The Most Common Types of Spine Surgery

The Most Common Types of Spine Surgery

Deciding to have spine surgery can be a difficult choice to make. Usually, spine surgery is recommended only after nonsurgical treatments have been unsuccessful. Learning about your treatment options is one of the best ways to make the right decision for your health.

Benefits of spine surgery

The most important and obvious benefit to spine surgery is to get relief from chronic back pain when other treatments have failed. Most pain will reduce after surgery and recovery. The benefits of reduced pain will include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Increased range of motion
  • Increased activity
  • Improved mood
  • Reduced dependence on pain medication
  • Increased productivity
  • Ability to work again

Risks involved with spine surgery

Most patients who have spine surgery won’t experience any complications during or after their procedures, but with every surgical procedure comes some degree of risk. Some risk factors include:

  • Reaction to anesthesia or other drugs
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Recurrent disc herniation
  • Nerve damage

Most common types of spine surgery

There are many types of spine surgery. The type of procedure you may need will depend on your condition and its severity. They include:

  • Spinal fusion – The most common form of spine surgery, spinal fusion involves surgically joining the spinal bones (vertebrae) together, restricting the motion between the bones and preventing the stretching of the nerves.
  • Laminectomy – Laminectomy consists of removal of parts of the bone (lamina) in order to relieve pressure on the nerves that could be the source of pain or weakness. Sometimes spinal fusion is performed along with a laminectomy for further spinal support.
  • Foraminotomy – A foraminotomy surgery involves enlarging the nerve openings on the side of the vertebrae in order to widen the gap through which nerve roots exit the spine. This can help relieve pressure on the nerves for reduction — or elimination — of pain.
  • Discectomy – A discectomy involves removing part or all of a slipped or herniated disc to relieve pressure on a spinal nerve.
  • Disc replacement – To help improve motion and relieve pain in the spine, an artificial disc can replace a damaged spinal disc.
  • Interlaminar implant – An interlaminar implant is a device placed in between two vertebrae to help support and maintain the space in between. This is an alternative to spinal fusion in select patients.

In some cases, patients will not experience a reduction in spinal pain after their surgery. It’s highly recommended to explore nonsurgical options prior to choosing spine surgery. For more information, call the spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 944-0056 to schedule an appointment.

Tips on Traveling with Back Pain

Tips on Traveling with Back Pain

The thought of traveling with back pain can be daunting for some and can turn an otherwise pleasant trip into a miserable one. Traveling can exacerbate chronic pain conditions and aggravate sore areas in your neck, spine and back, but there are a few things you can do to help relieve and prevent pain while traveling.

Ask for a doctor’s note

Sometimes a doctor’s note can still go a long way. Ask your physician to write a letter to the airline you are flying with to alert the flight staff of certain pain conditions you may have. He or she can also request special accommodations like upgraded seats with more leg room, extra cushions for support, and permission to get out of your seat to move about during the flight.

Provide support to your back during the flight

Lower-back supports, pillows and neck pillows are all great ways to give your back some extra support during a flight. A flight attendant may even be able to give you extra pillows upon request.

Contact the airline prior to your flight

In addition to your doctor’s note, you can also get in touch with the airline prior to your trip to inform them of any health conditions or limitations you may have. If you give them enough advance notice, they may be able to make special accommodations like wheelchair assistance, early boarding, enlisting airline personnel to carry and load your luggage, as well as special shuttles or elevator platforms.

Bring pain medication

Keep yourself prepared by keeping either an over-the-counter or prescribed pain medication with you while traveling. Take your medication an hour before your flight to give it time to process through your system.

Strategically schedule your flight

Some flights are more crowded than others. Do your best to avoid these by contacting the airline to find out which flights tend to be less crowded so that you have a greater likelihood to be able to stretch during the flight. Also try to limit any layovers or downtime between flights as well as early morning flights that could disrupt your normal sleep patterns. Disturbing your normal sleep patterns can make you feel more tired, which often makes pain more severe.

Pack light and minimize heavy lifting

Heavy lifting can place extra pressure on your back, so try to move slowly and pack only what you need for your trip. Most types of luggage have wheels attached to avoid any lifting, but lifting your suitcase in and out of cars or up into carry-on storage can strain your back more.

Move around during the flight

Sitting in one place for extended amounts of time can put extra stress on your back, making the pain feel much worse. Do your best to get up at least once every hour of your flight to move around the cabin and stretch (if you can find some room to). Try to get an aisle seat to avoid disturbing any fellow passengers.

If you or someone you love have been experiencing back pain, call the spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 522-6930 to schedule your next appointment.

The Importance of a Second Opinion

The Importance of a Second Opinion

We understand that the thought of spine, back or neck surgery can be intimidating. You want to be sure you’re making the best choice possible for you and your health, but doing this can require time and research. It’s important to know all your options, including getting a second opinion.

Unfortunately, many patients who desire a second opinion don’t follow through out of fear they may offend their current surgeon, or they simply don’t know who else to turn to. If this sounds like you, remember that your health should be top priority, and any doubts about a recommended surgery are reason enough to get a second opinion. The decision to have spine, neck or back surgery shouldn’t be taken lightly.

There are many reasons why you should consider getting a second opinion. Some significant reasons to seek a second opinion are:

  • You feel uncomfortable with the surgeon or medical staff for any reason
  • You’re interested in exploring non-surgical treatment options
  • The surgeon has difficulty answering questions about the rationale for a suggested procedure or is vague on the surgical plan
  • If you feel that your surgeon or the staff members are not taking the time to listen to and answer your questions
  • You don’t share the same personal goals for your care as your surgeon
  • If you suspect that your initial referral was determined by economic interests rather than who is best suited for your surgery
  • If your initial surgery failed and another surgery is being proposed

Choosing a surgeon for a second opinion can be difficult. Focus on getting an opinion from a skilled, experienced and ethical surgeon who has your best interests in mind. Make sure you do your research, read online reviews or even ask friends for referrals.

Once you have found a surgeon for a second opinion, ask the questions that you may have previously skipped over. The goal of a second opinion appointment is to leave the office feeling informed, with a better understanding of what your options are. Some things you can do to get the most out of your appointment:

  • Ask the surgeon about his or her experience with the specific type of back, spine or neck surgery applicable to your situation
  • Research and ask about past outcomes for patients with similar conditions
  • Ask about alternatives to proposed procedures
  • Inquire on the progression of your condition should you choose to not have surgery
  • Ask about risks or possible complications from the procedure
  • Discuss a plan of action if the surgery doesn’t deliver the outcome you expected

In addition, make sure to bring any copies of tests, X-rays, scans, medical admissions and lists of medications you’re taking that are related to your condition.

More often than not there are multiple procedures and approaches to treat a single condition. Take an active role in your treatment, and don’t settle for anything less than exceptional care. If you are looking to get a second opinion regarding your surgery, call the experts at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 522-6930 to schedule an appointment.

Get the Facts on Whiplash

Get the Facts on Whiplash

Whiplash is a common neck strain that occurs when the neck is suddenly and forcefully whipped backward and then forward again, causing mild to moderate strain in the neck. The strain is caused by the pulling of the muscles and ligaments in your neck beyond their normal range of motion. Sometimes the pain caused by whiplash is not initially present and can take a couple days to manifest.

Symptoms of whiplash

Symptoms of whiplash can be mild to moderate and can last up to several weeks. Symptoms generally include:

  • Difficulty moving the neck
  • Pain, stiffness or tension in the neck
  • Tenderness or pain in the shoulders, upper back or arms
  • Worsening pain with movement
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches at the base of the skull
  • Dizziness

Some less common, but notable symptoms include:

  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Irritability
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Impaired memory or concentration

Causes of whiplash

Whiplash can be caused by a variety of events. Although car accidents are the number one culprit and the most well known cause of whiplash, contact sports can also put you at risk for whiplash. Accidents while participating in sports like skiing, cycling or horseback riding can also cause whiplash.

When to see a physician

Though most people wait out the symptoms of whiplash until they go away, it is important to know certain times when seeing a physician is beneficial. If the pain felt from whiplash is severe or if you are experiencing any pain, numbness or tingling in your shoulders, arms or legs that’s affecting your normal routine, it may be time to seek professional treatment.

Treatment options for whiplash

After a discussion of your symptoms and a thorough examination of your neck by your physician, there are a few things he or she may recommend moving forward. Some treatment options to help relieve symptoms include:

  • Ice or heat – Applying ice or heat to the muscle strain for 15-minute increments, several times a day can help relax the muscles.
  • Rest – Rest can help ease future pain, but it’s only helpful in the first 24 hours after the incident.
  • Injections – Sometimes an injection of a numbing agent called lidocaine (Xylocaine) can be beneficial to treatment.
  • OTC pain medications – Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can aid in relieving mild cases of whiplash.
  • Prescription medications – In more severe and rare cases, a prescription pain reliever can help with short-term treatment.
  • Muscle relaxants – In more moderate cases where sleep patterns are affected, sometimes a muscle relaxant can help.

If you have been in a recent accident that is causing muscle strain, call the experts at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 522-6930 to schedule your appointment.

Understanding and Managing Sciatica

Spine Surgery of Idaho Can Diagnose and Treat Your Sciatica

Do you have pain, numbness or tingling down the back of your leg? Does the pain worsen when you sit for long periods of time? You could be experiencing sciatica.

The sciatic nerve starts in your lower back and runs down the back of each leg. Pain occurs when there is pressure or injury to the sciatic nerve. For most people, sciatic pain is an occasional problem that can be managed with noninvasive treatments. For others, sciatic pain can be severe and debilitating. Determining the cause is an important step in effectively managing your pain.

Common causes of sciatica include:

  • Trauma or irritation to the lumbar and lumbosacral spine area (an injury to your lower back)
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal in your lower back, which puts pressure on the nerves)
  • Degenerative disc disease (a breakdown of the discs or cushions between the vertebrae in your spinal column)
  • Spondylolisthesis (when one of the vertebrae in your back slips out of alignment and pinches the nerves)
  • Pregnancy, which can put pressure on the lower back and sciatic nerve

It’s time to make an appointment with your doctor when:

  • You’re unable to relieve the pain with at-home treatments like stretching, exercise and over-the-counter pain medication
  • The pain and related symptoms continue to get worse
  • Your daily routine, family life and job suffer as a result of the pain
  • You’re unable to do the things you normally do
  • The pain starts after an injury, like a fall from a ladder or an auto accident

It’s important to immediately seek medical care if:

  • The pain comes on very quickly and is not due to an injury
  • The pain becomes severe, causing numbness or weakness in your leg
  • You lose feeling in your leg, or you’re unable to lift your foot
  • You have difficulty controlling your bowels or bladder

Don’t let the pain of sciatica stop you from doing the things you enjoy. Dr. Marano has been providing a full range of spinal care treatment options for the past three decades. He’ll conduct a thorough examination to identify the cause of your pain and will recommend treatment options – starting with the least invasive option first. His number-one goal is to address your specific issues and needs.

Dr. Marano and his staff bring a high level of expertise and experience to the care of each and every patient seen at Spine Surgery of Idaho. If you’re in the Idaho Falls area and you’ve been experiencing back pain, we encourage you to make an appointment today. You can call 208-522-6930 to schedule your appointment, or use our convenient online request form.

Be Prepared for Your Bone Density Scan

Bone Density Scan to Detect Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones due to a loss of calcium and minerals. In women, this is often the result of hormonal changes as they age. People with weak bones are at greater risk for breaks and fractures. It’s estimated that about 2 million fractures per year are osteoporosis-related.

Early intervention and treatment is essential in effectively managing osteoporosis. Has your doctor ordered a bone density scan? This simple test can help your doctor assess your risk for osteoporosis-related breaks and fractures. By understanding your bone density, he can prescribe medications to help prevent, slow and stop the progression of osteoporosis. Bone loss and damage that has already been done is not reversible.

You’ve made the appointment for your bone density scan: what can you expect? To help you be prepared and ready for your scan, the team at Spine Surgery of Idaho has organized this helpful list of information.

A bone density scan…

  • Is not painful.
  • Takes about 15 – 30 minutes to complete.
  • Assesses bones in your hips, spine, forearms, fingers and heels.
  • Exposes you to very low levels of radiation, much less than when you get a chest x-ray.
  • When done in a hospital, you lay on a padded table and a machine with an arm moves over your body and scans your bones. With this machine they test your spine, hip and forearm.
  • When done in your doctor’s office or at your local pharmacy, a portable machine is used to measure the bone density in your finger, wrist and heel.
  • Results are read by a trained and certified physician and then sent to your doctor who will review them with you.

If you’re concerned about your risk for osteoporosis and you live in the Idaho Falls area, trust Dr. Marano and his team at Spine Surgery of Idaho.” He can help you understand your condition and, when appropriate, your treatment options. Call 208-522-6930 to schedule your appointment or use the convenient online request form.

Simple Tips for Managing Lower Back Pain

Low Back Pain: When You Need to See a Specialist

Low back pain can be frustrating. It can limit your activities or completely sideline you from daily life. At some point in time, almost everyone experiences some form of lower back pain. Maybe you overdid it at the gym, or you bent wrong when picking up those heavy boxes; or maybe those long hours in front of the computer are taking a toll. Regardless of the cause, there are a few simple things you can do at home to help relieve and prevent lower back pain.

These simple tips from the experienced team at Spine Surgery of Idaho can help both prevent and manage lower back pain.

Apply Cold and Hot Packs

Cold and hot packs, when used correctly, can relieve your lower back pain and help the healing process. Cold packs applied to the area of injury help reduce inflammation and act as a painkiller. Cold packs should be used during the first 24 to 48 hours after the injury to manage the initial inflammation. Cold packs also work well immediately after a workout that might aggravate the injury site.

Hot packs stimulate blood flow to the area, which can promote faster recovery. They also cause the muscles to relax to minimize pain. After the first 48 hours, use whatever works best for you in terms of pain management – cold or heat.

Stretch Your Hamstrings

Your hamstrings are the muscles found on the back of your upper legs. When those muscles are tight, they put added stress on your lower back, increasing the pain. A simple way to help relieve lower back pain is to gently stretch your hamstrings 2 – 3 times a day.

For an easy hamstring stretch that you can do anywhere, start by standing with your feet together. Step your right foot back about two feet and bend forward from the hip, keeping your back and both legs straight. Bend only as far as comfortable, rest your fingertips against the wall or on the ground for balance. Hold for 30 seconds, switch sides. This should be a gentle, easy stretch.

lower back pain stretch




Develop a Support Team

Your lower back can’t do it alone; it needs the support of the surrounding muscles to stay properly aligned. To prevent future bouts of lower back pain, take the time to develop the muscles that support your lower back. Strong muscles in your hips and abdomen take the stress off your lower back as they all work together to bend and lift. For most people, these muscles don’t get a good workout on a daily basis. Talk with your doctor or trainer to develop an exercise program that fits your physical ability and addresses your specific needs.

Be Kind to Your Lumbar Region

Your lower back is the lumbar region of your spinal cord, and it’s a spot on our bodies that we often take for granted. Our lower back feels the pain of prolonged sitting and poor posture. Be kind to your lumbar region by giving it the support it needs while you’re sitting. If your chair or car seat doesn’t support the curve of your lower back, you can place a rolled towel or small pillow to provide the needed support and alignment. There are many lumbar cushions available for purchase that are designed to provide the support your lower back needs. A little proactive lumbar support could prevent your next bout of lower back pain.

These tips can go a long way in managing everyday lower back pain. It’s important to know the difference between simple low back pain and pain that requires a doctor visit. Please call your doctor if your low back pain is severe, doesn’t go away after a few days, or hurts even when you’re resting or lying down.

If you live in the Idaho Falls area and you are experiencing back pain, trust Dr. Marano at Spine Surgery of Idaho. He and his team offer a complete range of spinal care treatments. Call 208-522-6930 to schedule your appointment or use our convenient online request form.

Understanding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Understanding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a progressive condition that affects the median nerve in the wrist, causing swelling and inflammation that can lead to severe pain. When the median nerve within the wrist is compressed, it can result in tingling and numbness, and if left untreated, it can disable wrist movement.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

The median nerve runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, and is responsible for controlling the sensations in the fingers as well as the impulses to muscles that facilitate finger movement. It is housed by a narrow ligament and bone at the base of the hand. When the median nerve is compressed, the nerve can become swollen, causing pain and numbness in the hand.

What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?

There are a few things that can cause compression on the median nerve in the wrist. Anything that could potentially crowd, irritate or put pressure on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel area can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Factors that can cause swelling or inflammation are:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Fluid retention
  • Work stress
  • Repetitive motion of the arm or hand
  • Sprains or fractures
  • Overactive pituitary gland
  • Wrist joint mobility issues
  • Continual use of vibrating hand tools
  • Cysts or tumors in the carpal tunnel area

What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?

The symptoms of CTS can start out mild and as a mere occasional annoyance. You may experience:

  • The feeling of swollen fingers, despite any noticeable swelling
  • Numbness, pain, burning, itching or tingling in the palm and fingers
  • Symptoms occurring mainly at night

As symptoms progress, you may experience:

  • Difficulty with wrist and hand strength when making a fist or grasping
  • More frequent tingling and pain especially during the day
  • If left untreated, muscle deterioration in the hand

Are there people who are more at risk than others?

There are a number of factors that are known to play a role in the development of CTS. Although they are not the direct cause, they can increase your risk of median nerve inflammation. These include:

  • Gender – Because women typically have smaller carpal tunnels, they are three times more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than men.
  • Occupation – Working with tools that vibrate for prolonged amounts of time can place excessive pressure on the median nerve.
  • Injury – A fracture or dislocation that changes the carpal tunnel can irritate the nerve.
  • Inflammatory illnesses – Conditions that cause inflammation like rheumatoid arthritis can exacerbate CTS symptoms.
  • Pregnancy or menopause – Pregnancy or menopause can alter the way your body balances certain fluids and can increase fluid retention, which may cause compression on the median nerve.
  • Other medical conditions – Obesity, thyroid disorders, diabetes, kidney failure and diabetes can cause nerve damage or excess pressure on the nerves.

Diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome

Your doctor will start by using diagnostic tests and questions to determine if you are suffering from CTS, including:

  • Examination of symptoms – Your doctor will analyze the history of your symptoms based on when and where they occur, and how often.
  • Physical exam – Testing the sensations and strength in the muscles of your fingers helps your doctor determine the severity of your case.
  • Electromyogram – This is a test your doctor can perform to evaluate the electrical activity of your muscles when contracting and at rest, which helps determine if any muscle damage is present.
  • X-rays – An X-ray exam helps rule out any other reasons why you may be feeling pain, like a sprain or fracture.

How is carpal tunnel syndrome treated?

CTS should be treated as early as possible for optimal success. Depending on the severity of the case, there are a few ways to treat carpal tunnel syndrome, including:

  • Non-surgical treatments include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, wrist splinting, corticosteroids and exercise.
  • Surgical treatment for CTS is a very common endoscopic outpatient procedure, which is performed under local anesthesia. It resolves the nerve compression and results in very little scarring or postsurgical pain.

If you’ve been experiencing tingling or burning sensations in your wrist or fingers, it may be time to contact a professional. Make your appointment today with the experts at Spine Surgery of Idaho by calling (208) 522-6930.

Understanding Degenerative Disc Disease

shutterstock_124786804Understanding Degenerative Disc Disease

Our spinal column is made up of bones called vertebrae. Between these bones are soft spinal discs that cushion, absorb shock and allow us to comfortably bend and twist. As we age, our spine changes and begins to show the wear and tear of daily living. These soft discs begin to break down, providing less of a cushion between our bones; this often results in discomfort and pain. These changes can cause degenerative disc disease (DDD) in some people.

DDD can occur anywhere on your spine, but is most often seen in the lower portion of the back or neck. DDD is a common cause of pain in these areas. What causes these changes in our discs? Cracks in the outer layer of the disc, gaseous degeneration, and a loss of fluid in the discs are the common culprits.

Normal wear and tear, injury and trauma to the back can cause small tears and cracks in the outer layer of the disc. When the cushion-like material inside the disc is pushed out through these cracks, the disc bulges, and over time it can rupture or break into small pieces. Bulging and ruptured discs cause pressure on the spine resulting in back or leg pain.

As we age, our discs lose fluid, making them thinner and less able to absorb shock as we move. Thinner discs provide less cushioning between our vertebrae. At times they become so thin that the vertebrae rub together. The loss of fluid also makes the discs less flexible. These changes in our discs can result in back pain.

Not everyone with back pain has degenerative disc disease. To get a proper diagnosis, the specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho will perform an exam and get a complete medical history. Be prepared to tell them about any recent injuries or illnesses, the symptoms you are experiencing, previous at-home treatments as well as those done by another doctor, the location of the pain, and the activities that cause you pain. This information, along with a physical examination, will help us understand your situation and develop an individualized treatment plan.

Initial treatment for DDD ranges from ice or heat packs or strengthening exercises, to over-the-counter pain medications. If more aggressive treatment options are needed, Dr. Marano and his team can help. They have been providing comprehensive spinal care for almost 30 years. If you’ve been experiencing back pain or think you might have degenerative disc disease, we encourage you to make an appointment today. You can call 208-522-6930, or go online to schedule an appointment.

Managing the Pain of Muscle Spasms

58735324Managing the Pain of Muscle Spasms

Have you ever been sitting quietly reading a book or watching TV when suddenly your muscle spasms and cramps? You experience sharp and sudden pain in your back, foot or calf. What causes this to happen? How should you treat it? Can you prevent muscle spasms?

Muscle spasms and cramps are very common, and they don’t tend to be serious and usually resolve on their own. They can occur in any part of the body that has muscle, but most commonly happen in skeletal muscles or those muscles attached to your bones. The most common areas that develop muscle spasms are the feet, the calf and thigh muscles, the hands, and the muscles in your back.

The cause of a muscle spasm isn’t always known, but some common factors may include:

  • Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
  • Tired and fatigued muscles
  • Exercising when it’s very hot
  • Not stretching well before exercising
  • Overdoing it when exercising or playing weekend sports
  • Being pregnant
  • Poor circulation to your legs
  • Pinched nerves or injury to your spinal column
  • Some medications can cause muscle spasms; be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist when taking a new medication

What can you do to help ease a muscle spasm?

  • Massage the area that’s spasming
  • Stretch gently to help loosen the tightened muscle
  • Apply ice or heat to the area
  • Soak in a warm bath

What can you do to help prevent future muscle spasms?

  • Stay hydrated: drink plenty of water when exercising
  • Replace electrolytes when exercising in the heat
  • Stretch properly before exercising
  • Ease back into exercise and sports activities

Muscle spasms are usually not serious and go away in a short period of time. However, if you’re experiencing recurring muscle spasms that are severe, especially in your back or neck, it might be time to seek medical care.

Back spasms can be more debilitating than other types of muscle spasms, and sometimes the help of a physician is necessary to resolve the problem. Specialized stretches and rehabilitation regimens, electrical stimulation, massage therapy, medication or chiropractic care are all treatments that can help resolve chronic back spasms. An exam is required to determine exactly which method, or methods, will provide you with long-lasting relief.

Dr. Marano and his staff at Spine Surgery of Idaho have been providing comprehensive spinal care in the Idaho Falls area for almost three decades. Call and schedule an evaluation today 208-522-6930, or go online to schedule an appointment.