Advantages of Medical Tourism

by admin

Can you really travel to a foreign destination for a vacation and receive high-quality medical care at the same time? That’s the question many people raise when the subject of medical tourism comes up.

Many people are skeptical of medical tourism, and understandably so. When you receive medical care in your home country, you’ll naturally feel more comfortable with the treatment process. However, there are many advantages that medical tourism can offer. 

For some patients, traveling to a different country for medical care is a worthwhile task. Keep reading to learn more. 

What is Medical Tourism?

Medical tourism is a term used to describe the action of traveling internationally for medical care. 

What Are The Benefits of Medical Tourism?

The following benefits are attributed to the popularity of medical tourism for USA patients:

  • Affordable care

This is the key benefit of medical tourism. Many people can attain high-quality medical care at a fraction of the cost by traveling overseas. This particularly applies to patients in the U.S., which lacks a public healthcare system. 

  • High-quality care

The quality of care should always be the primary consideration in medical tourism. There are first-rate medical facilities and health care professionals in many areas across the globe. Some of these areas, which are widely considered to be the best countries for medical tourism, include Germany, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Israel, India, Thailand, Singapore, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Cyprus.

  • Advanced treatments

Different areas of the world have different medical regulatory bodies. Here in the United States, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) protects Americans’ health by regulating drugs, biological products, medical devices, food, cosmetics, and even certain electric products. 

In many instances, medical innovations have been developed, proven to be successful, and used for many years in other areas of the world. But, with the FDA’s regulatory processes, it can take a long time for those proven medical solutions to become available in the United States. This can also apply to residents of other countries who don’t have access to many of the advanced medical treatments in the United States. 

Medical tourism can give patients access to the latest medical technology and, as a result, a higher quality of care. 

Why is Medical Tourism Popular?

The United States has the most expensive healthcare in the world. So, while few people would consider medical tourism to the U.S., many Americans contemplate international travel to lower their medical expenses.

Medical Tourism Statistics

When considering traveling internationally for a procedure, it’s wise to consider medical tourism examples and statistics. 

  • In 2017, over 1.4 million Americans sought out medical care from various medical tourism countries around the globe. 
  • According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 12 to 14 million people travel abroad annually for medical care. 
  • Many countries offer certain medical procedures at 30% to 65% of the cost of care in the U.S. 
  • The worldwide medical tourism market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 32.51% between 2022 and 2030. 

Which Choice Factors Are The Most Important To Medical Tourism Consumers?

Consumers who are interested in medical tourism value a variety of factors. The most prominent of these factors include:

  • Finances

Finances are arguably the most important factor to medical tourism consumers. In fact, in a study from the Medical Tourism Association, 85% of surveyed patients who traveled overseas to a hospital reported that the cost of medical care was a very important deciding factor.

The healthcare system in the United States leaves an estimated 9.6% of residents without health insurance, as of 2021. Even among individuals who do have health insurance coverage, high co-pays and deductibles can make it difficult to afford medical care. 

With these facts in mind, it’s unsurprising that cost is a crucial factor for medical tourism consumers. Above all, these consumers want to secure an affordable price for medical care by traveling overseas.

  • Quality of care

Quality of care is paramount for many medical tourism consumers. By traveling to other countries, patients can attain a higher quality of care (at a lower cost) when compared to the medical treatment available in their home countries.

However, without the assurances that Americans are accustomed to under the FDA, consumers must consider the laws and regulations surrounding medical care in the country that they’re traveling to, as well as the foreign practice’s certifications. 

  • Treatment availability

While discussing the benefits of medical tourism, we mentioned that it can grant patients access to advanced treatments that aren’t available in their home country. With this in mind, the treatments available in other countries are a key consideration for medical tourism consumers. 

  • Waiting lists

Waiting lists for health care services are another consideration among medical tourism consumers. As of 2022, in the United States, 28% of patients sometimes, rarely, or never receive a response from their primary physician on the same day. This is a high percentage when compared to many other areas of the globe. However, 27% of patients in the U.S. wait one month or more for a specialist appointment, which is a lower percentage than in many other countries, including Norway and Canada.

With that said, long wait lists are primarily a concern for medical tourism consumers in nations with public healthcare systems.

What Are The Risks of Medical Tourism?

Although medical tourism can provide several benefits, it also presents certain risks and safety concerns, including:

  • Infectious disease

Some countries have a risk of complications including HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, blood infections, wound infections, and infections from donor tissue or blood. 

  • Communication difficulties

If patients travel to a facility using a language that they don’t speak fluently, doctor-patient communication can be difficult. Given that doctors provide crucial pre-op and post-op information, as well as procedure specifics, this may lead to confusion and errors. 

  • Quality of care

Certain areas may not have comparable requirements for medical licensing and accreditation. This creates the risk of low quality of care. 

  • Flying after a procedure

Doctors typically advise against air travel immediately after surgery. This is because flying raises the risk of developing a blood clot. Depending on the type of surgical procedure, patients should wait between seven and 10 days before flying. 

To avoid these risks, medical tourism consumers should ensure that:

  • The medical facility has been accredited by the Joint Commission International
  • The medical facility utilizes the World Health Organization Checklist
  • The staff at the facility follows stringent sanitation, disinfection, and hygiene measures
  • The provider is board-certified and internationally-recognized

What Is The Best Country For Medical Tourism If You Need a Spine Surgery?

As we’ve already mentioned, a significant benefit of medical tourism is that you can gain access to treatments that have not yet or have only recently been, approved for use in your country. Procedures that have been proven effective and are widely used in certain areas of the world can often benefit international patients.

The TOPS™ (Total Posterior Solution) procedure, performed in association with spinal decompression surgery, is an example of a procedure that has been used extensively in Europe but not yet in the United States. TOPS is an alternative to spinal fusion back surgery.

Spinal fusion is widely used with spinal decompression procedures for conditions like spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, bone spurs, and more. Unfortunately, fusion can severely limit patients’ range of motion in the back. Additionally, the complete recovery process for spinal fusion may last for six months to a year. 

The TOPS System preserves the full range of motion between the individual vertebral segments, unlike spinal fusion. It involves a minimally-invasive surgical procedure, which greatly shortens the spinal surgery recovery period. In fact, patients may start moving around the day after TOPS surgery with few, if any, restrictions. 

For certain patients with specific medical conditions, medical tourism could be the ticket to high-quality, low-cost healthcare. If you think you may benefit from medical tourism, make sure to conduct thorough research, find an accredited facility, and evaluate all of the risks before scheduling your appointment abroad. 

Does Medication Reduce Back Pain?

by admin

Back pain is a prevalent health concern in the United States and around the world. In fact, almost 65 million Americans have had a recent episode of back pain. 

Thankfully, most back pain episodes can be successfully resolved with at-home care. But, if this approach doesn’t relieve your back pain after a few weeks, you should consult with a back pain specialist.

A specialist may recommend medication for back pain to improve your symptoms. There are several different types of medications that can alleviate back pain, all of which we’ll discuss below. 

Understanding Back Pain

Before we dive into the topic of medication for back pain relief, let’s answer some of the most commonly asked questions about back pain. 

How long does back pain last?

Back pain can be either acute or chronic. Acute back pain typically develops suddenly and resolves within four weeks. However, many cases of acute back pain go away within just a couple of days. 

Chronic back pain lasts for 12 weeks or longer. Patients with chronic back pain may experience temporary pain relief, followed by a flare-up. 

Back pain cases lasting between four and 12 weeks are considered subacute. This means that while the pain lasts longer than acute pain, it’s not defined as chronic. 

How do I know if my back pain is serious?

Back pain may be a sign of a more serious condition if:

  • The pain becomes gradually worse over an extended period
  • You’re experiencing neurological symptoms, such as tingling, numbness, and weakness in the extremities
  • The pain began after an accident, such as a car accident or fall, and has continued to get worse
  • The pain interferes with your quality of sleep
  • You’re experiencing changes in bladder and/or bowel function (this rare symptom can indicate a severe condition that may cause permanent nerve damage and requires emergency medical attention)

Generally, if you’re experiencing back pain that hasn’t improved at all after two weeks of at-home care, we’d recommend scheduling a medical evaluation. 

How do I know if my back pain is muscle or spine?

Back pain can stem from a wide range of factors. Muscle strains and spasms are common causes of acute back pain and often resolve without medical intervention. Muscular back pain may feel like:

  • Soreness after physical activity
  • Spasms or cramps
  • Sharp or achy pain that’s limited to one area of the back

Spinal problems, on the other hand, tend to require expert medical treatment. Conditions such as a slipped disc, spinal stenosis, spondylosis, and spondylolisthesis can trigger persistent back pain.

Unlike muscular pain, spinal problems can cause neurological symptoms, including numbness, tingling, and weakness in the extremities. Additionally, back pain stemming from the spine generally won’t improve with rest, although changing positions may provide some relief. 

Cases of back pain caused by a spinal condition may require surgical spinal solutions if conservation treatment methods fail after several months. 

Why is my back pain getting worse?

If your back pain is continuing to get worse despite self-care and at-home treatment, you may have a more serious condition, rather than an acute injury. Spinal arthritis, herniated disc, and spinal stenosis are among the most common causes of chronic back pain. 

What does a slipped disc in the back feel like?

A slipped disc occurs when one of the intervertebral discs that cushion the vertebrae is injured. Specifically, the jelly-like disc interior presses out through a crack in the disc’s tough outer shell. If the damaged disc presses on nearby nerves, you may experience a range of symptoms, including:

  • Sharp back pain that worsens with activity and may improve when you’re lying down
  • Pain that radiates into the arm or leg, depending on the location of the slipped disc
  • Numbness, tingling, and/or weakness in the extremities

What Decreases Back Pain?

Most back pain improves with a few weeks of self-care and at-home remedies. This may include over-the-counter pain relievers, ice, heat, and rest. While you should avoid lifting heavy objects and vigorous exercise, gentle, low-impact exercise and moving throughout the day can also help relieve back pain.

While it may seem like sitting and lying down will help relieve your pain, it can actually make it worse by increasing tension in the back muscles. Additionally, movement improves circulation, which helps deliver healing nutrients and oxygen to the back.

Along with these at-home remedies, the following non-invasive and alternative treatments can help decrease back pain:

  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy 

What Medicine Can Cure Low Back Pain?

Over-The-Counter Pain Medication For Back Pain

The most common first step in using medication to alleviate back pain is taking over-the-counter medicine. Typically, this involves acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil and Motrin), and naproxen (such as Aleve) are widely used for back pain management. 

These medications are often effective at relieving back pain and can work within a very short period. However, make sure to always consult the medication label and/or ask your doctor about the best dose of these lower back pain medications for your needs. 

Taking too high a dose of over-the-counter pain medications, or taking them for an extended period, can trigger side effects including:

  • Liver damage
  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Increased risk of bruising and bleeding
  • Gastrointestinal issues including upset stomach and peptic ulcers
  • Skin reactions

Additionally, you may not be a candidate for over-the-counter pain relievers if you have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, peptic ulcer disease, gastrointestinal problems, kidney disease, or liver cirrhosis. 

Muscle Relaxant Medication For Lower Back Pain

If over-the-counter medications don’t relieve your back pain issues, your doctor may also prescribe a muscle relaxant. This type of prescription medication for back pain has proven to be effective for many patients and can help manage secondary pain, such as sore hips. 

While muscle relaxants will often lessen back pain, they can cause side effects like sleepiness and dizziness. So, you should take them only when you’re done driving for the day. Ideally, you should only take muscle relaxants when you’re at home and can fully relax.

Don’t take muscle relaxants when you’re at work, have to make important decisions, cook, or complete any other tasks that require focus. Additionally, only take them when you can be sure that someone is available to care for your kids and pets.

Some patients are more sensitive than others to the effects of muscle relaxants and can’t function safely while on this particular type of back pain medication. Your physician will help determine if muscle relaxants are the right choice for you. 

Medication For Severe Back Pain

Narcotics

Your doctor may also prescribe you a narcotic, such as codeine or hydrocodone, as a chronic back pain medication. These medications aren’t prescribed to everyone because they present several risks, including the risk of addiction. Your physician will likely try several other courses of treatment before resorting to narcotics for back pain. 

With this in mind, narcotics should be used only for a short period and with close doctor supervision. Take these lower back pain relief medications only as prescribed and be mindful of side effects including:

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Impaired judgment
  • Slowed breathing
  • Constipation
  • Addiction, as mentioned above

Antidepressants

Interestingly, some back pain patients experience chronic back pain relief from low doses of certain types of antidepressants. Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline, in particular, have been beneficial for some back pain patients.

While you may not feel depressed or show other signs of depression, antidepressants are among the arsenal of low back pain medication that your physician may recommend.

Side effects of antidepressants can include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Drowsiness
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Blurred vision

Cortisone Injections

Cortisone injections are another treatment option for severe back pain. These anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving injections are delivered directly to the space around your spinal cord.

Your doctor might inject cortisone into the facet joints of your vertebrae. This can decrease inflammation in the areas causing your back pain, allowing for a fuller range of motion and greater stability. Additionally, a cortisone injection can decrease inflammation around the nerve roots, potentially providing back pain relief for up to a few months after the injection.

Unfortunately, cortisone injections don’t support the body’s healing process or accelerate recovery. In fact, if a patient receives too many of these injections, they can cause tissue damage. For this reason, physicians recommend no more than three to four cortisone injections per year.   

What Is The Best Medication For Back Pain?

Ultimately, the best medication for back pain relief will vary from patient to patient. So, talk to your doctor about which medications may be ideal to relieve your back pain.

Additionally, don’t hesitate to request information on possible side effects and how long you should take each type of suggested medication. It’s crucial to closely follow your physician’s instructions to relieve your back pain with over-the-counter or prescription medications. 

Caring for Your Spinal Surgery Incision

by admin

All patients undergoing back surgery should actively ensure that the healing process goes as smoothly as possible. In doing so, you can attain the best possible results from the procedure while avoiding complications that could compromise your health. 

Proper incision care is a key step in the process of adopting healthy habits and positive lifestyle choices to promote healing. As an aspect of your spinal surgery recovery, incision care will benefit your overall health. 

Here, we’ll discuss how to care for a spinal incision to ensure a successful surgical recovery and back pain relief. Additionally, we’ll explore innovations in the field of spine surgery that allow for smaller incisions and, as a result, a lower risk of complications. 

How Are Incisions Closed After Spinal Surgery?

After spinal surgery, the incision may be closed with Steri-Strips, staples, or sutures, including dissolvable sutures. Most often, spinal surgeons use a combination of these closure methods.

Since spinal surgery is performed beneath the layers of skin and muscle in the back, the incision must be closed at various layers. Your surgeon will suture the muscle layer together before closing the skin. 

  • Sutures are also commonly referred to as stitches. This wound closure method involves using sterile surgical threads, which are stronger than the threads most people are familiar with. The surgeon uses these threads with a needle to suture the incision closed, and certain types of sutures will dissolve within a few weeks of the procedure. 
  • Staples are metal clips. They allow for fast wound closure but don’t dissolve. So, you’ll need to return to your surgeon to have them removed after the procedure (typically seven to 14 days post-op). 
  • Steri-Strips are adhesive bandages that may be used to help close an incision after spinal surgery. They may be applied over dissolvable stitches to help keep the skin closed or to help the wound heal after the sutures are removed. 

Preparing and Recovering From Back Surgery

In preparing for back surgery, patients should begin on a path of improving their diet and physical activity. These practices will improve your overall health to ensure that the spinal surgery goes off without a hitch. 

With that said, implementing healthy habits is not only essential for the surgery itself but also for the recovery process following the operation. While continuing the positive lifestyle changes that you applied before the procedure, make sure to rigorously follow your doctor’s orders, including those about what medications to avoid. Certain medications can interfere with the healing process, namely including NSAIDs. NSAIDs, like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, are blood thinners and can impair the body’s repair processes.

How Do You Treat an Incision After Back Surgery?

Proper care for the surgical incision is one of the most important aspects of post-operative home recuperation following back surgery. 

Immediately After The Procedure

You won’t be permitted to apply any ointments or lotions to the incision while it’s healing. You also shouldn’t bathe in a tub, swim, or use a hot tub until your incision is healed. Immersing the incision in water before your surgeon clears you to do so may increase your risk of infection and inhibit the healing process. 

Additionally, you’ll need to keep the incision clean after spinal surgery. You can clean the incision site with soap and water, then gently dry it with a clean cloth. This helps prevent infection as the incision heals. 

Two Weeks After The Procedure

In most cases, non-dissolvable sutures and staples are removed 14 days following the spinal surgery. At this point, the incision is usually fully healed. 

Six Weeks After The Procedure

Many spinal surgery patients are eager to reduce scarring by applying scar treatments and vitamin creams to the incision. However, you must wait to get the go-ahead from your surgeon before doing so. Typically, surgeons allow patients to start applying scar creams six weeks after the procedure. 

How Long Does It Take For a Spinal Incision To Heal?

It generally takes about two weeks for a spinal incision, including a spinal stenosis incision, to completely heal. At this point, your surgeon will remove sutures and staples, as well as clear you to take baths and swim. However, this timeline can vary from patient to patient. 

Spinal incision infections typically appear two to four weeks after the procedure. Your surgeon will advise you to be aware of infection symptoms, which include fever, worsening redness at the incision, and changes in the infection drainage. If any of these symptoms occur, make sure to reach out to your surgeon immediately.

Additionally, if the surgeon places any hardware or devices during the procedure and an infection develops, they may need to be removed. This also applies to patients with an implantation spinal cord stimulator incision or spinal fusion incision. 

How Long Does It Take For Spinal Nerves to Heal After Surgery?

Immediately after the spinal nerves are decompressed in surgery, the healing process can begin. But, nerve tissue heals far slower than other types of tissue in the body, namely muscle tissue. So, while some patients will experience an immediate improvement in nerve pain after spinal surgery, other patients may need more time to notice a difference. 

In the weeks and months after spinal surgery, patients should notice a gradual improvement in neurological symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and weakness. By adopting healthy lifestyle habits, such as engaging in low-impact exercise, eating healthily, and refraining from smoking, you can ensure that the spinal nerves heal as quickly as possible. 

Spinal Surgery Advances For Smaller Incisions

Surgeons always aim to create as small an incision as possible while successfully carrying out the procedure. This is because a smaller incision leads to less blood loss, less scarring, and a lower risk of infection. 

Fortunately, the last several years have seen a revolution in back surgery procedures and outcomes. Now, more minimally-invasive procedures are available to patients that require spinal surgery. These procedures allow for much smaller incisions, among other advantages over traditional open back surgery.

Spinal Fusion Alternatives

One procedure that can now be replaced with minimally-invasive alternatives is spinal fusion back surgery. This procedure was traditionally performed in conjunction with spinal decompression surgery for spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and related conditions. 

Spinal fusion involves positioning an implant containing bone graft material in between the affected vertebrae. Over the course of several weeks after the procedure, the bone graft will trigger the fusing of the vertebrae, turning them into a single bone. As a result, the patient can avoid spinal instability after decompression surgery. 

Unfortunately, spinal fusion requires a long recovery period and eliminates the natural movement of the individual vertebrae. It also creates the risk of adjacent segment disorder, or ASD, which occurs when the vertebrae surrounding the fused segment degenerate more rapidly than they otherwise would. 

The TOPS System From Premia Spine

Thankfully, a spinal fusion alternative has emerged to improve outcomes and preserve patients’ range of motion: the TOPS (Total Posterior Solution) System. The TOPS System is an implant that facilitates a minimally-invasive spinal surgery. It’s been shown in clinical trials around the globe to provide superior outcomes for patients who undergo treatments such as lumbar laminectomy or other spinal decompression procedures for various causes of lower back pain. 

As the example of the TOPS System indicates, these advances in minimally-invasive back surgery allow for not only fewer complications in surgical incision healing, but also improved outcomes overall.

Don’t hesitate to discuss concerns surrounding post-op incision care with your surgeon, and make sure to explore all of your spine surgery options.

Recovering from Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

by admin

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

If you’re suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis, you may experience back pain, stiffness, and neurological symptoms on a daily basis. While these symptoms can diminish your quality of life, there is a path to recovery from lumbar spinal stenosis. 

In this article, we’ll discuss lumbar spinal stenosis and the range of treatment options available to help you recover from this condition. 

What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Lumbar spinal stenosis, a common medical problem, occurs when the lower portion of the spinal canal becomes narrower. The spinal canal is the center of the spinal column and houses the spinal nerves, which relay sensory information to the brain and control muscular movements.

The term stenosis comes from Latin and means “a narrowing”. When a portion of the spinal canal narrows unnaturally, it can place pressure on the spinal nerves. These pinched nerves can, in turn, cause pain and limited mobility.

Many people may be wondering what causes spinal stenosis. While this condition can stem from a variety of factors, it’s most commonly caused by osteoarthritis. 

What Activities Should be Avoided With Spinal Stenosis?

Certain activities can exacerbate spinal stenosis, leading to worsened pain and stiffness. So, while spinal stenosis patients need to remain physically active to promote circulation and strengthen the back muscles, the following activities should be avoided:

  • Running

Running is considered a high-impact exercise. This means that it places considerable stress on the joints and the spine. 

  • Long walks

Walking is a low-impact exercise that you can do anywhere, without a gym membership. So, it’s an excellent option for many spinal stenosis patients. However, patients should be sure to limit their walking sessions to avoid pain flare-ups. 

  • Stretches and yoga poses that require hyperextension of the spine

To hyperextend the spine means to arch the spine beyond its natural anatomical position. Any exercise that involves hyperextending the spine can worsen spinal stenosis pain, as this movement involves compressing the spinal structures. 

  • Contact sports

Contact sports involve a higher risk of injury than other physical activities. These sports may involve a sudden impact or trauma, which may exacerbate spinal stenosis or even cause additional injuries. 

Additionally, spinal stenosis patients need to practice good posture while exercising. Poor posture while lifting weights, for example, can place extra stress on the spine and aggravate back pain. 

All of the factors listed above are also things to avoid with cervical spinal stenosis. 

Does Spinal Stenosis Hurt All The Time?

In most cases, spinal stenosis pain comes and goes. Pain from spinal stenosis may flare up whenever the spinal nerves are compressed or irritated, such as when you stand or walk for long periods. 

Generally, spinal stenosis isn’t progressive, meaning that it doesn’t gradually worsen over time. However, certain factors can worsen spinal stenosis or lead to more frequent pain flare-ups, including poor posture, smoking, being overweight, and being physically inactive. 

What is Considered Severe Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis ranges in severity. Some cases are asymptomatic because the spinal canal hasn’t narrowed enough to impart pressure on nearby nerves. However, severe spinal stenosis can cause debilitating pain and neurological symptoms. 

What Are The Final Stages of Spinal Stenosis?

Patients may have what’s considered to be severe spinal stenosis if:

  • Excruciating flare-ups of back pain
  • Extreme weakness in both legs
  • Loss of bowel and/or bladder control
  • Severe numbness in the legs

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, visit a physician immediately for medical treatment. These symptoms can result from serious medical complications, including cauda equina syndrome, that may trigger loss of leg function.  

Can Lumbar Stenosis Be Reversed?

Technically speaking, the only way to reverse spinal stenosis is through surgical intervention. However, the good news is that a variety of treatment options, including non-surgical methods, are available and have been proven effective in helping individuals recover from spinal stenosis symptoms.

What Is The Best Treatment For Spinal Stenosis?

Conservative, non-invasive spinal stenosis treatments include: 

  • Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes are often an effective way to manage lumbar spinal stenosis. A low-impact exercise regimen, shedding extra pounds, quitting smoking, maintaining proper posture, and eating a nutrient-dense diet can all positively contribute to your lumbar stenosis recovery. 

  • Medications

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can help patients manage pain from spinal stenosis. In some cases, physicians prescribe stronger medications to help treat lumbar stenosis, although it’s not considered a long-term solution. 

  • Physical therapy

Physical therapy is an essential component of a conservative treatment plan for lumbar spinal stenosis. PT for spinal stenosis typically involves exercises to strengthen and stabilize the muscles that support the spine and stretches to alleviate tension. Your physical therapist will also likely work with you to improve the alignment of the spine through proper posture. 

  • Anti-inflammatory injections

Anti-inflammatory injections are rarely the first treatment recommendation for lumbar stenosis pain. However, patients experiencing persistent pain may benefit from the effects of epidural steroid injections, which alleviate inflammation throughout the body. To prevent tissue damage, however, patients should receive no more than three to four injections per year. 

For patients with spinal stenosis, there’s no way of knowing which of these approaches will be most successful. So, physicians often prescribe one of these treatments as a first step and monitor the results. If the first method doesn’t help the patient recover from spinal stenosis, the next option may be tried, and so on.

Is stretching good for spinal stenosis?

We’ve already mentioned that low-impact exercise is beneficial for spinal stenosis. However, many patients wonder whether or not to include stretching in their regimen of spinal stenosis exercises. 

Stretching is, in fact, good for spinal stenosis. Gentle stretches can help release muscle tension, improve mobility, and promote circulation. 

Is heat good for spinal stenosis?

Many patients with spinal stenosis experience tension in the back muscles, which may limit mobility and exacerbate back pain. The heat helps relax the muscles while increasing blood flow to the affected area. This can enhance the body’s healing process. 

How Long Does Lumbar Stenosis Take to Heal?

The amount of time needed to fully recover from lumbar stenosis will differ depending on the patient and the treatment plan. However, generally speaking, most patients recover from spinal stenosis within six months to a year of beginning treatment. 

Surgery For Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

For patients with moderate to severe spinal stenosis who don’t respond to conservative treatments, surgery may be recommended. Spinal stenosis surgery typically involves spinal decompression surgery, during which the surgeon trims away excess bone in the narrowed center of the affected vertebra. This relieves pressure on the compressed nerve(s). 

The Recovery Process For Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Surgery

Lumbar laminectomy is the most common surgical procedure for spinal stenosis. Typically, patients can return to their regular activities four to six weeks after this procedure. It may take up to six months for patients to experience complete pain relief after a lumbar laminectomy. 

Fusion With Lumbar Stenosis Surgery

Historically, a spinal fusion back surgery operation has been performed in conjunction with decompression surgery to relieve spinal stenosis. Spinal fusion stabilizes the region of the spine that’s treated during the operation. 

Unfortunately, spinal fusion involves a variety of risks. For one, patients lose a great deal of mobility in the back after fusion and can no longer twist, bend, and flex the spine. This permanently limits their activities after the surgery. 

Additionally, spinal fusion requires a significant recovery process. Patients may not fully heal until a year after the procedure. 

Fusion Alternatives For Spinal Stenosis Patients

Considering these risks, patients are interested in emerging alternatives to spinal fusion. 

One such alternative is the TOPS System procedure, which provides better clinical outcomes than spinal fusion surgery.

The TOPS System from Premia Spine preserves the spine’s full range of motion. This is unlike spinal fusion, which permanently fuses adjacent vertebrae. TOPS also offers a much quicker surgical recovery for spinal stenosis patients than spinal fusion.

If you’re a candidate for spinal stenosis surgery, consider all of the advanced surgical solutions available today, as well as the impact that each will have on your healing process.

What is Lumbar Fusion?

by admin

Chronic lower back pain is an extremely common medical issue across the world. In a study conducted to determine the global prevalence of this health concern, approximately 19.6% of individuals aged 20 to 59 were found to experience chronic low back pain. 

Given the high prevalence of persistent low back pain among the adult population, various treatments have gained recognition in recent years. So, anyone who’s had chronic lower back pain has likely heard the term “lumbar fusion”. But, what exactly is lumbar fusion?

Here, we’ll answer that question, along with common queries about recovery from lumbar fusion and fusion alternatives

Lumbar Fusion

What is Lumbar Fusion?

Lumbar fusion is a surgical procedure performed on the lower, or lumbar, a portion of the spine. Its goal is to stabilize the back after spinal decompression surgery to relieve pain, restore mobility, and/or alleviate other symptoms of pinched nerves in the lower back.

The procedure is also called lumbar spinal fusion, or simply spinal fusion. It takes its name from the fact that two (or occasionally more) adjacent vertebrae are fused as a result of the procedure.

During spinal decompression, the surgeon trims away portions of a vertebra impinging on the pinched nerve. This compromises the strength of the vertebrae. So, lumbar spinal fusion surgery has traditionally been performed in conjunction with spinal decompression therapy to stabilize the spine. 

In lumbar fusion, the surgeon accesses the vertebrae to be fused and secures bone graft material in between them. During the recovery period, the bone graft material will stimulate the fusion of the vertebrae, causing them to combine into a single bone. 

Why is Lumbar Fusion Performed?

Conditions including spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and degenerative disc disease can develop as a result of traumatic injuries or natural age-related degeneration. These spinal conditions can cause symptoms including tingling, numbness, pain, restricted mobility, and even paralysis.

The lower back is more susceptible to injury and degeneration because it’s subjected to bending, twisting, and other physical stresses throughout a lifetime. Poor posture can exacerbate the issue by misaligning the spine, which puts an additional impact on the lower back. 

Physical therapy, medication, and/or steroid injections can relieve many of the symptoms of these spinal disorders. However, when these therapies aren’t effective, a spinal decompression procedure to relieve pressure on these nerves may be recommended.

In short, lumbar fusion may be performed for common spinal problems in patients who don’t respond to six months or more of conservative treatment. 

How is Lumbar Spinal Fusion Performed?

There are several methods of fusion surgery, the most common of which are PLIF, ALIF, TLIF, and XLIF. 

  • PLIF

PLIF stands for posterior lumbar interbody fusion. With this method, the surgeon accesses the spine through an incision in the back. This is considered the traditional method of spinal fusion. Unfortunately, it requires the surgeon to pull the muscles away from the spine to access the spinal bones, which can trigger significant pain during the recovery process. 

  • ALIF

ALIF is an acronym for anterior lumbar interbody fusion. This method involves accessing the spine from the patient’s front, which is known as an anterior approach. The incision is made in the abdomen, then the surgeon moves aside intestines and large blood vessels to reach the spine. 

The benefit of ALIF is that it doesn’t agitate the large back muscles, which leads to a lower risk of injury and complications than PLIF. 

  • TLIF 

TLIF is short for transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion. This method of spinal fusion involves a posterior incision, meaning that it’s made in the back. But, unlike PLIF, the incision used in TLIF is made by way of the intervertebral foramen. 

With TLIF, the surgeon can complete a fusion on the front and back of the spine in one procedure. This is beneficial for patients because it’s less invasive, involves a lower risk of injury, and leads to less scarring. 

XLIF stands for extreme lateral interbody fusion. This method of spinal fusion is considered minimally invasive, making it a highly attractive option for modern patients. 

In XLIF, the surgeon first takes x-rays to find the exact position of the affected spinal disc. Then, the surgeon makes an incision in the patient’s side, completely avoiding the large back muscles and blood vessels that obstruct the spine in PLIF and ALIF surgery. 

XLIF leads to less blood loss, pain, and lumbar fusion surgery recovery time, as well as a shorter hospital stay.   

What Is The Success Rate of Lumbar Spinal Fusion?

Medical professionals often disagree about how to determine the success rate of lumbar spinal fusion. As a result, there are no standard criteria to calculate the success rate of a fusion procedure. Many physicians argue that while fusion successfully prevents spinal instability after decompression surgery, it does so at the expense of the patient’s mobility. 

So, while spinal fusion can help improve patients’ back pain by around 60% to 70%, it’s crucial to consider the lost motion at the fused vertebrae with this percentage.   

How Long Are You in Hospital After Spinal Fusion?

Spinal fusion typically requires a hospital stay of two to four days. This gives the affected vertebrae time to solidify.

During their time in the hospital, patients generally work with physical and occupational therapists to learn how to best carry out daily tasks (like standing, walking, and getting dressed) without disrupting the lumbar fusion recovery process. Additionally, your therapist will talk to you about the exercises to avoid after lumbar fusion.

Before discharging a spinal fusion patient, the hospital staff will make sure that their pain is effectively managed with medication; that there’s no indication of infection; that they can get out of bed and move without assistance; and that they can empty their bladder. 

Can You Live a Normal Life After Spinal Fusion?

The main drawback of lumbar fusion is that it eliminates the natural independent movement of the vertebrae. This inhibits patients from bending, flexing, and twisting the spine as they could before the procedure. Your doctor will advise you of this, as well as other lumbar fusion precautions before you undergo the surgery.

The degree of spinal mobility lost will depend on the location of the fused vertebrae, as well as the number of vertebrae that are fused. However, for many patients, fusion takes away their ability to partake in certain physical activities, such as sports and other athletics

After spinal fusion, some patients are no longer able to bend down and pick up items off of the floor. In this case, the patient will require special tools to retrieve objects. 

Other Downsides of Spinal Fusion

Additionally, it’s worth noting that patients may need as long as a year to fully recover from lumbar spine fusion. This lengthy recovery period can significantly impact patients’ quality of life.

In some patients, lumbar spinal fusion leads to a complication known as adjacent segment disease or ASD. With this condition, the vertebrae that are adjacent to the fused vertebrae degenerate at a faster rate. This is because the adjacent segments undergo added stress as a result of the fusion. 

Unfortunately, ASD can cause back pain, stiffness, and neurological symptoms like weakness, numbness, and tingling.  

What are the alternatives to lumbar fusion?

Non-fusion spinal implants are alternatives to lumbar fusion. Today the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Solution) System is one such implant that provides a clinically superior alternative to spinal fusion. It allows the individual vertebrae to maintain their full range of independent motion. 

This is just one reason why lumbar spinal decompression candidates must know exactly what lumbar fusion is, as well as the full range of treatment options available. If you suffer from chronic back pain, ask a spine specialist about the comprehensive selection of therapies at your disposal. 

What is Lumbar Radiculopathy?

by admin

The human body contains an extensive system of nerves that facilitate communication between the cells. Nerves send and receive messages throughout the body. Without them, we wouldn’t have basic human functions, like movement, balance, and sleep, or sensations, like touch. 

Unfortunately, just like the rest of the human body, nerves are susceptible to damage. Radiculopathy is one type of nerve damage that can severely impact one’s mobility and quality of life. 

In this article, we’re going to discuss a specific form of this nerve condition: lumbar radiculopathy. 

What is Lumbar Radiculopathy?

The vertebrae are the bones of the spine. An intervertebral disc is located in between each vertebra and acts as a cushion by absorbing impact.

If the vertebrae or the discs between them impinge on a nerve root in the spinal column, chronic nerve injuries may result. Radiculopathy is the general term for these injuries.

Radiculopathy most commonly occurs in the lower, or lumbar, region of the spine. This condition has been termed lumbar radiculopathy. Though less common, radiculopathy may also occur in the neck, or cervical region of the spine, which is known as cervical radiculopathy.

Symptoms of Lumbar Radiculopathy

Common symptoms of radiculopathy include radiating pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness. In some cases, a loss of motor function can result from lumbar radiculopathy. These symptoms may be felt all the way to the tips of the fingers or toes, even though the nerve injury is at the base of the spine. 

Radiculopathy symptoms felt in the arms and hands are usually caused by cervical radiculopathy, while those in the back of the leg and the foot usually result from lumbar radiculopathy. The location of the nerve compression determines where radiculopathy symptoms are felt. 

The severity of lumbar radiculopathy symptoms can vary from patient to patient. Some patients with radiculopathy experience severe, debilitating symptoms that significantly impact their day-to-day activities. 

Causes of Lumbar Radiculopathy

There are several possible causes for lumbar radiculopathy, including:

  • Degenerative disc disease

Degenerative disc disease is a normal part of the aging process. It occurs when the intervertebral discs weaken and dry out over time. As the discs become damaged, the nerves of the spine may become irritated, leading to radiculopathy symptoms. 

  • Repetitive motions involving the spine

Repetitive and high-impact motions can contribute to lumbar radiculopathy. This is more common among people with occupations that require repetitive motions or heavy lifting.

  • Being overweight

Being overweight or in poor physical health can also contribute to radiculopathy. This is because added body weight puts extra stress on the nerves, which can lead to nerve damage. 

  • Diabetes

Diabetes is associated with heightened blood glucose levels. This can cause the development of deposits within the blood vessels that decrease circulation throughout the body. As a result, high blood sugar can lead to nerve damage. 

  • Genetics

A genetic predisposition can also increase one’s risk of developing spinal radiculopathy.

  • Spinal conditions

Various spinal conditions can cause nerve impingement and lead to radiculopathy. Examples of these conditions include herniated disc, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis. 

What Is The Difference Between Sciatica and Lumbar Radiculopathy?

Sciatica is a form of radiculopathy. In fact, it’s the most prevalent type of radiculopathy. It refers to pain that radiates throughout the sciatic nerve, meaning that it starts in the lower back and moves through the buttocks, down the legs, and to the feet.  

The terms lumbar radiculopathy and sciatica are commonly used interchangeably. This is because nerve impingement in the lumbar spine typically involves the sciatic nerve. After all, the sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body.  

Can Lumbar Radiculopathy Get Worse?

Lumbar radiculopathy has the potential to get worse. In some patients, the pain may come and go. But, in others, radiculopathy symptoms are persistent and gradually become worse over time. 

If lumbar radiculopathy isn’t promptly addressed, various factors can exacerbate the condition by causing additional nerve damage. These factors include:

  • Poor posture

Poor posture increases the amount of stress placed on the spinal nerves. In patients who lead a sedentary lifestyle, sitting at a desk with poor posture for hours on end may significantly worsen radiculopathy symptoms. 

  • Repetitive movements

Repeatedly twisting, bending, and straining the spine can further irritate the affected nerves, leading to worsened radiculopathy symptoms. 

  • High-impact activities

Weight-bearing physical activities can cause additional damage to the spinal nerves. Examples of these activities include football, wrestling, weightlifting, soccer, and hockey. 

How Do You Treat Lumbar Radiculopathy?

Lumbar radiculopathy treatment methods may be non-surgical or surgical. Doctors begin with non-surgical treatment, and if the patient’s symptoms don’t improve after several months, consider surgery. 

Non-Surgical Lumbar Radiculopathy Treatment

Physical therapy, medication, steroid injections, and relaxation are often prescribed successfully to treat lumbar radiculopathy. 

  • Physical therapy

Physical therapy is often recommended for lumbar radiculopathy. It involves exercises and therapies designed to improve spinal stability and alignment. This can help create more space for the spinal nerve roots. 

  • Medication

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can help relieve inflammation and pain caused by lumbar radiculopathy. This can help make radiculopathy symptoms more manageable. However, these medications generally aren’t recommended for long-term use. 

  • Epidural steroid injections

Epidural steroid injections reduce the body’s inflammatory response at the injection site. For lumbar radiculopathy, this can help alleviate inflammation in the spinal nerves. 

Doctors generally advise patients to receive no more than three to four epidural steroid injections per year. Since steroid injections hamper the immune system response, they can cause tissue damage when used in excess. 

  • Rest and relaxation

Rest and relaxation are recommended for patients with lumbar radiculopathy to give the spinal nerves time to heal. 

Surgical Lumbar Radiculopathy Treatment

When non-surgical treatments fail to provide relief for radiculopathy of the lumbar region, surgical methods may be recommended. Generally, physicians don’t recommend surgery for lumbar radiculopathy unless the patient has undergone at least six months of conservative treatment. 

Spinal decompression surgery is the main surgical lumbar radiculopathy treatment. This type of spine surgery involves removing spinal tissues to alleviate pressure on the affected nerves. Laminectomy, laminotomy, laminoplasty, foraminotomy, and discectomy are all common methods of spinal decompression. 

Spinal Fusion and Spinal Decompression Surgery For Radiculopathy

Since spinal decompression surgery involves removing tissues from the spine, it can lead to spinal instability. To prevent this, spinal decompression surgery is often combined with spinal fusion back surgery. This combination of procedures has been a common treatment modality for lumbar radiculopathy patients who don’t respond to conservative treatments.

Spinal fusion permanently joins the affected vertebrae using bone graft material. This prevents all motion in the fused spinal segment. Unfortunately, while this counters instability, it also significantly decreases the patient’s range of motion. 

Additionally, fusing two spinal vertebrae forces the adjacent vertebrae to bear additional impact with day-to-day motions. The added impact can cause the adjacent spinal segments to deteriorate at a quicker rate, potentially leading to back pain, stiffness, and neurological symptoms. This complication of spinal fusion is known as adjacent segment disease or ASD. 

Alternative Options For Lumbar Radiculopathy Patients

The TOPS™ (Total Posterior Spine) System is a new advancement in spinal surgery that can be used as an alternative to spinal fusion. Unlike fusion, the TOPS™ System preserves the full natural range of motion of the individual vertebrae, which is lost when the bones are fused.

This spinal implant has also been shown to provide superior outcomes in clinical studies conducted across the globe. With TOPS™, lumbar radiculopathy patients can attain lasting relief for nerve pain without having to worry about complications from spinal fusion. 

Advances like TOPS™ give individuals with back problems more options for effective treatments. So, if you’re suffering from persistent radiculopathy pain, speak with a spine specialist about the complete range of treatment solutions available today. 

What is Lumbar Spinal Decompression?

by admin

Lower back pain has long been a prevalent health concern around the world. In 2017, the prevalence of lower back pain was estimated to be approximately 7.5% of the world’s population. This totals about 577 million people.

There are numerous causes of lower back pain, as well as countless treatments that can help relieve it. Lumbar spinal decompression is one treatment strategy for alleviating lower back pain caused by a pinched nerve. 

This article will discuss lumbar spinal decompression, when it’s implemented, and what patients can expect from the procedure. 

Why is Lower Back Pain So Common?

Imagine if the branches of a tree were as large at the top as they are at the bottom. Now, imagine that a heavy load is placed on the ends of the very highest branches. This would put an enormous amount of stress on the lower portion of the tree trunk.

This is comparable to what we experience as humans with our spinal columns. The human spinal column is like the trunk of a tree, but we’re as large on the top of the trunk as we are at the bottom. This puts a high amount of stress on the lower back, which is also called the lumbar region of the spine.  

The strain of lifting objects and twisting the spine over the course of a lifetime is exacerbated by degenerative spinal changes that occur with age. So, it’s not surprising that most of the back problems that bring patients to spinal specialists are centered in the lower, or lumbar, region of the spine.

Lumbar Spine Disorders

The stresses discussed above, along with disease and/or injury, can result in a host of spinal disorders. Bulging or herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis are among the most common.

  • Bulging disc

A bulging disc is a spinal disorder that occurs when the exterior of an intervertebral disc weakens, typically from the natural aging process. This can cause the disc to bulge out into one side of the spinal canal. 

  • Herniated disc

A herniated disc is essentially one step further than a bulging disc. It occurs when the soft interior of the disc protrudes out through a crack in the weakened disc exterior. 

  • Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis can result from a bulging or herniated disc, as well as a range of other factors. It’s a spinal condition characterized by an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal.

Reduced space in the spinal canal can place stress on the spinal nerves or the spinal cord. But, decompression for lumbar spinal stenosis can effectively alleviate this stress. 

  • Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is a condition that develops when one of the vertebrae is unstable and slips out of its regular position. The displaced vertebra settles on the vertebra beneath it. 

These disorders can place unnatural pressure on the nerves that emanate from the spinal column. This may cause pain, restricted mobility, and other symptoms of a pinched nerve.

What is a Lumbar Decompression Surgery?

Spinal decompression is a method of easing pressure on impinged spinal nerves. It can be performed either non-surgically or surgically. Lumbar spine decompression simply refers to decompression procedures performed on the lower portion of the spine.

The surgical solution for a lumbar pinched nerve involves removing a small amount of tissue from vertebrae in the lumbar region. The surgeon will remove the tissue that’s impinging, or putting pressure, on a nerve. This process is referred to as lumbar spinal decompression surgery.

How is Lumbar Decompression Surgery Performed?

There are various types of lumbar decompression surgery that may be implemented for different spinal disorders. The most common forms of surgical lumbar decompression include:

Laminectomy and Laminotomy

Laminectomy and laminotomy are two surgical methods of lumbar decompression that involve the lamina. The lamina acts like the roof of the spinal canal and protects the spinal cord. 

  • In a laminectomy, the surgeon removes the majority of the lamina at the affected spinal segment. 
  • In laminotomy, the surgeon only removes a small portion of the lamina. 

Laminoplasty

Laminoplasty is a procedure that involves making two cuts in the lamina so that it swings outward, like a door. After creating a hinge with the lamina of the affected vertebra, the spinal surgeon will position small bone wedges to keep the “door” from closing. Commonly referred to as open-door laminoplasty, this procedure can effectively alleviate pressure on the spinal nerves without removing the lamina. 

Foraminotomy

In foraminotomy, the surgeon creates more space around the area where nerve roots exit the spinal canal. This area is known as the intervertebral foramen. It acts as a passageway, linking the spinal canal to the periphery. 

By opening up the intervertebral foramen in foraminotomy, the spinal surgeon can alleviate pressure on the spinal nerves. 

Discectomy

Discectomy is a spinal decompression procedure that involves removing damaged intervertebral disc tissue. The spinal surgeon may remove some or all of the damaged disc, depending on the patient’s needs.

Lumbar Decompression Surgery With Spinal Fusion

Removing tissue in lumbar decompression surgery can lead to spinal instability. So, historically, spinal fusion back surgery has been performed in conjunction with lumbar decompression surgery to stabilize the spine. 

In spinal fusion, the surgeon places bone graft material in between the affected vertebrae. As weeks and months pass after the procedure, the vertebrae will fuse, forming a singular bone. By completely preventing motion in this segment, fusion effectively prevents instability following spinal decompression surgery.  

Unfortunately, lumbar decompression and fusion can have certain negative effects on the body, including:

  • Reduced range of motion

The key downside of spinal fusion is that it prevents all motion in the fused segment. This eliminates the patient’s ability to flex, twist, and bend the spine normally. As a result, patients may no longer be able to partake in their favorite sports and activities after spinal fusion surgery. 

  • Damage to adjacent vertebrae

The spinal segments that are adjacent to the fused vertebrae must undergo additional stress to compensate for the fusion. This can lead to a complication known as adjacent segment disease (ASD), with which the adjacent vertebrae deteriorate at a more rapid rate. ASD can lead to lower back pain, radiating pain, difficulty walking or standing, and neurological symptoms. 

Are Alternatives To Spinal Fusion Available?

Today, the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Spine) System provides an alternative to spinal fusion that preserves the spine’s natural full range of motion. This advanced spinal implant has been shown to provide better outcomes than fusion in clinical studies performed around the world. 

The TOPS™ System provides an important additional treatment option for individuals with moderate to severe pinched nerve symptoms. It can provide a major improvement in lower back pain for patients who don’t respond to non-surgical lumbar spinal decompression therapy.

How Long Does It Take to Recover From Lumbar Decompression Surgery?

The recovery period for lumbar decompression surgery can vary depending on the exact procedure and whether or not spinal fusion is performed. However, patients can generally expect to wait four to six weeks before reaching their expected degree of mobility and returning to work. 

Spinal fusion prolongs the recovery process for lumbar decompression surgery. It can take up to a year to fully recover from fusion. With this in mind, the TOPS™ System can significantly reduce the lumbar decompression surgery recovery time, allowing patients to return to physical activity much sooner.

Is Lumbar Decompression Surgery Serious?

Lumbar decompression surgery is an invasive procedure. So, as with any surgical procedure, it comes with certain risks.

With that said, lumbar decompression is widely performed and considered safe. Advancements in medical technology have even made minimally-invasive lumbar decompression surgery possible. This allows for greater safety and a lower risk of complications. 

If you have symptoms of a pinched nerve, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about the complete scope of treatment options available to you. 

Causes of Back Pain in Women

by admin

Back pain is a universal health concern, and it doesn’t discriminate. The factors that trigger back pain are often the same in women and men. However, certain causes of back pain, such as menstruation, pregnancy, and osteoporosis, are either unique to or more prevalent among women.

What Causes Back Pain in Females?

Here, we’ve listed what can cause lower back pain in a woman. 

Menstruation

Menstruation is a key cause of back pain that exclusively affects women. During menstruation, the uterus produces substances known as prostaglandins. Prostaglandins manage muscle contraction, and during menstruation, they send messages to the uterus instructing it to contract. 

These muscle contractions are the direct cause of cramps and back pain during menstruation. Additionally, the cramps associated with menstruation place added stress on the back muscles, potentially leading to back muscle pain.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy often causes back pain, particularly in its later stages. The added weight of carrying the fetus puts significant stress on the spine, as well as the supporting muscles and ligaments. 

Additionally, the ligaments stretch and soften during pregnancy. This is one of the body’s methods of childbirth preparation. Unfortunately, as the ligaments soften, the lower back and pelvis become less supported. This may trigger back pain. 

Also, while being overweight for any reason can cause back pain, the rapid weight gain that occurs during pregnancy compounds the problem.

Stress

Mental stress is known to cause or contribute to back pain, in part because it contributes to the involuntary tightening of muscles in the back. Stress can also cause or exacerbate back pain in pregnancy which, as a major life change, is a time of great psychological stress.

Osteoporosis

Later in life, our bodies’ bone-building process gradually weakens. As a result, calcium is depleted from our bones, and our overall bone mass drops. The bones become more brittle, making them more prone to breakage. This phenomenon, which is referred to as osteoporosis, is more common among women than men. 

If osteoporosis causes spinal fractures (known as compression fractures), it can lead to severe back pain. With a compression fracture from osteoporosis, patients typically struggle to sit, stand, and walk. 

Spinal Conditions

Common spinal conditions, such as degenerative disc disease, herniated disc, spondylolisthesis, and spinal stenosis, affect women, just as they do men. These conditions can lead to chronic back pain. 

What Female Organs Can Cause Lower Back Pain?

Certain internal organs can lead to lower right back pain in female patients. Specifically, organs located in the pelvis, abdomen, and mid-back area may be the root of lower back pain. 

  • Reproductive organs

In women, the reproductive organs in the pelvis can trigger pain in the lower right area of the back. For instance, endometriosis, which typically affects the ovaries and fallopian tubes, can lead to pain that extends to the lower back. 

  • The appendix

The appendix is an organ that’s linked to the large intestine. People who develop appendicitis, which occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed, can develop lower right back pain. 

Appendicitis requires immediate treatment to prevent rupture and complications. In addition to lower right back pain, symptoms may include sudden pain on the right side of the lower abdomen that worsens with abrupt motions, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. 

  • Kidney

The kidneys are organs that remove waste from the blood. Kidney issues, such as kidney stones or a kidney infection, can lead to pain on one side of the lower back. Other symptoms of kidney problems often include pain while urinating, nausea, and vomiting. 

  • Colon

Ulcerative colitis is a condition that’s characterized by inflammation in the colon. It causes repeated cramping in the abdomen that may trigger lower back pain, as well as symptoms including diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue. 

How Can a Woman Find Out That Their Lower Back Pain is Serious?

Extreme lower back pain can be cause for concern. But, since back pain is a common ailment, it can be difficult to know whether or not your pain requires medical attention. 

As a general rule of thumb, visit your doctor for an evaluation if you experience back pain that persists for longer than two weeks and holds you back from regular activities. If you experience severe back pain, visit a doctor sooner than after two weeks. Additionally, seek out immediate medical care if you have:

  • Fever with back pain
  • Sudden weakness in the arms or legs
  • Unexplained weight loss with back pain
  • Lost bladder or bowel control
  • Back pain following trauma, such as a car accident

Lower Back Pain Treatment For Women

Whatever its origin, there’s no reason to live with back pain, as a variety of treatment options exist for all their causes. Women wondering how to help lower back pain may consider physical therapy, medication, or even lifestyle changes to alleviate back pain caused by spinal conditions.

  • Physical therapy

Physical therapy can help with lower back pain by helping relieve tension in the back muscles. Additionally, physical therapy exercises can target and strengthen the muscles that support the back. 

  • Pain medication

Over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications may help women manage lower back pain in the short term. These medications can also help alleviate menstrual cramps and the associated back pain.

However, women experiencing back pain caused by more complex conditions, such as endometriosis, should speak with their doctors about the available prescription medications for the condition.  

  • Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes may help you naturally achieve relief from lower back pain. For example, in women experiencing back pain in pregnancy, gentle, low-impact exercise may offer relief. Women with back pain caused by cramps during menstruation can consider lifestyle changes including quitting smoking, cutting down on alcohol consumption and adding more high-fiber foods to their diet. Additionally, women with spinal conditions, such as spinal stenosis, may need to modify their activities to avoid straining the spine. 

Spine Surgery For Back Pain in Women

Surgery is rarely required for women with back pain. However, if the back pain doesn’t resolve within six months of conservative treatment, your doctor may recommend spine surgery for lasting pain relief. 

Among women for whom spine surgery is recommended, there are multiple surgical approaches to consider. Thankfully, advanced microsurgical techniques and stabilization systems provide effective treatments for potentially disabling spinal conditions.

Decompression Surgery For Back Pain in Women

Decompression spinal surgery is a commonly performed spinal procedure for conditions including spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and herniated disc. In this procedure, a portion of the vertebra that’s impinging on a spinal nerve is removed. Decompression surgery can have a dramatic and immediate impact on back pain associated with prevalent spinal conditions.

Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion surgery has traditionally been performed in conjunction with spinal decompression. This process involves fusing adjacent vertebrae at the affected segment to stabilize the spine.

Unfortunately, while spinal fusion may offer pain relief for patients suffering from chronic back pain, it has numerous drawbacks. For one, spinal fusion eliminates the patient’s motion at the affected segment. As a result, the patient loses the ability to bend, twist, and flex that area of the spine. 

Additionally, spinal fusion can lead to adjacent segment disease. This fusion complication occurs when the vertebrae surrounding the fused bone degenerate faster than usual. As a result, the patient may experience back pain, stiffness, and/or neurological symptoms.  

Spinal Fusion Alternatives For Women With Back Pain

Alternatives to spinal fusion are available and can help patients avoid the drawbacks of spinal fusion. The TOPS™ System from Premia Spine, in particular, provides a superior, clinically-proven outcome when compared to spinal fusion back surgery.

Unlike spinal fusion, the TOPS™ System preserves the vertebrae’s range of motion. Having been used since 2005, the system has enabled patients around the world to maintain their full range of activities following decompression surgery. TOPS™ has further advanced the treatment of common but potentially debilitating spinal conditions.

Women experiencing back pain from spinal conditions should consult their doctors to learn about the complete range of spinal treatments available today. 

What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

by admin

Spinal stenosis is a prevalent spinal disorder in the U.S. and across the globe. In fact, the condition affects an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 U.S. residents. 

This spinal disorder can occur in the lower, or lumbar, region of the spine, which is known as lumbar spinal stenosis. Or, it may occur in the neck, or cervical, region of the spine, which is known as cervical spinal stenosis. Lumbar spinal stenosis is the most common form of this condition, and it’s the topic of our article. 

What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a common condition, especially among patients who are aged 50 and over. It occurs when the spinal canal abnormally becomes narrower. The word “stenosis” can be traced back to ancient Greek and refers to narrowing, or constriction.

As the spinal canal progressively narrows over time, it strains the nerves that extend outward from the spine and travel into the extremities. This can cause a range of symptoms.

What Are Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Symptoms?

The symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis can differ from patient to patient. However, pain, tingling, and numbness in the extremities are among the most common signs of this spinal disorder. 

Other symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis may include:

  • Numbness or tingling in a foot or leg
  • Weakness in a foot or leg
  • Pain or cramping in one or both legs
  • Lower back pain

There might be other non-specific symptoms of spinal stenosis. So, please consult with your doctor for a precise diagnosis.

What Causes Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Most cases of spinal stenosis occur for unknown reasons. However, the causes of lumbar spinal stenosis are rooted in specific parts of the spine’s anatomy, such as: 

  • The intervertebral discs

An intervertebral disc is located between each of the bones in the spine. It provides cushioning for the bone and prevents damage by absorbing impact. These discs break down with age and may even become herniated, meaning that the disc interior protrudes from a crack in the disc interior. 

A damaged intervertebral disc can take up extra space in the spinal canal, potentially leading to spinal stenosis. 

  • The facet joints

The facet joints connect the vertebrae of the spine to one another. These joints support a large amount of weight and undergo a significant amount of stress. As a result, they’re vulnerable to wear and tear, as well as various injuries. Damage to the facet joints (and the cartilage within these joints) can trigger spinal stenosis.  

  • The spinal cord

When the spinal cord and/or the nerve roots become compressed, it may trigger pain and neurological symptoms. When the spinal cord and nerve roots are involved in spinal stenosis, the patient is rarely asymptomatic. 

What is Inherited Spinal Stenosis?

The narrowing, or tightening, of the spinal canal, may result from abnormal bone and/or tissue growth. or due to a hereditary disorder. This is referred to as inherited spinal stenosis. 

Some people are born with a spinal canal that’s narrower than average. This can cause the patient to experience spinal stenosis symptoms much earlier in life than the average patient. Additionally, patients who are born with scoliosis may experience spinal stenosis.

Scoliosis is an atypical, sideways curve of the spine. It’s commonly recognized and diagnosed in children and adolescents. In patients with scoliosis, the curved spine may place stress on the spinal cord, potentially leading to spinal stenosis. 

What is Degenerative Spinal Stenosis?

Degenerative spinal stenosis refers to cases of this condition that are caused by wear and tear on the spine. This is the most common type of spinal stenosis. 

Spinal degeneration is a normal effect of aging. It occurs as the intervertebral discs and facet joints weaken from repeated strain over time. Factors including a sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, obesity, injuries, smoking, and other spinal disorders (such as scoliosis) can speed up the process of spinal degeneration.  

Effects of aging that can contribute to the development of degenerative spinal stenosis include:

  • The cartilage in the facet joints gradually wears down, which increases friction in the spine and may cause bone spurs to form. 
  • The intervertebral discs become drier, flatter, and weaker. The discs may become damaged, leading to a slipped or herniated disc. 
  • As the cushioning in the spine from intervertebral discs decreases, the spinal cord and/or nerve roots can become strained. 

Leading a healthy lifestyle by exercising, eating a nutritious diet, and maintaining an optimal weight can help prevent spinal stenosis.

What Are The Best Treatments For Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Options for spinal stenosis treatment include:

  • Spinal stenosis exercises

Various exercises can help with spinal stenosis by improving strength and mobility in the affected areas. You can perform these exercises at home to support your lumbar spinal stenosis recovery. 

Examples of spinal stenosis exercises include:

  • Bridges

This exercise engages the glute muscles, which support the pelvis and can help reduce the strain on the lumbar spine. 

  • Pelvic tilts

This simple exercise engages the transverse abdominis, which is a deep abdominal muscle that promotes proper spinal alignment and helps protect the lower spine. 

  • Knee-to-chest exercise

This exercise stretches and helps relieve tension in the lower back muscles. It also flexes the spine, which relieves pain from spinal stenosis by temporarily creating more space in the spinal canal. 

  • Physical therapy

Physical therapy may improve symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis by relieving pressure on the spinal cord. For lumbar spinal stenosis, physical therapy typically involves stretches for the lower back, legs, and hips, as well as strengthening exercises for the abdominal muscles, which support the lower spine. Your physical therapist may work with you on mobility exercises to improve your range of motion in the lower back. 

Additionally, physical therapy may involve treatments that can help with pain, tension, and inflammation. These treatments include heat/cold therapy, electrostimulation, massage, etc. 

  • Medication

Both over-the-counter and prescription medications may be used to reduce pain and inflammation from lumbar spinal stenosis. Talk to your doctor before starting a new medication for spinal stenosis symptoms in the lumbar spine.

Surgery For Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

In extreme cases, surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis may be recommended. Typically, doctors don’t recommend lumbar spinal stenosis surgery unless the patient has first undergone at least 6 months of conservative treatment. 

For lumbar spinal stenosis, spinal decompression surgery is often performed. This type of surgical procedure involves removing portions of the vertebrae that are impinging on the roots of nerves emanating from the spine. By relieving this pressure, the procedure gives patients symptom relief and provides the spinal nerves with enough space to heal. 

Laminectomy is the most common form of spinal decompression surgery for spinal stenosis of the lumbar region. In this procedure, the surgeon removes all or part of the lamina, which forms the ceiling of the spinal canal. Other types of spinal decompression surgery include foraminotomy and discectomy.   

Spinal Fusion in Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Surgery

Following the spinal decompression procedure, spinal fusion back surgery has traditionally been performed to stabilize the spine. Spinal fusion involves placing bone graft material in between the affected vertebrae. Over time, the bone graft will cause the vertebrae to permanently fuse.

Unfortunately, this stabilization procedure eliminates the independent motion of the fused vertebrae and can contribute to the deterioration of adjacent vertebrae. Patients can lose a significant amount of motion in the lower back after spinal fusion.

Alternatives to Spinal Fusion 

Spinal fusion alternatives, such as non-fusion implants, can offer stability without limiting the patient’s mobility after spinal stenosis surgery. The TOPS™ System, for example, provides an alternative to spinal fusion that maintains the spine’s full range of motion. It’s been proven in clinical studies conducted worldwide to provide superior outcomes than spinal fusion following spinal decompression surgery. 

Patients seeking surgical relief for an abnormal narrowing of the spine now have access to a wider range of treatment options than ever. Talk to your doctor about the best course of treatment for your needs. 

Lumbar Hemilaminectomy Surgery: What’s The Difference From Laminectomy?

by User_01 Sortino Marketing

Many different procedures fall under the umbrella of spinal decompression surgery. Designed to ease compression on the spinal cord and nerves, spinal decompression is widely used to treat spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, slipped discs, and related conditions. 

A lumbar hemilaminectomy is one type of spinal decompression surgery. Although this procedure is similar to lumbar laminectomy, it has a few key differences. 

In this article, we’ll discuss how lumbar hemilaminectomy and laminectomy are different. We’ll also go over the non-surgical and minimally-invasive alternatives to hemilaminectomy that are available to patients. 

What Are The Lamina of The Spine?

Before we explain lumbar hemilaminectomy surgery, it’s crucial to explain the role of the laminae in the spine. Each spinal bone, called a vertebra, contains two laminae. The laminae form a protective cover for the spinal canal.

The lamina also links the spinous process to the transverse process within a vertebra. The spinous process is a small section of bone that protrudes from the back of the spinal cord; the transverse process is another section of bone that serves as a connection point for the back muscles and ligaments to the spine. 

Lumbar Hemilaminectomy vs. Laminectomy

Lumbar hemilaminectomy and laminectomy are both types of spinal decompression surgery. While these procedures are very closely related, there’s one key difference between them. 

What is a Hemilaminectomy?

In a laminectomy, the surgeon removes both of the laminae from the targeted vertebrae. However, in hemilaminectomy, the surgeon discards just one lamina from each vertebra. Specifically, the surgeon will only remove the lamina on the side of the spinal canal that’s experiencing nerve compression. 

Lumbar hemilaminectomy and lumbar laminectomy are both performed on the lumbar (lower) spine. Although it’s less common, thoracic and cervical hemilaminectomy and laminectomy can also be performed. 

Note that patients who require decompression on both sides of the spinal canal will likely require a laminectomy, rather than a hemilaminectomy. 

The Goal of Lumbar Hemilaminectomy

Lumbar hemilaminectomy and laminectomy share a common goal: To open up additional space in the spinal canal and resolve nerve compression. By releasing the pressure on spinal nerves, lumbar hemilaminectomy can give patients relief from back pain and stiffness, along with tingling and numbness in the legs. 

Conditions That Can Require Lumbar Hemilaminectomy vs. Laminectomy

Laminectomy

The predominant indication for laminectomy is spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition that’s characterized by the gradual reduction of space in the spinal canal. With nerves and the spinal cord located in the spinal canal, this condition can trigger nerve compression. 

Key signs and symptoms of spinal stenosis include:

  • Back pain
  • Cramping in the legs
  • Sciatica, which refers to nerve pain that moves from the back to the buttocks and legs
  • A pins and needles sensation in the legs, feet, or buttocks
  • A heavy sensation in the legs
  • In instances of severe spinal stenosis, lost bladder or bowel control

Laminectomy helps relieve symptoms of spinal stenosis by removing pressure from the spinal nerves. Additionally, by creating more space in the spinal canal, a laminectomy can provide a better environment for damaged tissue to heal. 

Hemilaminectomy

Hemilaminectomy is most often performed to treat a herniated disc. Also known as a slipped or ruptured disc, this common spinal injury can cause pain, stiffness, and tingling or weakness in the legs. 

In between each of the spine’s vertebrae, there’s a cushion-like disc. The intervertebral discs protect the vertebrae from damage by absorbing impact and facilitating motion. 

Whether due to age-related changes to the spinal discs, a sudden injury to the spine, or repeated strain on the spine, intervertebral discs can become damaged. The soft interior of the disc can protrude from a break in the disc’s tough outer layer, causing a herniated disc. 

To cure the symptoms of a herniated disc that isn’t resolved with non-invasive treatment methods, patients may require both hemilaminectomy and discectomy. 

Hemilaminectomy and Discectomy

Discectomy is a surgical procedure that’s performed to treat a herniated disc. It involves removing some or all of a damaged intervertebral disc to alleviate pressure on the adjacent spinal nerves. 

During a discectomy, surgeons aim to leave as much of the disc as possible alone. However, in severe cases, the full spinal disc may need to be removed to fully alleviate the patient’s symptoms. 

Lumbar hemilaminectomy and discectomy are often performed together in a single procedure to treat a herniated lumbar disc. By removing both the damaged disc and the lamina, the procedure can effectively resolve nerve compression caused by a slipped disc. 

Spinal Fusion With Lumbar Hemilaminectomy

To avert spinal instability after lumbar hemilaminectomy, spinal fusion may be performed. This spinal procedure involves placing bone graft material between the affected vertebrae. Over time, the graft will stimulate bone growth and fuse the vertebrae, forming one bone. 

Although spinal fusion can provide stability in lumbar hemilaminectomy, it has downsides including:

Recovery Period

Spinal fusion can prolong your lumbar hemilaminectomy recovery by a significant margin. Alone (without fusion), the hemilaminectomy recovery period typically lasts a total of around 4 to 6 weeks. 

Patients can require a year or more to make a full recovery from spinal fusion. Additionally, it may take as long as 4 to 6 weeks for young, healthy individuals with sedentary professionals to return to work after the procedure. For older patients, it can take up to 6 months to get back to work after fusion. 

Spinal Flexibility

Though spinal fusion can effectively prevent instability after hemilaminectomy, it presents a large risk of reduced mobility. Patients who undergo fusion often lose flexibility in the spine and aren’t able to bend or flex the spine like they used to. 

To gain spinal stability after hemilaminectomy without compromising your spinal flexibility, you may want to consider a spinal fusion alternative. Spinal devices like the TOPS System can stabilize the spine while retaining the motion of the affected vertebrae.

Alternatives to Lumbar Hemilaminectomy

While hemilaminectomy can successfully resolve nerve compression for many patients, it’s rarely the only treatment option. Patients can also consider non-surgical treatments and minimally-invasive spine surgery. 

Non-Invasive Treatments

There are a variety of non-invasive treatments that can help alleviate pain and promote healing for patients with a herniated disc. Options include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture 
  • Rest and lifestyle modifications
  • Pain medications
  • Epidural steroid injections

Note that certain non-invasive treatments, including pain medications and epidural steroid injections, often aren’t considered long-term solutions for chronic back pain. Steroid injections should only be administered a few times per year to avoid tissue damage. 

Minimally-Invasive Hemilaminectomy

Spinal implants such as the TOPS spinal implant can support minimally-invasive hemilaminectomies. Minimally-invasive surgery, or MIS, typically involves a smaller incision, less blood loss, and less anesthesia. 

Minimally-invasive procedures are always preferable to conventional procedures because they provide a reduced risk of complications, shorter recovery period, and less postoperative pain. By reducing the need for fusion, MIS spinal implant systems offer these benefits for hemilaminectomy patients. 

If you’re suffering from symptoms of a chronic spinal condition, talk to your doctor about the range of treatment options available to you. 

Contact Us