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.

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.

yoga-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.

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.

Exercises That Can Make Your Back Pain Worse

There are several benefits regular exercise can offer for your lower back. It increases the flexibility and endurance of your spine and muscles, meaning that it can help prevent future injury. It also strengthens the core muscles of the back, which help to support the spine. Finally, regular exercise can lead to weight loss, reducing the load on your back if you are carrying a few extra pounds. Being overweight places an increased strain on the back, which can cause lower back pain.

However, not all exercises benefit your back. In fact, some can make your back pain worse, especially if done improperly. If you have a pre-existing back condition, it is best to speak with a spinal specialist such as Dr. Solomon Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest before beginning an exercise regimen.

Running and Jogging
Both running and jogging are great cardiovascular exercises. However, sidewalks, park paths, and tracks are hard surfaces that forcefully impact the soles of the feet while running. This impact works its way up to the lower back, causing pressure. If you suffer from back pain, try walking instead. Walking is also a heart-healthy exercise, but it is not quite as stressful on the back.

Crunches
Crunches are a big no-no for the lower back. They involve bending the lower spine into a stressful and sometimes painful position. Instead, incorporate planks into your workout routine. Planking works the abdominal muscles as well as, if not better than, crunches. It also reduces the amount of stress on the lower back while strengthening the core muscles of the back.

Aerobics
While an aerobic exercise class can be a fun way to work up a sweat and strengthen the body, it is also high-impact. Aerobic exercises often involve twisting and other movements that can have a negative impact on the back. Instead, take a swimming class. Swimming motions such as the breast and backstroke can strengthen the core muscles, as well as improve flexibility. It is also low-impact, which is critical for individuals that already suffer from back pain.

low impact water aerobics

Overhead Weight Presses
When you lift weights directly over your body, it often puts excessive pressure on the spine. This can cause compression that leads to injury. Instead, do lateral raises. These allow you to work your shoulders without putting unnecessary strain on the back.

Inclined Treadmill
While walking on an inclined treadmill can seem like the ideal exercise to tone the hamstrings and glutes, it also puts a lot of stress on the hamstring. This stress can then reach up into the lower back. Instead, consider using a stair climber machine. A stair climber will allow you to work your quadriceps, glutes, and hip girdle muscles without harming your back.

Leg Raises
When you lie on your back and lift your straightened legs, it can be very detrimental to spinal health. It not only bends the spine, it puts stress on it while it is bent. Instead, do reverse curl-ups. Reverse curl-ups allow you to protect your back without sacrificing the benefits to the abdominal area that leg raises offer.

Toe-Touch Hamstring Stretch
When you stretch the hamstring by touching the toes, it can cause strain that transfers into the back. Instead, stretch the hamstring without unnecessary bending. Do a supported hamstring stretch by using a chair or another flat surface as you tilt your pelvis forward. This allows you to stretch and strengthen the hamstring without harming the back.

If you would have chronic pain but would like to start an exercise regimen, however mild or moderate, it’s important that you first contact a pain management professional like Dr. Sol Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest.

Photo: Peter van der Sluijs

The Relationship between Smoking and Back Pain

It is believed that 8 out of 10 Americans will suffer from back pain at some point in their life. This can be for a variety of reasons, including traumatic injury, spinal disease or degeneration, and environmental factors. Have you ever considered the effects of the things that you put into your body on your back health? Nutrient and vitamin rich foods that contain magnesium, calcium, Vitamin D, potassium, and other essential nutrients help to build bone and support back health. However, the things that you put into your body can also have a negative effect on health. If you smoke, the nicotine that you put into your body attacks the cells that promote bone growth, which can contribute to the eventual degeneration of the bone and the spine.
quit smoking
How Smoking Affects Back Health
There are two cells that work in the area around the bone, osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Osteoblasts are responsible for rebuilding the bone, whereas osteoclasts break down bone to allow reshaping. However, when you smoke, nicotine attacks your osteoblasts. Now, when osteoclasts break down the bone, there are no cells to help build new bone. This leads to degeneration, weakness, and even the eventual development of a spinal disease.

Smoking and Nutrient Absorption
There is another reason that smoking is bad for overall bone health, including your spine. Smoking reduces the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients, especially calcium. Good calcium absorption is important because calcium is a necessary nutrient for bone health. It is a key element of the rebuilding process, making it an essential factor in spinal health. However, when you smoke, the nicotine prevents your body from absorbing the calcium that it needs for bone and spine health. It does not matter how much calcium you get in your diet if your body cannot properly absorb it for use in bodily processes.

Smoking and Other Diseases
In addition to attacking the cells necessary for bone regrowth, smoking is a contributing factor to other diseases that may have negative effects on the health of your spine. Some of the diseases that smoking can contribute to include high cholesterol, hypertension, and coronary artery disease. These three diseases are also contributing factors to poor spinal health: The occurrence of these diseases in smokers has actually been related to an increase in degenerative lumbar spine conditions.

Why You Should Quit Smoking Before and After Surgery
If you are having spinal surgery, it is highly likely that an experienced back surgeon will ask you to quit smoking. Dr. Solomon Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest requires that patients quit smoking before they will be cleared for surgery. The reason for this is that smoking depletes your oxygen supply, can increase your risk of infection and blood clots, and impairs the healing process. Nicotine has negative effects on the body’s ability to heal bones, skin, and surgical incisions. Smoking can also increase your post-operative pain and make the healing process take longer. There are already a large number of reasons to quit smoking, but your back health should be one of them, too.

Doing Yoga to Reduce Back Pain

Suffering from back pain can affect every aspect of your life, from properly performing your job to cleaning your house. A wide variety of treatments are available through mainstream medicine, ranging from pain medication and muscle relaxers to a variety of surgery options. Before beginning any treatment regime, it is a good idea to see an experienced back doctor like Dr. Solomon Kamson to ensure that you have an accurate diagnosis.

Often, the back pain people experience is a result of stressed muscles. Yoga is designed to strengthen and stretch muscles without causing pain or undue stress. Practicing yoga exercises every day can reduce stress on the spine, as well as the stress caused by everyday life problems. Yoga is a well-known stress reliever for all muscle pain and stiffness, which is the precursor to back pain. Yoga is also good for a meditative technique, which is another stress reliever. Try yoga to make your life a little more flexible. Before you begin any exercise regimen, make sure you check with a specialist like Dr. Kamson to make sure your body can handle the yoga poses and that you will not be exacerbating an underlying condition.

An easy pose to start with requires you to stand on a yoga mat with your feet apart and bend at the waist with your arms crossed. Your fists should be touching the opposite elbows. Bend all the way down while keeping your legs straight, then relax your back and neck while squeezing your fists. Squeezing your fists while your elbows are bent will trigger your central nervous system to open your back muscles.

Stretching your hamstrings can also help relieve back pain. Try lying flat on the floor or a mat and raising one leg while bending the knee until it reaches your chest. Place a strap or towel around your foot, holding it with the hand on the same side. Now, straighten your leg all the way up in the air, and hold it there for at least three minutes, but no more than five minutes. Repeat the exercise with the other leg.

Exercises aimed at relaxing your back muscles will also help to relieve back pain. A good way to relax your back muscles is to lie down on the floor with your legs straight up against a wall. This will relax your muscles while allowing bodily fluids to drain from your feet. Hold this position for at least five, but no more than 10 minutes at a time. This is also a yoga exercise used to cool down after a strenuous exercise session.

Relieving the tension in your upper back and neck will help alleviate back pain. A good yoga exercise to help relieve this tension starts with getting down on your hands and knees on the floor. Take a deep breath, then point your toes out while exhaling. Now, round your back while pressing your palms down and tilting your head down, then relax. Repeat this exercise for six breaths.

Back pain can result from a wide range of problems that cannot always be alleviated by conservative therapies like exercise. If you are experiencing chronic back pain, consult a specialist like Dr. Kamson to get a proper diagnosis and an effective pain management plan.

When Is Spine Surgery Considered to be Outpatient?

There are many individuals that have the misconception that having spinal surgery is a major surgery and they must stay in the hospital for an extended visit. With minimally invasive spine surgery, this is no longer the case. You will be recovering and relaxing in your own home, in your own bed.

Lumbar Miscrodiscectomy
Lumbar microdiscectomy is a non-abrasive surgery that provides excellent results to those who must undergo surgical treatment to help recover from their lumbar spinal condition. Those who suffer from foot or leg pain, certain amounts of weakness, or even numbness, may have a lumbar condition and may even need this surgery.

When Surgery is the Final Step
Those who exhibit the symptoms of a lumbar spinal condition may have one or more symptoms. There are pain management plans that Dr. Solomon Kamson will set into place in order to minimize the pain and difficulty for you. If one pain management plan does not seem to be working, then Dr. Kamson will try another method to help.

Performing Lumbar Microdiscectomy
This surgery will take approximately an hour to perform. In order to reduce the time needed for recovery, anesthesia that was designed for outpatient surgery is used. The surgeon will use x-ray technology in order to guide him without having to make a larger incision. The smaller the incision that is made, the less muscle and tissue is cut, and the less time it will take to recover from the surgery. This also makes it possible to be an outpatient surgery.

Once Surgery is Complete
Recovery time is cut in more than half compared to what the typical surgery recovery time used to be. When the surgery is done, you will return to your home. The patient is able to walk and even participate in non-strenuous activities. You will have relief from the pain that you have felt for so long. You will be free of the pain that has put difficulty in performing typically daily activities like grocery shopping and cleaning your home.

After Care
It is important to know that even though this surgery is an outpatient surgery, you will need to make preparations to your home prior to the surgical treatment. Placing daily necessities within reach is important. For example, any clothing that will be needed out of the bottom drawers of your bedroom dresser will need to be placed in a more convenient spot. If this is the case, then it is suggested to place a basket on top of the dresser and add the daily clothing to it so less bending is performed. Dr. Solomon Kamson will provide you with other instruction on how to prepare for an easy recovery time and it is highly suggested you follow the instructions and tips.

Differences between Herniated and Bulging Discs

One who suffers from herniated or bulging discs not only experience loss of flexibility and motion, he or she will endure intense pain and can fall victim to other conditions and repercussions. For instance, relationships and work will be subject to the effects of the condition. There are certain activities that they are not able to participate in due to the spinal condition. Solomon Kamson understands this issue and works to fix the condition so his patients will get right back out to the active world.

The discs in the spine act as shock absorbers or cushions for the protection of the vertebrae. The discs are composed of a layer on the outside for strength and a center of softer cartilage for the shock absorption. They are round with an opening in the middle, sort of like a doughnut. Each disc is perfectly proportioned to fit within the spine.

What is a herniated disc?
A herniated disc is quite different from a bulging disc. A herniated disc is a fracture to the outer layer of the disc. The fracture allows the cartilage to protrude through the outer layer. This is typically in one area of the disc. Other names for this condition are ruptured discs or slipped discs. Dr. Solomon Kamson will be able to repair the problem and render you pain free. There are pain management systems available for those who suffer from the pain. After the proper diagnosis and consultation about treatment; the next step is decided on by the patient and the doctor.

What is a bulging disc?
A bulging disc is a disc that extends past the limits of where it is supposed to be located. Normally, this issue will affect a large portion of the disc. This is also a condition that is brought on by the average aging process. Other age groups do fall victim of this condition, due to injuries most commonly, so it is not limited to the older generations.

Bulging discs are more widely known among those who have one or the other of these conditions. There are even some lucky individuals who do have one of these conditions and are unaware of it because they do not experience any pain. Although they are lucky to have no pain, these sufferers will go on to develop pain, and the condition may be worse if they wait too long to get the disc corrected.

In order to discover which condition you may have in your spine, you will need to see Dr. Kamson. He will perform testing and ask questions in order to properly diagnose the issue. Once the diagnosis is known, he will educate you on the choice for your pain management. The team at the Spine Institute Northwest will be able to help you return to a healthier state.