Summer’s Back!

June 21, 2013

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Since the official beginning of summer is June 21st, the spine specialists at Texas Back Institute are preparing for the annual spike in the number of back injuries. “The primary culprits in this rash of acute back injuries are the accidents which occur when people get outdoors to enjoy some summer recreation,” notes Dr. Daniel Bradley, a spine surgeon at Texas Back Institute.

Activities such as mountain biking, water skiing and wake-boarding have an unusually high incidence of back injuries associated with them. Overdoing it on the golf course, tennis or basketball court can also lead to a visit to Dr. Bradley’s examination room. Even lifting those heavy suitcases into the car for summer vacation has the potential of causing painful back injuries.

So, how can you avoid the backache blues this summer? We asked Dr. Bradley for his advice.

Tips on Avoiding Summer Back Injuries

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“The best strategy for avoiding back injuries from summer recreation is to build core strength through proper conditioning before undertaking the activities, Dr. Bradley said. “Of course, this is easier said than done because in the summer, the weather is warm and we want to get out and play 36 holes of golf, rather than the 18 holes we are used to playing. Plus, we all believe we are in better shape than we really are.”

What is it about biking, equestrian sports, water skiing and wake-boarding that is makes them so dangerous to back health?

“The sudden pull on the ski line from the boat can cause trauma to unconditioned back muscles. However, this pales in comparison to the impact from falls that occur from a bike, horse, skiing and wake-boarding. A fall from this high speed can lead to strains and sometimes fractures to the vertebra of the back.”

What about swimming? Are there any potential back problems associated with taking a refreshing dip in the pool?

“So long as you’re careful on the depth of the water in which you’re diving, swimming is actually the best type of exercise anyone can do – in the summer or any other time of the year. In fact, we recommend regular swimming for those who are rehabbing from other back injuries. It’s extremely low impact and offers an excellent aerobic workout, while exercising all of the muscle groups.

Some summer sports such as fishing, tennis, golf and jogging seem to be pretty mild recreation. What are the possible problems with these activities?

“These activities are highly repetitive and sometimes involve twisting motions. While they are not high impact, they can exacerbate existing back pain if some form of stretching and muscle warm-up is not completed before the activity. By loosening up the muscles, they are more flexible and less likely to be strained by the motions of these sports.”  

How can someone determine when their back pain is related to soreness resulting from inactivity or a severe injury requiring medical attention?

“Any pain that does not subside after icing and over-the-counter pain medication over 2 or 3 days might require medical attention. Also, a physician should be consulted for any back pain which runs down the legs or arms and weakens these muscles.”

Summer is hot. Does heat have any effect on back pain or injuries?  

“Heat-related illnesses such as a heat stroke affect the central nervous system not the spinal muscles. I am not aware of any back injuries that are caused by the body overheating. However, the heat and fatigue can cause a person to be more careless in their physical activity and this can cause accidents. Plus, insufficient hydration can result in muscle cramps which can lead to injuries in the back and other areas of the body.”

Celebrating the Summer Solstice

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June 21st is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and is known as the Summer Solstice. This is when the tilt of the earth’s semi-axis, in either the northern or the southern hemisphere, is most inclined toward sun around which it orbits.

While there are many myths and legends associated with the Summer Solstice, the most interesting place to celebrate the longest day of the year is at Stonehenge, located near Wiltshire, England. Many scholars believe this pre-historic monument was built to serve as a celestial observatory which helped predict events such as solstices, equinoxes and eclipses of the sun.

Online references note that during Summer Solstice, Stonehenge provides visitors with a visually stunning view of the rising sun. It can be seen rising above the ‘Heel’ Stone when one stands within Stonehenge facing north-east through the entrance towards the stone. The ‘Heel’ Stone stands just outside the main entrance of Stonehenge.

Whether you celebrate the beginning of summer at Stonehenge, in your backyard pool or favorite golf course, Texas Back Institute reminds you to exercise good judgment about the activities that can affect your back. Chronic back pain can take the fun out of this wonderful time of year. It can limit your ability to participate in the activities that are fun and can help you stay fit and healthy.

Don’t overdo it. Stay hydrated. And make this the best summer ever! 

Mistakes Men Make Concerning their Back Health

Men taking charge is nothing new in most situations.  At work, at the gym, on the sports field or even when a little spider invades the kitchen.  When it comes to their back health and safety men can be known for being a little lackadaisical.

Dr. Ted Belanger, an orthopedic spine surgeon at Texas Back Institute in Rockwall shares 5 mistakes men can make when it comes to their spine health.

 

1)       They don’t exercise their back.  Guys go to the gym and exercise their “glamour muscles” to get strong and look trim, but they only rarely do any exercises to strengthen their back.  Your back is made of the same tissues as your arms and legs, and responds to exercise in much the same way.  The old adage that it’s dangerous to exercise or use your back for strenuous activity is a myth.  You can strengthen it just the same as you strengthen your biceps—with repetitive range of motion against resistance until you reach muscle fatigue.

2)       They don’t do enough research.  Very often evaluation of back problems is sought without any careful research to determine who might be the best person to see.  There are big differences in the training, background, certification and experience of the various practitioners available to assess a patient with a complaint about their back or spine.  The list includes chiropractors, primary care physicians, physiatrists, pain management doctors, orthopaedic surgeons, neurosurgeons and orthopaedic spine surgeons.  Among these, no specialist has more training and experience assessing and treating musculoskeletal conditions than an orthopaedic surgeon.  Most of the others on the list either have very little musculoskeletal training (neurosurgeon) or have no experience at all in the surgical treatment of spine conditions (all the rest).  An orthopaedic spine surgeon is in the best position to diagnose and treat a patient with a back/spine problem, whether or not they need surgery.

3)       They don’t ask enough questions.  Patients often present for a second opinion to our clinic.  A common element of their frustration and sometimes confusion is a lack of understanding of their problem.  This can be avoided by insisting your questions be answered the first time around.  Bringing a list of standard questions is a great way to make sure you are communicating well with your doctor.  Good questions are:  What is my diagnosis?  What will happen if I don’t do anything about it?  What are my options to treat it and what can I expect from the treatment?  How does the treatment work, exactly?

4)       They don’t recognize the difference between amateur and expert advice.  People often put as much weight on their neighbor or friend’s back advice as they do their doctor. While good-intentioned, the patient should at least recognize that their doctor, particularly if they are an orthopaedic spine surgeon or neurosurgeon, has much more insight and understanding about the diagnosis and treatment options.  A common comment made by patients and their friends and family is “back surgery doesn’t work”.  But that’s a drastic generalization that simply isn’t true.  There are many different kinds of back surgery (discectomy, fusion, disc replacement, decompression, etc.) and many different reasons to undergo back surgery (degenerative conditions, fractures, trauma, scoliosis, deformity, tumor, infection).  Whether or not surgery is successful depends largely on the diagnosis you are treating, the details of the workup, the execution of the surgery, the choice of surgical technique, and the alignment of the expectations of the patient with what the surgery can accomplish.  Orthopaedic Spine Surgeons know this better than anyone else.

5)       They too often think their back problem is hopeless and they just need to “live with it”.  Patients are often afraid to seek advice about surgery because they are afraid.  They should think of the office visit the way the doctor does: a consultation to answer questions and provide information.  The decision about what treatment to participate in always rests with the patient.  If you are still not sure after visiting with a doctor, feel free to do more research, ask more questions, and seek more advice from experts.  Sometimes second or even third opinions are necessary to come to a decision about how to proceed.

If you or someone you know has fallen victim to one of these mistakes, it’s not too late.  Give us a call today and we will talk to you about your situation and help you figure out what the best treatments are for you!

Now that the school year is off to a good start and football season is in full swing many may think the safest place for athletes is on the sidelines, however, studies show this isn’t necessarily the safest place for athletes anymore.  In the 29th Annual CATASTROPHIC SPORTS INJURY RESEARCH report high school cheerleading is accounted for 64.8% of injuries to female athletes and 70.6% at the college level.  Many attribute this high injury rate with an increase in gymnastic type stunts.  Though injuries may never be completely preventable, there are some tips cheerleaders can follow-up help decrease the likelihood of injury.

According to The University of North Caroline National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research the following are a list of sample guidelines that may help prevent cheerleading injuries:

1. Cheerleaders should have medical examinations before they are allowed to participate.  This would include a complete medical history.

2. Cheerleaders should be trained by a qualified coach with training in gymnastics and partner stunting. This person should also be trained in the proper methods for spotting and other safety factors.

3. Cheerleaders should be exposed to proper conditioning programs and trained in proper spotting techniques.

4. Cheerleaders should receive proper training before attempting gymnastic and partner type stunts and should not attempt stunts they are not capable of completing.  A qualification system demonstrating mastery of stunts is recommended.

5. Coaches should supervise all practice sessions in a safe facility.

6. Mini-trampolines and flips or falls off of pyramids and shoulders should be prohibited.

7. Pyramids over two high should not be performed.  Two high pyramids should not be performed without mats and other safety precautions.

8. If it is not possible to have a physician or certified athletic trainer at games and practice sessions, emergency procedures must be provided.  The emergency procedure should be in writing and available to all staff and athletes.

9. There should be continued research concerning safety in cheerleading.

10. Cheerleading coaches should follow the concussion policy and guidelines published by the NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations).

11. Cheerleading coaches should have some type of safety certification.

12. The NFHS should make cheerleading a sport, which will place cheerleading under the same restrictions and safety rules as all other high school sports (physical exams, qualified coaches, safe facility, athletic trainers, practice limits, and starting and ending dates for practice and games or competitions). The NCAA should follow this same recommendation.

A cheerleader has been defined as someone who calls for and directs organized cheering, but more recently cheerleading involves much more than this.  It’s important everyone involved in cheerleading is taking an active approach to keeping our cheerleaders safe.

Do you love cheerleading?  Tell us what’s your favorite thing about cheerleading below!

Spine Health Day

October 16, 2012

Happy Spine Health Day!

October 16th is Spine Health Day and in honor of such an important day here at Texas Back Institute here are 5 tips for maintaining a healthy spine (in no particular order) from Dr. Rey Bosita.

1. Maintain a healthy body weight.

Being overweight, especially belly fat, can put additional stress on your muscles, ligaments and tendons in your lower back.

2. Quit smoking.

Smoking can increase the risk of many life threatening illnesses. Smoking can impair blood flow to many parts of the body including the back which in turn slows down the healing process.

3. Work on your core. 

Core muscles help support the low back and pelvis.  Strengthening these muscles will help increase your spinal stability as well as reduce your risk of injury.

4. Get enough sleep. 

Sleep is essential to your overall health but it also plays an important role in maintaining a healthy spine.

5. Pay attention to any warning signs.

 It is important to listen to your body. It can be common to experience back pain once in a while, however, sometimes it can be an indication of a more serious problem. Consult with your physician to determine what is causing your pain. The best time to act is before a problem starts when there is no pain.

What are some of the things you do to maintain a healthy spine?

Is chronic back pain making you depressed?  Dr. Andrew Block explains.

Chronic pain is a problem affecting nearly 1/3 of the population in the US and depression is one of the problems which can accompany chronic pain. Statistics show about 85% of patients who have chronic pain experience symptoms of depression.

Some symptoms of depression include:

  • Sleep disturbance – which includes sleeping too much or too little
  • Appetite disturbance  – eating too much or not eating enough
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Withdrawal from other people
  • Shortened sense of future or a fear of dying
  • Loss of motivation

These symptoms plus a whole host of other symptoms make it very difficult to recover from chronic back pain.  In fact, there are a lot of indications chronic back pain and depression have primarily the same symptoms and they feed off of each other.  For example, when someone is hurting – they don’t sleep well, they lose their motivation and their enjoyment in life, which in turn creates depression and enforces chronic pain.

Fortunately there are many types of treatment available for chronic pain with depression.

Some treatment options of chronic pain with depression include:

  • Anti-depressant Therapy –  Anti-depressants help to relieve the symptoms of depression but because the same biochemical pathways are involved in depression and chronic pain the anti-depressant medication can also have a secondary effect providing some pain relief.
  • Cognitive Therapy – This type of therapy involves helping the patient observe their surroundings and find things they enjoy in their situation even though they are in pain. This helps the patient to be optimistic and the focus is not so much on the pain but the gains and good things in their lives which remain.
  • The above treatments can also be combined with physical therapy exercises and rehabilitation to further help the patient learn ways to manage their pain.

If you are experiencing depression related to chronic back pain, don’t despair.  There are many treatment options available to help you.  Call us today and we can help get you the treatment you need.

Back pain?  Try these at home treatments.

Do you know that 4 out of 5 Americans suffer from low back and neck pain at some point in their life? Many factors can contribute to this type of pain including poor posture, previous injuries, muscle strains or even disc degeneration.  The good news is most back pain and neck pain will get better without surgical intervention.

Try these tips if you find yourself fighting back pain or neck pain.

  1. RELAX – As I mentioned above, most back and neck pain will heal on its own without surgical intervention.  Stressing out about back and neck pain will only add to your discomfort.
  2. ICE – Apply a cold compress to the painful area.  Ice can be used for the first two or three days to help reduce swelling and inflammation and acts as a mild topical pain reliever.  Quick tip: You can easily make your own ice pack using liquid dish detergent and freezer bags.  Just pour detergent in the bag, seal tightly (removing air) and place it in the freezer.  You may want to double bag it just to be safe.
  3. HEAT – Once any swelling/inflammation has subsided you may want to apply heat.  You can take a warm bath or shower or use a heating bad to help increase circulation to the painful area.
  4. OTC PAIN KILLERS –For mild to moderate pain over the counter pain killers like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen can be helpful in easing discomfort. (Be sure to follow the suggested use instructions and don’t exceed the recommended daily dosage.)
  5. STRETCH – Stretching will help extend the muscles in your neck and back and help release stress on your back and neck.  For your neck, slowly roll your neck from one side to the other holding on each side for 10 seconds.  Repeat 5-10 times.  For your back, lie face down and put your hands on the floor.  Slowly lift your upper body and slightly arch your back.  Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 5-10 times.

Most importantly, know when to seek MEDICAL ATTENTION.  If pain persists, seek medical attention from a physician.  If you aren’t sure what type of physician you should make an appointment with, call us! Dr. Effat Jehan is our triage specialist at Texas Back Institute and she can help determine what next step is most appropriate for your condition.

Guest blogger, Anabelle Gutierrez, Workers’ Compensation Specialist, love her job!

Workers’ compensation can be tricky which is why it’s important to have a concierge case manager dedicated to each patient. At Texas Back Institute we realize this and we have a team of dedicated work comp professionals to help each patient through the workers’ compensation process. My name is Anabelle and I am your resource for anything workers’ comp related at Texas Back Institute.

Anabelle and her beautiful nephew.

I love my job! I have worked at Texas Back Institute for several years and I still feel like every day I am going to make a difference in someone’s life.  My goal is to help walk each work comp patient through their treatment process.  When someone is injured on the job and unable to work it can be exceedingly stressful and I want to make sure when it comes to TBI, we make the process as easy as possible.

I strive to provide each one of my patients with individualized care and attentiveness.  I know it’s not only important for our physicians to communicate effectively; I also have to make sure I am keeping an open dialogue with my patients so they always know where we are in the process of their claim. I truly love the days when a patient expresses how much I have helped with their workers’ compensation process. When patients articulate they are able to do things now they couldn’t do before, I know I was part of the team who made it happen! My most memorable day thus far was when a former patient stopped by to let us know how she was doing. Her comment will always stick out in my mind. She said, “Texas Back Institute does get people back to life, look at me I can walk without pain!” I love knowing my job helps people get back to doing the things back pain or neck pain once prevented them from doing.

 Back Pain Weighing you Down?

Dr. Rey Bosita, Orthopedic Spine Surgeon at Texas Back Institute weights in on weight gain and back pain

 Could extra weight be to blame for your back pain?  According to a study published by the American Obesity Association, probably so.  The same study found nearly one-third of Americans are severely overweight or obese, and suffer from musculoskeletal (specifically back) pain.  Individuals with excess weight in their stomachs may experience back pain as a result of the excess weight pulling the pelvis forward and straining the lower back. 

With warmer weather on the horizon, why not make a plan to get outside and get some exercise?  Here are a few examples of things you can do outdoors to get yourself looking and feeling better in no time.

  • Take a swim.  With the weather getting warmer swimming is great cardiovascular exercise and easy on the joints.
  • Take the dog for a walk, at a moderate pace
  • Toss the football or baseball with the kids
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Go on a family outing to the zoo, arboretum or aquarium.  Take the whole family!

Losing weight will not only do wonders for your waistline, but may also help alleviate back pain.

Do you have any great healthy recipes?  Share them here!

Walk Away from Back Pain

January 13, 2012

 

Can you help protect your back by a regular walking routine?

Back pain is one of the leading causes of missed work, and chronic back pain is something many people must cope with every day. Back pain can be excruciating, debilitating, and in some cases, even disabling. For many back pain sufferers, the types of exercise and participation in physical activities often become limited. According to Dr. Rey Bosita of Texas Back Institute, walking can be one of the most effective remedies for your back pain.

At Texas Back Institute we love participating in charity walks. They are a great way to give back, spend time with friends and get some exercise!

Our group at Race for the Cure!

The Texas Back Institute group at the American Diabetes Association Walk!

Benefits of Walking

There are many inherent health benefits from a regular routine walking for exercise, such as:

  • Strengthens muscles in the feet, legs, hips, and torso. Walking increases the stability of the spine and conditions the muscles that keep the body in the upright position.
  • Reduces stress. Walking helps release the feel-good chemicals endorphins and serotonin in the brain and reduces stress that often makes back pain worse.
  • Nourishes the spinal structures. Walking for exercise facilitates strong circulation, pumping nutrients into muscles and removing toxins and inflammation that are causing pain.
  • Improves flexibility and posture. Exercise walking, along with regular stretching, allows greater range of motion and helps prevent awkward movements and susceptibility of future injury.
  • Helps with controlling weight. Any regular exercise routine helps maintain a healthy weight, especially as one ages and metabolism slows.

For people with ongoing back pain, a balanced and stable walking regimen maintains and enhances one’s ability to continue doing everyday activities while reducing the likelihood and/or severity of additional episodes of back pain.

To realize the full benefits of walking, certain guidelines need to be followed as outlined below.

Tips to Effective Walking for Exercise

There are several stretches and techniques that will improve the benefits of walking, as well as help prevent injury.

Stretch before walking. Prior to exercise walking, stretching should be done to prepare the joints and muscles for the increased range of motion needed. It is important to take an easy five-minute walk to warm up the muscles before stretching so they’re not completely cold when stretching.

Using the following techniques will help improve the benefits of walking:

  • Walk briskly, but as a general rule maintain enough breath to be able to carry on a conversation.
  • Start out with a 5 minute walk and work up to walking for at least 30 minutes (roughly 2 miles) at least 3 to 4 times a week.
  • Avoid hills or uneven surfaces. Hills require leaning forward and increasing your effort, so try to walk on level ground to avoid injury.
  • Maintain good posture while walking to get the optimum aerobic benefit with each step and help protect the back and avoid injury. These elements of form should be followed:
    • Head and shoulders: Keep the head up and centered between the shoulders with eyes focused straight ahead at the horizon. Keep the shoulders relaxed but straight—avoid slouching forward.
    • Abdominal muscles: It is important to actively use the abdominal muscles to help support the upper part of the body and the spine. To do this, keep the stomach pulled in slightly and stand fully upright. Avoid leaning forward as you walk.
    • Hips: The majority of the forward motion should start with the hips. Each stride should feel natural—not too long or too short. Most people make the mistake of trying to take too long of stride.
    • Arms and hands: Arms should stay close to the body, with elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. While walking, the arms should keep in motion, swinging front to back in pace with the stride of the opposite leg. Remember to keep hands relaxed, lightly cupped with the palms inward and thumbs on top. Avoid clenching the hands or making tight fists.
    • Feet: With each step, land gently on the heel and mid-foot, rolling smoothly to push off with the toes. Be mindful about using the balls of the feet and toes to push forward with each step.

Walking can also help prevent back pain. The better toned your muscles are, the less likely you will have frequent spasms. So, strap on a good pair of tennis shoes and start walking to possibly help reduce your back pain, and keep on walking for long-term better health.

What type of exercise do you like to do to stay healthy?

****Disclaimer: Please check with your physician prior to startnig any kind of exercise program to make sure you are healthy enough to begin. ****

All of us are likely to experience back pain sometime during our lives. Here’s our Top 5 list of things women should do – or not do – to have a healthier back and neck:

Click your high heels less often. Yes, high heels make your legs look great, but they also unnaturally position your heels above your toes. This throws your entire body out of alignment. Over a long period of time, over-wearing high heels can cause severe low back and leg pain. Whether you’re traveling, at work or on the way to a cocktail party, wear comfortable flats, then make the switcheroo to heels when the time comes for the high-heel look.

Watch your cals. Try to shed a few pounds for the good of your back and overall health. Every pound you gain can add additional stress to the ligaments and muscles in your back. Extra weight in the tummy area pulls the pelvis forward and strains the lower back, which can create low back pain. Additionally, if you become quickly tired or have trouble breathing during exercise, it becomes harder for you to get the exercise you need that helps keep the pounds off. And if you’re carrying extra weight and wear high heels, you’ll greatly increase the odds for developing low back pain.

Find out if osteoporosis runs in your family:  You’re young and in great shape, so why should you worry about osteoporosis now?  It is estimated that about 75% of an individual’s peak bone mass is influenced by genetics. If you are genetically predisposed to osteoporosis, tell you doctor!  Also know that exercise, diet and regular testing are critically important for you to build up bone mass while you’re young and more able to do so. Young women should perform 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 to 4 times weekly to increase bone mass.

Bask in the glow of exercise while you’re pregnant.  Pregnancy is certainly one of the leading causes of back pain in women. If you’re pregnant, you should do stretching and strengthening exercises for your back before and during your pregnancy – always under the supervision of your doctor, of course. And if you do experience pain, don’t assume rest is the answer or it will be gone after the baby comes. Appropriate treatment can help you receive significant back pain relief during the pregnancy and lessen the chance of having chronic back pain in the lower back after the pregnancy.

Love your big bag but don’t use it like a suitcase. If your purse or satchel weighs more than 10% of your body weight, it’s too heavy – ask yourself, do I really need all of this stuff?  You also need to carry big bags correctly. We recommend you select a purse or briefcase with a long strap that allows you to carry it across your chest. And while we on the topic of big bags, shopaholics shouldn’t try to carry the day’s haul all at once – you won’t miss a sale if you deposit a bag on two in your car and return back to the hunt.

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