When Should You Consider Surgery for Back Pain?

Thursday, June 05, 2014 11:19 AM comments (0)

back painMaking the decision to undergo spinal surgery for back pain or any other spinal condition is not an easy one to make. Many will explore non-surgical options and find relief but others will pursue the same path to no relief. Every case and every patient is different. 

Don’t wait until the pain becomes too much to start asking questions. Dean Karahalios, MD, Neurosurgery at NorthShore, answers some common questions concerning back pain and surgery:

How bad does back pain/discomfort have to get to be considered a good candidate for surgery?
Everyone responds to pain in different ways. Only you can judge how bad pain is or how much you can cope with on a day-to-day basis. If you have tried all non-surgical treatments—physical therapy, injections—to no avail, it might be time to consider surgery. And I would say that if it starts to affect your day-to-day routine or prevents you from doing the things you like to do recreationally, surgical treatment might be a good option. There are minimally invasive options for many conditions. 

Is there a difference in treatment if surgery is done by a neurosurgeon or an orthopaedic surgeon?
All neurosurgeons are trained to do spine surgery. Some orthopaedic surgeons receive additional training in order to specialize in the spine. Both neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons who are fellowship trained have advanced skills in dealing with the more complicated spinal conditions.

How long does it take to recover from minimally invasive surgery compared to traditional back surgery?
While it depends on the condition and what is done, typically recovery times can be cut in half. 

If back pain runs in the family, is there anything you can do to prevent back pain before it starts?
If there is a long family history of back pain, there is probably some genetic component, which you, unfortunately, can't do anything about. However, maintaining a high standard of general health and lifestyle can be even more important. So, eat healthy meals, exercise regularly, keep your weight down and don't smoke. These healthy life choices will lead to benefits in other areas as well. When it comes to exercise though, do low impact exercises—swimming and biking—and avoid running on hard surfaces and heavy lifting.

How long do you continue to recover and improve after surgery? When can you expect to be at your "best" after having back surgery?
It depends on your condition, and what you've had done. For instance, a simple microdiscectomy (the removal of a small section of bone from a disc or from near a nerve to relieve neural impingement) can take a few days to a few weeks but a spinal fusion (the permanent joining of two or more bones in the spine) can take several weeks to months.

What are the best things a patient can do prior to surgery to increase the likelihood of a good outcome after surgery?If there is no medical reason that requires immediate surgery, then programs of weight loss, as well as increasing abdominal strength and overall strength prior to surgery could help increase the speed of recovery after surgery. And a big one: if you smoke, stop.

What does rehab after back surgery involve? How long does it take?
This depends on a patient’s condition and what was done surgically. In general, rehabilitation involves exercises that seek to restore flexibility and improve core strength. Typical recommended rehab after surgery is usually 2-3 sessions per week for 4-6 weeks.

Suffering from back pain? Hear from the experts!
The NorthShore Spine Center is hosting two free events this summer to discuss the latest nonsurgical and minimally invasive treatments for back pain.

  • Thursday, June 19th from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Highland Park Hospital, Highland Park, IL.
  • Wednesday, June 25th from 6;30 to 8:30 p.m. at Laschen Community Center, Vernon Hills, IL.

For more information and to RSVP click here

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Short on Time? Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Workouts

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 5:01 PM comments (0)

exerciseSchedules fill up quickly, days are busy and sometimes it feels like there are just not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on our to-do lists. And, unfortunately, it’s often our exercise regimens that are the first to fall by the wayside. But don’t give up! Regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health and well-being. 

Thomas Hudgins, MD, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at NorthShore, shares some effective ways to maximize the time you have for exercise: 

  • Incorporate interval training into your cardio workout. Shift between periods of high intensity to low intensity to rev up your workout. The frequent change in resting heart rate will boost your metabolism and the toggling between intensities will increase your endurance.
  • Include exercise throughout the day. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day. You can work this into your daily routine by taking the stairs or parking at the farthest point from your destination in a parking lot.
  • Divide your workout equally between cardio and strength training. You’ll burn lots of calories but also improve your strength. Building muscle helps boost stamina for endurance sports and revs up your metabolism. Strength training also improves bone density, range of motion, and stability and balance. It’s a great exercise to explore now and as you age. 
  • Do full body exercises. If you are short on time focus on exercises that target your largest muscle groups, like squats, plank rows and lunges. Lunges can be conducted in all planes, meaning forward, backward, sideways and diagonal. Include weights with these exercises to get even more bang for your minutes. These exercises also work multiple muscle groups and are a safe, efficient way to build more muscle. 
  • Stretch thoroughly. Stretching after a workout, and sometimes even the next morning, will help reduce soreness and risk of injury. Don’t put your exercise at risk; injury could derail the healthy routine you’ve worked so hard to develop.
  • Work your core. Core stability and strength is important for any activity or sport. Planks will contract your abdominal, back and buttock muscles at the same time. It's easy to pull double duty too because core exercises can be conducted while you're watching TV or reading a book.

What is your go-to workout plan when you’re short on time?

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