Why chronic back pain is the real March Madness March 21st, 2018 Back Pain Amy Crowell Chronic Back Pain and March Madness We’re on the cusp of the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament, in which the 64 best college teams in the country will be playing for the title of National Champion. The Tournament period is affectionately known as “March Madness,” but, when it comes to chronic back pain, you’re probably not feeling so affectionate. In honor of the Tournament, we’ve outlined 64 things you should keep in mind about chronic back pain and back care this month. Back pain can be dangerous—Letting pain progress can result in permanent damage. Board certification is critical! Check to make sure your doctor is all he or she is cracked up to be. Minimally invasive procedures are growing in popularity but still only about 10% of back surgeons have the experience and training to perform them. One of the reasons minimally invasive procedures are so popular is because they can significantly lower the risk of complications. Fixing your back could be as easy as changing your shoes. Incisions for minimally invasive procedures are as little as 3mm. See ya, scar! “Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic—meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer,” according to World Spine Day. Smoking is bad for your back! It can limit your bone strength, reduce blood flow, and also make it harder to heal. You’re shorter at the end of the day! It’s due to gravity pulling you down and the pressure on the intervertebral disks. Try measuring yourself first thing in the morning and right before bed! Scoliosis is not just a kid thing. Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. You can lean over a shopping cart to get temporary relief from spinal stenosis—but this is no substitute for proper doctor’s care. Spinal stenosis can lead to paralysis if it goes unchecked! You may think a bulging disc is no big deal, but delaying treatment can lead to a more serious condition like spondylolisthesis, which can cause significant pain that may require surgery to fix. There are more than 120 muscles in the spine. Who knew sleeping could be so dangerous? Your chronic back pain could be a result of sleeping in the wrong position. “About 80 percent of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes,” according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Sciatica pain may not manifest in the back at all. Pain may be felt in the buttocks or legs. Low back pain is the “second most common reason people see their doctor.” Symptoms including severe low back pain, “pain, numbness, or weakness in one or both legs,” loss of or “altered sensations in your legs, buttocks, inner thighs, backs of your legs, or feet that is severe or gets worse,” or bladder or bowel function issues can be signs of cauda equina syndrome, an extremely dangerous condition that requires immediately emergency medical care. Sometimes, all it takes to treat chronic back pain is the right doctor, and some over-the-counter anti-inflammatories. It’s true! It’s possible to restore lost height due to compression fractures with a procedure called kyphoplasty. DISC Spine Institute notes that, “In some studies, kyphoplasty was shown to restore up to 93 percent of lost height due to compression fractures.” The narrowing of the spinal canal that occurs during spinal stenosis can be treated with a variety of minimally invasive treatments. If surgery is needed, it is typically an outpatient procedure with a tiny, suture-less incision. “The spinal cord is not one unified cord, actually, but a bundle of nerves sending and receiving a vast amount of signals from all over the body,” said Mental Floss. Local epidural steroid injections can provide relief for a variety of chronic back pain conditions and only take minutes. Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease. You might expect back pain to be better after rest, but if it worsens instead, you may be suffering from spondylitis. It’s not just too much activity that can cause back injuries. You may be just as likely to hurt your back by sitting too much! “Chronic pain can come on quickly or slowly and lasts a long time, generally longer than 3 months,” said the National Institutes of Health. “Traditional surgery typically requires a five- to six-day hospital stay, whereas many minimally invasive procedures can be done on an outpatient basis. A minimally invasive discectomy to surgically repair a herniated disc requires a very small incision less than an inch long and uses a small tube placed in between the muscle fibers to preserve muscles, tendons and ligaments. “This procedure involves very minimal blood loss, is done outpatient and is sutureless,” said Disc Spine. Spinal stenosis mostly affects those over 50. Commuting is painful for a lot of reasons, and one of them is the effect on your back. A Gallup Poll found that “A third of people with commutes of more than 90 minutes say they deal with ongoing neck and back pain.” You can reduce the effect on your back by sitting close enough to the wheel so you don’t have to stretch, using the seat’s lumbar back support, and adjusting your steering wheel to take pressure off your arms and shoulders. Stem cell treatments can use stem cells found in your own bone marrow, which, when harvested, can help you heal and replace damaged tissue. More women experience back pain than men—nearly a third of all women to one-quarter for men, according to The Good Body. Yes, heat can help soothe back pain. So can cold. Sometimes, both help. But you won’t know which one—or in which to use them—unless you see a doctor. According to The Good Body, 90% of low back pain cases are resolved within six weeks—but only after receiving treatment! The “Move Forward” Low Back Pain Survey found that, “Low back pain isn’t just for those who spend a lot of time on their feet. In fact, more than half (54 percent) of Americans who experience low back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting.” Osteoporosis is on the rise, and the thinning of bone can lead to painful fractures and bone loss. Cold weather CAN affect your back. Chronic back pain may feel even worse in the winter because it is one of the main causes of joint pain, and can also inflame your tissues and make your muscles tense up. Your spine doctor may recommend to lose a few. Carrying too much weight can stress your back and cause pain. “More than one million back injuries are sustained in the workplace every year,” according to the University of Maryland – Department of Environmental Safety, Sustainability and Risk. The leading occupation in terms of ergonomic injuries: Truck Drivers. Numbers four and six: Nursing Assistants and Registered Nurses. A few tips can help new moms avoid what seems like inevitable back pain. We are born with 33 vertebrae but only have 26 as adults. Some of them fuse together as we get older! Lower back pain is the top cause of disability around the world. “Prevalence is highest in Western Europe and lowest in the Caribbean and Latin America,” said TIME. Spinal centers like DISC Spine will provide a free MRI review for new patients. Bulging discs can be incredibly painful and strike fear in back pain sufferers, but, according to Mark C. Valente, Board certified and fellowship trained orthopedic spine surgeon and Founder and Medical Director of DISC Spine Institute, “Many people who have pain from a bulging disc will get pain relief with a few days of rest and some anti-inflammatories. Traction, physical therapy and epidural steroid injections may be beneficial as well.” The human spine has 23 discs. A few words you may be hearing if you have chronic back pain: Cervical refers to the neck, thoracic to the mid back, and lumbar to the lower back. Stress can bring on back pain and back pain can bring on stress. The right doctor may be able to help you manage both. Your chronic back pain could be kidney stones, an infection, or fibromyalgia, but those are not common causes. Car accidents are responsible for more back pain in America than any other cause, but many people fail to get treatment because they don’t feel pain right away or don’t treat it seriously. Discs act as “shock absorbers” between the vertebrae. Degenerative disc disease can cause the bones to rub together, causing pain. It’s not just the act of sitting in a chair for long periods that can harm your back. Slouching can cause problems. Your doctor may be able to recommend some exercises to improve your posture. Yes, you can injure yourself at the gym. But it can also be good for your back. “Regular exercise prevents back pain,” said WebMD. “And doctors may recommend exercise for people who have recently hurt their lower back. They’ll usually start with gentle movements and gradually build up the intensity. Once the immediate pain goes away, an exercise plan can help keep it from coming back.” Don’t be surprised to hear your spine doctor mention yoga as one way of treating back pain and maintaining ongoing back health. Check your kids’ backpack! “As practical as backpacks are, they can strain muscles and joints and may cause back pain if they’re too heavy or are used incorrectly. Humans and giraffes share the same number of vertebrae in the neck: Seven! Most people with chronic back pain do not need surgery, but those who seek treatment are choosing doctors who are leaders in minimally invasive surgical procedures just in case. “The spinal cord undergoes a lot of growth in your first four to five years, up to about 16 or 20 inches long, but from then on, it’s done,” said Mental Floss. “Your body keeps growing around the spinal column, which stays exactly as long as it was when you reached the age of five.” The lower back area is most prone to injury. Minimally invasive surgical procedures are known to use much less anesthesia; that means easier surgeries and recoveries. There’s no need to live with back pain. For more information about chronic back pain and to seek treatment, contact DISC Spine Institute, experts in minimally invasive treatments, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain. Minimally invasive surgical techniques mean treating chronic back pain is easier than ever, with outpatient treatments, small incisions, and a quicker recovery time instead of a long hospital stay.