identify habits that may be intensifying your back pain. Start keeping a calendar or a diary to help you track when you are feeling back pain. Pay attention to factors including time of day and day of the week that you experienced pain, where you were, and what you were doing. One additional item to pay attention to: How long you were sedentary that day. Being sedentary does not necessarily refer to lack of exercise here, but to the duration of time you spend sitting. It’s not just that sitting with poor support or bad posture can contribute to back pain. Recent research has found that staying seated, without getting up and moving around periodically, can contribute to many health problems.

The Pros and Cons of Pain Medications

Back pain is one of the most common medical complaints reported in the United States—but in many cases, the cause of the pain cannot be linked to any definitive source. This can mean that doctors and patients must respond through use of pain management techniques that alleviate the symptoms, rather than minimally invasive spine surgery or other measures that actually treat the causes.
For many people who experience severe, chronic pain, the desire to find relief can be extreme. Pain can insidiously take over your life, impacting not only your physical wellbeing but also your mental health, relationships, and work life. At the same time, prescription pain relievers have become something of a public health hazard in America. Particularly in the case of opioids or other medications that pose a strong risk of dependency, it’s important to work proactively with your physician to ensure that your medications are helping your symptoms.

Though pain relief medications can provide a lessening or cessation of pain symptoms, there are important risks to consider:

1) The efficacy of most pain medications decreases over time, as your body develops a tolerance for the drug. Your instinct may be to take a higher dose, but consult a doctor—switching to a different medication may make more sense.

2) Pain medication is often less helpful for chronic pain than it is for acute pain. Chronic pain is, by definition, pain that is constant in nature. This means taking pain meds all the time. Though that may sound like an obvious solution, issues can arise if you experience acute pain from an injury, medical procedure, or a change in the underlying cause of the chronic pain. When you really need pain medication to work, you could find that it is ineffective against different forms of pain.

3) Excessive amounts of pain medication can be extremely unsafe. In addition to risks from addiction, there is the possibility of overdose, particularly when more than one type of pain medication is used at once. Additionally, taking large doses of pain relievers or taking them for extended periods of time can place a substantial strain on your heart, liver, kidneys, and/or brain.

But you’re suffering—what are your alternative options? If you have been unable to get a diagnosis for your chronic pain, or if you would like a second opinion, make the call to get a consultation with Dr. Solomon Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest. This outpatient treatment facility is certified by the World Institute of Pain, and offers a wide variety of cutting-edge options that may be able to help you find relief.

Thinking and Communicating About Back Pain

According to Britain’s Daily Mail, back pain is one of the medical disorders that doctors most frequently encounter, more common even than heart disease. In fact, when taking into account the number of years that discomfort is experienced, back pain tends to outpace heart disease, malaria, and other such major health concerns and other life-threatening illnesses. Any type of chronic pain disorder can represent a huge impact on an individual’s quality of life. Dr. Solomon Kamson, who specializes in pain medicine, notes that chronic pain issues often cause patients to have a negative outlook not only on their health but also on other areas of life.

If you are experiencing back pain, you no doubt understand what a distraction and an impediment it can represent for your productivity and even for your happiness. According to the same study, doctors are also starting to see back pain occurring with increased frequency in patients as young as 25 to 30. This rise in frequency is often linked to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, which actually put a bigger strain on our backs than a very active lifestyle. This has been found to be true even when that active lifestyle involves regular heavy lifting or other activities that put a strain on the back. The bottom line is that no matter how much strain a regular activity may put on your back, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is still the best measure of preempting back problems.

While it is difficult to live with any kind of chronic pain, back pain can be particularly debilitating. There are many routes that a patient can choose to pursue relief, but much of the process of ongoing back pain management comes down to the degree to which the sufferer can make lifestyle changes. This could mean stopping behaviors that were causing or exacerbating the problem, or to changing behavior in accordance with their current medical condition. While some chronic back problems are related to genetics, patients should still be prepared to consider behavioral therapies to increase their ultimate likelihood of living a pain-free life.

As with any chronic pain issue, it can be extremely frustrating for patients suffering from back pain to communicate their needs to their friends and family. Because chronic pain may not have an apparent cause and because it is so persistent, family and friends may have difficulty understanding the very real symptoms that patients experience.

However, for patients trying to come up with a pattern of behaviors that will allow them to live their lives in spite of their pain, here are a few talking points that might help explain to family and friends exactly what it means to live with chronic pain:

• Your feelings and abilities from one day to the next are going to be variable. Because people living with chronic pain often learn to do things despite their pain, family and friends may interpret your ability to do certain activities as a sign that you are not feeling pain. Remind them that your mood or what you’re doing is not necessarily an indication of the amount of pain you are experiencing at any given moment.

• Similarly, just because you are able to do an activity one day, it doesn’t mean you will be able to do it tomorrow. Friends and family need to learn to understand that when you say you are unable to do something they need to take you at your word, and not doubt you because you were able to do the same thing recently.

• Family and friends need to respect the urgency with which you handle your illness. Set clear boundaries so that when you say you need to lie down right away or take your medicine right away, family and friends understand that you really mean it. They also need to understand and respect your feelings when you say you do not want their medical advice. Remind them that you are doing everything in your power to feel better and that you prefer not to dwell on the subject unnecessarily.

There is no doubt that living with chronic back pain is a challenge. If you are in need of a new way to approach chronic pain, contact the Spine Institute Northwest to learn more about the options we offer for an improved quality of life.

Easy Steps You Can Take to Improve Your Back Health

If you have a problem with your posture, chances are you can probably feel it! Extended periods of poor posture can lead to back pain and even injury, so it pays to identify the root of your posture problem. This allows you to take the appropriate measures for realignment.

Dr. Solomon Kamson regularly sees patients who deal with pain that, had it been diagnosed early, could have been at least partially treated through behavior modification. When pain problems can be easily connected with behavioral issues, Dr. Kamson would recommend that you pursue behavioral solutions as your primary option. Conservative treatments like these should be tried before moving on to more intensive solutions.

Here are some noninvasive, conservative approaches that you can take to improving your posture and back health:

Yoga: Focus specifically on poses that lengthen the spine and help improve your muscle strength in your neck and back. Be sure to tell your yoga instructor that you have issues with posture or back pain, so that he or she can help you get the most from your practice and help ensure that you are not exacerbating your issue.

Balance Exercises: When you have correct posture, your body isn’t just properly aligned — it’s also balanced. Improving your balance can provide a natural way to correct your posture problems.

Fix Your Ergonomics: Practice self-awareness while you are at work. Posture problems related to the workplace can quickly become habitual — and since we spend so much time at work, it’s no surprise that these habits often turn into longer-term health issues. One idea: Do a quick search for pictures related to ergonomics and print one out to put by your desk as a regular reminder to correct your desk posture.

Don’t Sit Still: You may have heard news stories about scary research that says sitting is killing us. The good news: Even two minutes on your feet each hour is enough to overcome this problem. Get up and move around regularly. Standing up and walking around for a few minutes loosens your muscles, and will act like a reset button on your back and posture.

Get More Exercise: Even just a light workout that includes both cardio and muscle toning can make a huge difference for your back health. In addition, as posture problems like swayback can be related to obesity, talk to a doctor and a trainer about coming up with a weight loss plan as this could ultimately offer you significant relief for back pain.

The Best Yoga Positions to Alleviate Back Pain

If you suffer from persistent back pain, chances are that yoga is one of the last forms of exercise you would consider for your back condition. However, what many do not realize is that yoga can potentially alleviate your pain—instead of avoiding bending your back, which can cause stiffness and exacerbate your condition, the right yoga poses can actually strengthen your spinal column and relieve your pain. Before starting an exercise regimen, however, it is important to consult with a spinal specialist such as Dr. Solomon Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest. You want to ensure the exercises are appropriate for your case and will not cause you additional pain.

Mountain Pose
The mountain pose is a great position to start your yoga routine. Its benefits include an improvement in core strength and overall balance. Begin by standing with your feet pointed inward. Your heels should be slightly separated and your big toes should be touching each other. Relax your shoulders and arms, allowing your arms to hang by your sides. Focus on your feet as you close your eyes, envisioning that you are planted firmly on the ground. Lift up on the balls of your feet, then onto your toes. Be sure to keep your weight evenly distributed. Next, find your balance as you settle down on your flat feet and fan out your toes. Be sure to engage your thigh muscles, however, do not lock your knees as you lift your pelvic bone toward your navel. Keep your chin parallel with the floor as you relax your shoulders. Then, relax your facial muscles as you focus on breathing until you are ready to move on to the tree pose.


Tree Pose
The tree pose is designed to reduce stress, improve posture, strengthen the core, and improve overall balance. Begin by shifting all of your weight to your left foot. Reach your hand down and grab your right ankle. Lift the right ankle to the left thigh, or, if you can’t reach, up to your calf. Once you are in this pose, stretch your spine. You should feel the spine lengthen as your pelvic bone points inward and tailbone points toward the floor. Next, put your palms together in front of your chest as you move your shoulder blades inward. Take slow, steady breaths before switching to the other side of the body.

Cat Pose
The goal of this pose is to stretch the muscles and tendons supporting the spine, while opening up the spaces in your vertebrae. Begin by kneeling. The hands should be below the shoulders and the knees should be below the hips. Spread your fingers as you look downward, engaging the muscles of your abdomen. Inhale as you lift your head and tailbone, curving the lower back inward. Then, as you exhale, tuck the tailbone inward as you release the neck toward the floor and drop your head.

Child’s Pose
The goal of this pose is to promote overall relaxation. Begin by sitting on the heels of your feet. Stretch your hands and arms outward in front of you as you bend your upper body forward. Your chest should be near your knees. Stretch your arms forward, as far as you can while feeling comfortable. Breathe deeply as you focus on the muscles in your spine and back lengthening.

If you are suffering from persistent back pain and conservative treatments like physical therapy or exercise haven’t helped, you should consider consulting Dr. Solomon Kamson, founder of the Spine Institute Northwest. Dr. Kamson can help you start on the path to getting back your life, with an accurate diagnosis and a strong knowledge of the many treatment options that are available to help back pain sufferers.

Why Regular Exercise is Important for Back Health during Pregnancy

While there are many things you should avoid during pregnancy, exercise is not one of them. In fact, exercise can be very beneficial to support a healthy pregnancy. Exercise during pregnancy is also critical for back health. During pregnancy, the body goes through many changes. Two of these changes are a shift in the body’s center of gravity and excess weight accumulating around the abdomen. Both of these changes can cause the spinal column to naturally bend forward, which will eventually lead to lower back pain. Not only does regular exercise during pregnancy help eliminate lower back pain, it is a useful tool in weight management, spinal strength, and spinal flexibility.

Weight Management
Although you do need to gain weight for a healthy pregnancy, weight management can still be important. There is a fine line between eating enough to support your body weight and the baby’s, and eating so much that you gain excess weight—your doctor can help determine what is a healthy amount of weight gain for your body type and circumstances. Extra weight places additional strain on your back. This is the reason that finding the right balance between eating and exercise is important. If you can keep your weight at a healthy level, it will lessen the risk of back pain. Low-impact aerobic exercises such as walking, water aerobics, and yoga can help with back pain and weight management.
pregnancy ultrasound
Strengthening the Back
Regular exercise during pregnancy also strengthens the muscles around the back. As these muscles are strengthened, they provide extra support for the spinal cord. This strengthens the entire vertebral column of the back. As the spinal column is strengthened, it allows the spine to support excess weight and compensate for the body’s shift in gravity. Exercises such as stretching, yoga, and low-impact aerobic exercises are good for strengthening the back.

Maintaining Spinal Flexibility
Finally, participating in regular exercise throughout your pregnancy can help maintain spinal flexibility. Another complaint from women is the further they are in their pregnancy, the harder it is to bend over. This may be caused by the excess weight around the abdomen. If the spine is not strong enough or flexible enough to support this extra weight while bending, then it may cause pain. When you exercise to improve spinal flexibility, it may be easier to bend, stretch, and perform other activities throughout your day. Stretching and yoga are very helpful in maintaining spinal flexibility.

Acceptable Exercises
There are many different types of exercise that are generally considered safe during pregnancy. These include stretching, low-impact aerobic exercises, and more. Each of these types of exercise can benefit back health. To maintain your spine’s flexibility, try regular stretching exercises. These can include the pelvic tilt, side-to-side stretches, front-to-back stretches, hip rotation, waist rotation, and more. To maintain the strength of your spine, consider walking, bicycling, yoga, and other gentle exercises. If back pain is already a problem during your pregnancy, you could also try water aerobics. Spinal specialists such as Dr. Solomon Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest often recommend water aerobics for patients experiencing back pain, because it has a very low level of impact on the back.

Exercises to Strengthen the Spinal Column During Pregnancy

Back pain is a common complaint during pregnancy, but do you know what is causing your pain? It is believed there are two factors that contribute to back pain during pregnancy. First, the body is going through many changes, one of them being weight gain. This extra weight must be supported by the spinal column. When the spinal column cannot support the weight, it naturally curves—potentially resulting in back pain. The second reason back pain may be experienced is because the body’s center of gravity shifts. As weight accumulates around the abdomen, the spinal column can compensate by bending forward, again resulting in back pain.

Fortunately, there are many types of exercise that can strengthen the spinal column during pregnancy. These include twisting, bending, and other types of mild exercise. For additional exercises that may benefit your spinal column, speak to a spinal specialist such as Dr. Solomon of the Spine Institute Northwest. While these exercises are considered to be safe for healthy pregnant women, before beginning them it is still important to clear any exercise regimen with a physician.

Expecting mother

Waist Rotation
Waist rotation helps to maintain spinal alignment and mobility during pregnancy. Keep your hips stationary and bend slightly forward. Be sure you are bending at your waist. Rotate the upper body several times both clockwise and counter-clockwise.

Hip Rotation
Hip rotation is very similar to waist rotation. Place yourself in the same position as you did with the waist rotation exercise, again bending slightly forward at the waist. The key difference is that you will be keeping your upper body stationary, instead of your hips. Rotate your hips clockwise and then counter-clockwise several times.

Side-to-Side Spinal Stretch
To do the side-to-side stretch, begin in the same position as you did with the hip and waist rotation. Bend at the waist as far as you can to the left, and then to the right. You should bend as far as you feel comfortable, without moving your hips. Repeat this exercise several times for the most effectiveness.

Forward-to-Back Spinal Stretch
Begin with the fingers at the base of the spine, with your left hand at the left of the spine and right hand at the right of the spine. Bend your body slightly forward from your waist. Then, bend your body backwards, pushing forward with your fingers in the same motion. As you bend backward, you should also raise your heels off of the floor. Work your fingers up the spine, bend forward, and repeat the process until you’ve gone as high as is comfortable.

Torso Twist
Begin by standing with your feet shoulder’s width apart with your arms extended outward at your sides. Twist from the waist up to the left, and then to the right. Keep a slow, steady pace, avoiding any sudden movements. Make sure that you keep your head facing in the direction that you are turning.

Pelvic Rock
Begin on the floor on your hands and knees. Your back should be flat and your spine should be parallel to the floor. To do the exercise, tense your lower abdominal muscles as you squeeze the buttocks. Rock the pelvis forward as you tilt the pubic bone toward your chin. Hold the position and feel the stretch until you are ready to release. This should be done 10-20 times.