The Connection Between Chronic Pain and Insomnia

The connection between chronic pain and insomnia is stronger than you may think. People with acute or chronic pain are more likely to have sleep problems than those who do not have pain. Likewise, many people who suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders may suffer from chronic pain. The key to determining how to correct your sleep issue is figuring out which came first: insomnia or pain.

Losing sleep because of chronic pain is referred to as secondary insomnia, an inability to sleep due to disease or medication. According to the National Sleep Foundation, secondary insomnia affects about one in five Americans a few nights each week.

The effects of disrupted sleep patterns

When pain interferes with sleep patterns, it can adversely affect your mood, thoughts, activities, relationships, work, and overall enjoyment of life. Getting enough restorative sleep each night ensures your body has time to heal, repair, and regenerate. When you don’t get meaningful sleep regularly, your health suffers as a result.

This connection between chronic pain and insomnia is harmful; the pain can make restorative sleep impossible which, in turn, makes you more tired and therefore more sensitive to pain, a cycle that only gets worse if left unmanaged.

What can you do to stop this cycle?

  • Make sleep a priority
  • Stop or limit caffeine and alcohol intake (especially at night)
  • Practice relaxation techniques, like deep breathing or visualization
  • Place a rolled up towel or pillow between your legs (for side sleeping) or under your lower back (for back sleeping) to ease the strain on your back

When is it time to see a doctor or specialist?

A sleeping disorder combined with chronic pain should always be treated together. If your back or hips are preventing you from sleep, but you are too tired to be active, then it’s time to consult a doctor or specialist. Trust the spine specialists at the Spine Surgery of Idaho to help manage your pain and get you back to sleep, comfortably. Call (208) 944-0056 to schedule your appointment today.

Exercise to Alleviate Pain

Exercise to Alleviate Pain

If you are living with chronic back and spinal pain, that last thing you’ll probably want to do is exercise. Many people feel that exercise can worsen their pain or injury, or that it may prevent healing. What many chronic pain sufferers don’t realize is that some exercise can actually help reduce certain kinds of back, neck and spinal pain with cardiovascular, flexibility, and strengthening exercise.

Walking for healthy muscles

Walking can be very beneficial for people who are suffering from pain, if they are able to do so. Walking is a simple, light aerobic exercise that almost anyone can do, as it is low-impact and can be done just about anywhere. Walking helps the body to supply more oxygen to the muscles, build stamina, and reduce pain and stiffness. Try walking around a shopping mall, your neighborhood, a park, a local track, or the beach.

Swimming to ease joint pain

One of the best low-impact exercises that’s easy on your joints is swimming. The “low-gravity” effect of water prevents any sudden jolts or pressure from being put on the joints. Your movements and reactions are forced to slow down, helping you to strengthen the muscles around your joints without sustaining any additional injuries. Look for a community or gym pool if you don’t have one at home.

Yoga for increased flexibility and posture

Yoga is perfect for targeting certain muscle groups, as well as adjusting the intensity to your comfort level. Yoga helps to build endurance, increase flexibility and improve posture, poor sleeping habits, and concentration. If you are bedridden, start small with breathing and meditation, concentrating on specific areas of the body.

Stretching for improved mobility

Simple stretching can help to reduce a wide variety of pain problems. Stretching can promote better circulation and blood flow to the muscles for improved functionality. It also helps to loosen tight, stiff muscles while improving your muscles’ range of motion. Like walking, stretching can be done almost anywhere.

For more information on what you can do to ease your back and spinal pain through exercise, stop by the office and ask for a free booklet on any of these:

  • Neck Exercises for a Healthy Neck
  • Back Exercises for a Healthy Back
  • Walking for Fitness

Or, call the spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 944-0056 to schedule an appointment.

How Weight Affects Back Pain

How Weight Affects Back Pain

Severe back pain is one of the many complications that can result from excess weight and obesity. People who carry around excess weight are often at a greater risk for back pain, joint pain and muscle strain, compared to those who aren’t overweight. According to the American Obesity Association, musculoskeletal pain, specifically in the back, is common among close to one third of obese Americans.

How being overweight contributes to back pain

Some of the most common weight-related issues include musculoskeletal and joint pain. With each pound adds strain, and many extra pounds can add up to significant strain to the muscles and ligaments in the back. To compensate for the added weight, the spine can tilt abnormally and place additional, uneven stress on the back. Over time, this can lead to the deterioration of proper back support and an abnormal spinal curvature. In addition, excess fat surrounding the waist forces the pelvis to push forward, straining the lower back and leading to more pain.

Conditions caused or aggravated by obesity

Excess weight can aggravate — or cause — certain painful conditions, including:

  • Sciatica (pain that radiates down the legs from the lower back)
  • Herniated discs
  • Pinched nerves
  • Arthritis of the spine

In addition, the effectiveness of back surgery is complicated by excess weight. These patients are also at an increased risk for complications and infections following surgery.

Losing weight to reduce back pain

With low-impact exercise and a healthy diet, you can lose the weight that could be contributing to your back pain. Exercises like walking, swimming, and yoga are easy on your joints and can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. Also be sure to consume a nutrient-dense diet consisting of lean meats, fresh produce, and plenty of water.

If back pain is affecting your daily life, call the spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 944-0056 to schedule an appointment.

Surprising Reasons You’re in Pain

Surprising Reasons You’re in Pain

Are you suffering from back pain and aren’t really sure why? There’s actually a long list of potential reasons you’re in pain, and it may surprise you. Back pain can prevent you from doing the things you love, but you can also prevent it. Here are a few surprising possible reasons for your pain.

Smoking

Many smokers don’t realize it, but smoking can have significant effects on your back. Studies have revealed that smokers have a decreased blood supply to the discs in the back. This leads  to premature aging of the discs, which can lead to pain in the lower back. Another study has shown that smoking can affect the brain’s response to back pain, making it feel worse.

Stress

Stress can cause the muscles in your back to constrict and cause the discs to bulge, which often leads to pain. This can lower your pain tolerance and stiffen your back. Try to manage your stress with deep breathing, meditation, and exercise.

Poor diet

Not only can a poor diet cause weight gain and place extra pressure on your back, but consuming high levels of processed sugars can make your pain worse. They can spike inflammation in the body and cause more pain.

Sitting

Sitting for long periods of time can put extra pressure on the discs in your back, due to compromised blood supply to the discs. If you’re sitting at a desk all day, consider using a standing desk to alleviate some pressure on the back, or take breaks every hour to stretch and walk.

Your mattress

It may be that your mattress isn’t firm enough, or it’s simply too old and no longer supporting your back and body as it should. Be sure your mattress is in fairly good shape, and replace it every seven years.

Lack of exercise

Being too sedentary can lead to weight gain and back pain. Exercise can help build muscle tone to give your back the support it needs to keep your muscles and ligaments in place. Keeping your back tight and strong with exercise will help you avoid back pain.

If you’re suffering from back pain, call the spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 944-0056 to schedule your first consultation.

The Effects of Heavy Lifting on Your Back

The Effects of Heavy Lifting on Your Back

Many people are confident that they know how to properly lift and maneuver heavy objects. Truth is, many people don’t know how to properly lift something heavy. They also aren’t aware of the effects that improper lifting can have on their back. There are three significant back injuries that can be caused by improper heavy lifting:

Muscle injury

Not being in the right position while lifting can place extra stress on the lower back muscles, and when added pressure is placed on a muscle, injury will often occur. This stress can cause tiny tears to form in the muscle, leading to pain and making it difficult to move the affected and surrounding tissues.

Joint injury

The back contains many joints along the spinal column. These joints can be quite resilient when handling the stress of lifting that is done properly. However, improper lifting techniques, even with lightweight objects, can irritate these joints and result in injured joints.

Disc injury

The intervertebral discs are a cushion between the vertebrae (bones). These fibrous discs can bulge or rupture when injured. This type of injury in the lower back can cause pain that can radiate through the buttocks and the legs.

Tips for proper lifting

To prevent injury when lifting heavy items, try to follow these important tips:

  • Keep the chest forward – To lift properly, be sure to keep your chest pushed out to properly bend at the hips and knees. This will guarantee a straight back to prevent injury.
  • Lead with the hips – When changing positions, be sure to move the hips first, and the shoulders will follow in unison. This prevents potentially harmful twisting.
  • Keep object close to the body – The further an object is from a person’s center of gravity, the more force that is required to lift the object. Keeping the object as close to you as possible will help to lift the item without injury.

For more information on caring for your lower back, stop by our office to pick up your free copy of “The Back Owner’s Manual.” If you’ve suffered an injury from heavy lifting, call the spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 944-0056 to schedule your next appointment.

Common Spinal Injuries

Common Spinal Injuries

Spinal injuries are caused by any damage to any area of the spinal cord or surrounding nerves. Spinal injuries can be painful, debilitating and life-altering. They can alter a person’s strength, sensation and other body functions permanently. The ability to control your body function and movement following a spinal injury will depend on the location of the injury on the spinal cord and its severity.

Spinal injury causes

Common spinal injuries can be brought on by a number of factors:

  • Motor vehicle accidents – The leading cause of spinal cord injuries, auto and motorcycle accidents are responsible for more than 35 percent of spinal cord injuries each year.
  • Falls – Falls are the cause of more than 25 percent of spinal cord injuries. This risk increases in people over the age of 65.
  • Sports and recreation injuries – Sports and other related injuries account for nine percent of spinal cord injuries.
  • Acts of violence – Unfortunately, 15 percent of spinal cord injuries occur in violent events involving gunshot or knife wounds.
  • Alcohol – The use of alcohol plays a role in one in every four spinal injuries.
  • Certain diseases – Transverse myelitis, polio, spina bifida, Friedreich’s ataxia, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and inflammation of the spinal cord can cause spinal trauma.

Types of spinal injury

There are two types of spinal injury, complete and incomplete. A complete injury results in the loss of all ability to feel and voluntarily move below the level of the injury. Almost all feeling and all ability to control movement are lost below the injury of the spinal cord. An incomplete injury allows for some function and ability below the level of the injury. There are varying degrees of incomplete injury. Paralysis from a spinal cord injury may also be referred to as:

  • Tetraplegia – Also called quadriplegia, the arms, hands, trunk, legs and pelvic organs are all affected by the spinal cord injury
  • Paraplegia – Affects all or parts of the torso, legs and pelvic organs.

Symptoms of spinal injury

There are a number of signs and symptoms that point to a spinal cord injury. These can vary in severity, and they include:

  • Loss of movement
  • Numbness, including the inability to feel heat, cold and touch
  • Intensified reflex activities or spasms
  • Sexual function issues, sexual sensitivity and fertility
  • Pain or intense stinging sensations
  • Trouble breathing, coughing or clearing secretions from the lungs

Additionally, if you are experiencing the following symptoms, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Severe, unbearable back pain or pressure in the neck, head, or back
  • Weakness, coordination issues or paralysis in any area of the body
  • An oddly positioned or twisted neck or back
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Trouble balancing or walking
  • Impaired breathing

If you’ve suffered from a spinal injury, don’t wait to seek evaluation and treatment. Call the spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 944-0056 to schedule an appointment.

How to Keep Your Spine Healthy

How to Keep Your Spine Healthy

A healthy spine is fundamentally important to your overall well-being, which is why it’s important to take an active role in improving and maintaining our spine health. Here are a few ways to get started…

Avoid prolonged sitting

Prolonged sitting can place added pressure on the discs in the lower spine and can aggravate and even create painful back issues. When sitting down for long periods of time, our bodies tend to naturally slouch and lean forward, which strains the lumbar discs further. While at work, make sure your chair supports your back. If you can, get up to move around at least once every hour, or invest in a stand-up desk. In addition, stretching helps relieve pressure on your spine.

Wear supportive shoes

The shoes you wear can have negative or positive effects on your spine health, depending a few factors. Be sure you’re wearing shoes with a supportive base, and use cushioned inserts for extra support. Your shoe should fit the back of the heel snugly, but not too tightly. A good fit in the heel minimizes the risk of the foot rolling too much to the outside or inside, which can negatively affect your spinal alignment.

Treat yourself to a massage

Massage provides numerous therapeutic benefits for the back, neck and spine. Massages can help to produce and deliver endorphins (the body’s natural painkiller) into your bloodstream to help ease your pain. Massage also promotes healthy circulation, which can speed up the healing process after an injury.

Lift properly

It’s easy to twist incorrectly and potentially damage your spine if you aren’t using proper form while lifting heavy objects. To lift properly, stand close to the object and focus on using your legs, rather than your back or upper body, to push up and support the item you’re lifting.

Get regular sleep

Sleep is crucial to your overall health and wellness, as it provides a time for the body to repair itself. Try to adapt to side-sleeping positions, rather than sleeping on your stomach, which can put too much pressure on your spine. Invest in a supportive mattress as well as a pillow that promotes proper alignment of your neck, and turn/flip your mattress regularly so it wears evenly.

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise, whether it be visits to the gym or walks through the neighborhood, will help to maintain the health of your spine. The best exercises for your spine are activities that combine stretching, strengthening and aerobic activity. Exercise will help you to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight to prevent extra strain on your spine.

Pay attention to warning signs

Lastly, pay attention to any warning signs that your spine may be injured or unhealthy. Don’t ignore spinal problems or pain, especially if it goes on for more than a couple weeks. If left untreated, spinal pain can worsen over time and become more serious.

If you’ve been suffering from neck or back pain, call the spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 944-0056 to schedule an appointment.

Back Pain Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

Back Pain Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

Experiencing back pain is quite common, so much that many have grown accustomed to living in pain with no relief. In fact, eight out of 10 people will experience back pain at least once throughout their lives, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Back pain can come on quickly in sharp, stabbing pains, or it can come on as a gradual, dull ache that lasts for years. Regardless of how your pain begins, it’s important to pay attention to certain pain symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore.

Common symptoms of back pain

In some cases, back pain isn’t serious and will go away within a couple weeks’ time. Common symptoms of back pain may include:

  • Stiff or sore feelings along the spine, from the neck to the tailbone
  • Sudden, localized pain in the neck or back that often occurs after heavy lifting or laborious activity
  • Persistent ache in the mid to low back after prolonged standing or sitting
  • Difficulty standing without pain or muscle spasms in the back

When to see a doctor

Other types of back pain are serious and should be evaluated and treated by a doctor. It’s important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain doesn’t subside after a few days of rest, ice, or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications
  • Tingling, numbness or weakness in the groin, arms or legs; which can be a sign of spinal cord damage (seek immediate medical assistance)
  • Radiating back pain that extends down the buttock to the back of the leg and into toes, which is a sign of sciatica
  • Pain is exacerbated by coughing or bending over forward at the waist, which is sign of a herniated disc
  • Pain involves a fever, burning while urinating, or frequent and/or urgent urination, which can be a sign of an infection
  • Difficulty with bowel or bladder control (seek immediate medical assistance)
  • Pain in an area of a previous injury of surgery
  • Relentless pain or pain that worsens over time
  • Pain associated with bruising or pressure
  • Pain is involved with excessive swelling or a deformity
  • Decreased range of motion

Back pain can manifest itself in many forms. But the spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho offer advanced diagnostics and state-of-the-art techniques to effectively treat your pain. It’s time you stop living with pain. Call (208) 944-0056 to schedule an appointment today.

Eliminate Back Pain

Eliminate Back Pain

Chronic back pain is a common condition that affects millions of Americans every year. If you’re plagued with chronic back pain, you understand the debilitating effects it can have on your life and well-being. But back pain is not something you have to live with forever. There are many treatments available to relieve your pain and get you back to the life you once knew.

What causes and risk factors are associated with back pain?

Back pain will often develop without a clear cause, and will require further tests performed by your physician to locate the source of your pain. Common conditions that can contribute to severe and persistent pain include:

  • Muscle or ligament strain
  • Skeletal irregularities
  • Ruptured or bulging disks
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis

In addition, risk factors that can make you more susceptible to back pain are:

  • Age
  • Weight gain
  • Smoking
  • Health and psychological conditions
  • Lack of exercise
  • Improper lifting

Eliminating back pain

Treating your back pain will depend on the cause and severity of your condition. Some of these treatments may be used simultaneously for effective treatment and optimal lasting results.

Medications

Medications are usually the first course of treatment to relieve your back pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers, muscle relaxants and topical pain relievers are among the medications that may be utilized.

Injections

Injections can help detect the source of your pain, as well as provide temporary relief. Injections usually consist of a local anesthetic and/or steroid solution.

Physical therapy and massage

Conservative treatment, like physical therapy and massage, can eliminate or lessen pain without requiring surgery. These treatments will help to strengthen and recondition the muscles to allow your body to move more easily without pain.

Surgery

Surgery is typically only used when all other treatment methods have been explored without successful relief. Your surgical treatment will depend on your condition and its severity.

Chiropractic referral

In some cases, you may benefit from chiropractic techniques to treat your back pain. In this case, an experienced chiropractor will be referred to you.

If you are interested in treating your chronic back pain, call the spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 944-0056 to schedule your first appointment.

Back Pain Treatment: What Are Your Options?

Back Pain Treatment: What Are Your Options?

Back pain is one of the most common pain conditions among Americans, affecting millions of people every year. Back pain can prevent you from participating in activities you love and even make it difficult to complete your normal daily routine.

What causes back pain?

Back pain can occur suddenly and be brought on by a variety of factors, sometimes even without a specific cause. The most common form is acute back pain, which lasts under six weeks. The lesser common form is chronic back pain, which lasts more than three months. Back pain can be brought on by a few conditions, including:

  • Muscle or ligament strain
  • Bulging or ruptured disks
  • Skeletal abnormalities
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis

Back pain can be felt in different ways. You may experience muscle aches, sharp shooting pain, radiating pain, or limited flexibility or range of motion.

How is back pain diagnosed?

An accurate diagnosis is crucial to developing a successful treatment plan. Diagnostic tests and techniques that may be used to identify the source of your pain may include:

  • Magnetic resonance image (MRI)
  • Nerve blocks and epidural injections
  • Computerized tomography (CT)
  • Bone density scan
  • Dynamic X-ray
  • Myelography
  • Discograms

What are the most common forms of treatment?

Your diagnosis will help your doctor to determine which pain treatment method will be best for your condition. The spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho will explore noninvasive or minimally invasive treatment techniques before suggesting more advanced surgical options. Some treatment options may include:

Physical therapy or massage

Physical therapy or massage can help to build and recondition the muscles and tendons at the pain source, allowing you to move more freely with less pain. Physical therapy may include applying heat or cold, or performing certain exercises.

Medications

Sometimes, certain medications may help to ease back pain. After a thorough exam and diagnosis, your doctor may recommend pain medications for relief.

Injections

Injections to help relieve pain may be the right treatment option for you. Injections contain a local anesthetic and/or steroid to help temporarily treat and/or locate the source of the pain.

Surgery

Surgery is typically the last treatment option explored. Surgery is sometimes necessary to permanently treat your back pain at its source. There are many surgical treatments available, which will depend on your specific condition.

If you’re tired of suffering from back pain, call the spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 844-0056 to schedule a consultation.