Injections for Pain

Injections for Pain

Injections for pain are used to temporarily relieve pain and discomfort caused by a number of pain conditions. Injections are often implemented before exploring other, more aggressive treatments. (In fact, they serve a diagnostic function, providing valuable information about the pain generator by whether or not they provide relief.) Injections have shown to help to reduce back pain and inflammation and usually consist of a steroid and a numbing medicine. Epidural injections are one of the most common methods used today.

What do epidural injections treat?

Epidural injections treat a variety of pain conditions that affect the back and spine. These include:

  • Spinal stenosis – Spinal stenosis occurs when areas within the spine become narrowed, placing pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. Pain typically is felt in the lower back and neck area and can increase with movement.
  • Herniated discs – Usually the result of gradual wear and tear, a herniated disc occurs when the discs (often in the lower back) in the spine have bulged or become damaged.
  • Degenerative disc disease – Degenerative disc disease occurs when the discs in the spine begin to break down from wear and tear as they age.
  • Failed back surgery syndrome – This occurs when a back surgery does not have the outcome intended, because of nerve damage and/or incomplete healing of the nerve with continued pain.
  • Sciatica – Sciatica occurs when there is pressure or damage done to the sciatic nerve.
  • Vertebral fractures – Often the result of a traumatic injury or osteoporosis, small breaks can occur in any of the vertebrae, causing pain.

How do epidural injections work?

During your treatment, you will be instructed to lie face down on the exam table. The next steps include:

  • Cleaning the skin and injecting an anesthetic for numbing purposes
  • Inserting a needle through the skin toward the spine
  • Injecting a contrast dye to help confirm if the needle is positioned in the epidural space (space between the spine and the spinal cord)
  • Maneuvering the needle between the bones of the spine using real-time X-ray, called fluoroscopy
  • Once the needle is positioned, injecting an anesthetic and steroid-medicated solution (corticosteroid)

The injection is normally not painful due to the numbing medicine used. Temporary, mild tenderness can sometimes occur afterward. The relief from epidural injections will vary from person to person.

Benefits of pain injections

  • Injections are a common method for providing pain relief and are generally safe
  • Injections can help to flush out pain-inducing inflammatory proteins
  • Injections can help you safely return to enjoying your normal activities without the dependency of pain medication
  • Pain relief can significantly improve your quality of life

Take back the life you enjoyed before the pain began. For more information, call the spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 944-0056 to schedule your next appointment.

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.

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.