Are Steroid Injections Helpful for Back Pain?

The use of steroid injections to treat back pain is a popular option for treating back pain for many patients. It’s minimally invasive and relatively inexpensive, and for many people these injections can provide effective management of a chronic pain issue. However, as reported in the Washington Post, some doctors are unsure about the long-term efficacy of using injections to treat pain. But steroid injections continue to be widely used, and many patients report feeling some degree of relief as a result of spinal steroid injection. What accounts for this discrepancy?

First of all, it’s important to understand how spinal injections are meant to work. Steroid injections are most frequently used to treat sciatica and leg pain that results from sciatic nerve pain, and they tend to be most effective when used to treat pain resulting from herniated discs. The steroid injection is delivered directly into the epidural space of the spine. The injected fluids may include cortisone, an anesthetic, and/or saline. The particular combination of injected solutions depends on the nature the problem.

It is generally well understood that pain relief that results from spinal injection therapies is temporary. There are, however, rare cases where these injections do provide enough relief to allow a patient to forego any further pain management therapies—and these exceptions to the rule can be blow out of proportion to their actual occurrence. This means that patients who may have exaggerated beliefs about the level of relief that steroid injections can provide are more likely to report a low level of efficacy.

Spinal injections are most often used to help a patient manage pain before moving on to the option of surgery. Even minimally invasive spine surgery, which has a smaller incision and faster recovery period, is still only used after other options for treating pain have been exhausted. In a situation where it looks like a person is likely to need a surgical procedure, a doctor may choose spinal injection therapy as a method to help the patient deal with the pain while they are waiting for surgery. In some cases, this therapy will provide enough relief that the patient won’t end up needing surgery, but in most cases it works as more of a placeholder. Rather than dealing with the actual cause of the pain — whether it’s sciatica or an injured disc — spinal injections only help patients manage the pain itself.

In the article in the Washington Post, doctors noted that even with different methods of injection and different combinations of solutions did necessarily produce differing results in patients. However, their study did show that spinal injection therapies tend to be most effective when used to treat pain that results from a herniated disc. One reason for this could be because especially in someone who is relatively young, a herniated disc may heal on its own.

Though studies like those reported by the Washington Post may give some readers concern about the efficacy of spinal injection, it’s important to understand how these may (or may not) fit into your individual treatment plan and to know what kind of results you can expect. If you are curious about these injections, or if you are looking for a second opinion, it’s a good idea to consult a physician who specializes in back health like Dr. Solomon Kamson.

Too Young for Back Pain?

If you’re one of the growing number of people who’s under 50 and experiencing back pain, you may feel like you’re limited in what you can find about the unique issues you may face. Chronic back pain is associated with aging, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen to younger people. If you’re experiencing something as real and debilitating as chronic back pain and all you can find is information about pain treatment in older populations, it can really feel isolating or even embarrassing. It also may not be helpful to get treatment advice that is more appropriate for someone who is much older.

Though many attribute rising rates of back pain complaints to the aging of the baby boomer generation, there are other reasons why back problems could be more common that have nothing to do with age. Increased rates of childhood obesity, lack of exercise, and a more sedentary lifestyle are all potential factors that could lead to developing back problems at a younger age. While doctors like Solomon Kamson MD, PhD of the Spine Institute Northwest are likely to mainly see older patients, the number of younger people reporting back pain is on the rise.

Back pain can’t be said to really be a positive development, but there are advantages that younger sufferers have. Making the effort to change your lifestyle, with more exercise and a nutritious diet, can not only help relieve your pain now but will also benefit your overall health as you age. Younger bodies also tend to heal more quickly than older people, although advances in back pain treatments — like minimally invasive spine surgery and regenerative medicine — mean that older back pain sufferers also have a better chance at a relatively speedy recover.

Back pain can be result from the wear-and-tear of behaviors like sitting for long hours at a desk or carrying a heavy backpack, making it hardly out of the realm of possibility for a young person. That said, you should be careful to make sure you aren’t ignoring signs of potentially more serious medical problems that can affect the back. Part of the reason that back health information tends to be targeted at older people is that older people are more likely to develop more serious issues like vertebral compression fractures or degenerative disc problems. But just because these things don’t apply to you, it doesn’t mean you should ignore signs of a more serious health problem! If you feel you are only finding information targeted at older people, make sure you are finding ways to read between the lines to get all the info that could still be relevant for you.

Could an Infection Be Causing Your Back Pain?

Back pain can have many causes, from an acute injury like an auto accident or wear-and-tear over time. In some cases though, it is symptomatic of a more serious underlying problem. In a recent bulletin from Infection Control Today, specialists encouraged doctors to be on the lookout for cases of vertebral osteomyelitis, a spinal infection that manifests first as pain in the back. Solomon Kamson MD, PhD notes that because back pain is such a common complaint, it can be easy for doctors to miss more serious problems if there are no other ongoing symptoms. In this kind of case, a patient’s biggest responsibility is to be their own first evaluator and their own best advocate.
virus-bacteria-skeleton-illo
Call the Doctor
Don’t delay when considering medical treatment. In situations where the primary or only symptom a patient is experiencing is back pain, doctors will first choose a course of treatment that attempts to treat the pain with non-invasive measures. It’s important that you get this treatment early. Failure of conservative treatments can be an indication that there is a larger underlying issue. And of course, with serious problems, the earlier you get a diagnosis and begin treatment, the better

Know Your Body
When it comes to making an initial diagnosis and in choosing early tests, a key piece of evidence that can help is your description of symptoms. Any information you can give your doctor about unusual behaviors, changes, or issues will be useful. In particular, pay attention to the behavior of your pain, when you tend to feel pain (i.e., time of day, relation to certain activities, etc.), and the development of other symptoms like a gait problem, a fever, or pains in other parts of the body.

Be Aware of Symptoms
Should you experience more serious symptoms, take immediate action. If you develop symptoms like fever, swelling, redness, dizziness, or loss of appetite, contact your doctor immediately or seek out emergency care. These can be signals that something more serious than everyday back pain is going on.

Spinal problems caused by infectious diseases are not common, so there’s no reason to become alarmed if you experience back pain. Still, you shouldn’t neglect to pursue timely medical care. Even if you aren’t facing anything severe, pursuing timely treatment can have a dramatic impact on the time it takes for you to start to experience relief.

Is It Your Back or Your Feet? The Mysteries of Regional Pain

If you are experiencing a chronic back pain problem but you don’t remember doing anything to injure your back, you may be surprised to find that you are actually dealing with an injury in your feet, ankles, or legs, rather than your back itself. While it’s not uncommon for back injuries to cause pain that travels down to your legs and feet, the reverse can be true as well.
bandage-cross-abstract
How could this be? First, it’s important to keep in mind the great extent of interconnection that goes on in the human body. Without an in-depth understanding of human anatomy, it can be difficult to understand where certain bone and muscle groups interconnect. The source of mystery pains can often result from problems at these interconnections or injuries that affect the interconnections.

Of course, even without considering these interconnections, it can sometimes be very difficult to isolate the source of a pain. When you are feeling pain, especially a radiating kind of pain, it can be tough to determine if one spot is the source or what hurts the most. If you’ve ever had tooth pain, you can probably understand how complicated this can sometimes be. The mouth is a good example of this phenomenon because the teeth are so closely aligned that it can be almost impossible to know for sure which tooth is causing your pain until a dentist carefully examines you. Back pain can present a similar issue, especially when the pain manifests itself in other parts of the body.

A common cause of foot, ankle, or leg pain that is misdiagnosed as a back problem occurs when an injury to the leg has caused a patient to change their gait. When you favor one leg over the other, you can cause your pelvis and back to undergo an unusual amount of strain as your other bone and muscle groups work to accommodate the change in your walking pattern. Especially in situations of old injury—where you may not even be aware that you’ve picked up a limp, or you’re no longer feeling pain at the injury site—it can be easy for back pain to seem to come on suddenly and without apparent cause.

In these situations, old foot and ankle injuries can be treated through exercises that will help you work out points where your joints or muscles may have healed improperly. Regenerative therapies, where your own cells are used to help spur healing and the growth of new tissue, have also been used to treat both chronic and acute injuries. Dr. Solomon Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest is one physician who has used regenerative medicine to help treat problems with the spine as well as joint damage.

Can Massage Treat Back Pain?

If you’ve ever dealt with back pain before, chances are that someone has at some point encouraged you to get a massage. According to Dr. Solomon Kamson, back massages can be helpful for alleviating certain types of back pain, but not all types. Getting a massage costs you time and money, so how can you be sure it will be a good investment?

What Exactly Does a Massage Do?
Back massages target pain that results from the development of muscle knots. A muscle knot is a point at which the muscle fibers have contracted and are unable to release themselves naturally. Muscle knots may be the result of injury, fatigue, stress, or poor posture. While muscle knots will usually work themselves out eventually, they can cause pain and discomfort in the meantime and for many people a back massage can significantly decrease this kind of pain.

In a back massage, the masseuse will use her thumb, the palm of her hand, or in some cases the elbow to apply pressure to the points where muscles have knotted. Massages usually take anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour, depending on the amount you are willing to pay, as the masseuse will usually massage the full muscle group causing you pain, not only the specific spots.

Massages help these knots release and they also promote circulation, which can be very helpful in encouraging healing and repair at sites of injury, damage, and trauma. They also promote the release of endorphins, which result in a general good feeling that can temporarily help to reduce pain.

When is Massage Appropriate Treatment?
Back massage may be an appropriate form of treatment in any of the following situations:
• Muscle pain resulting from minor injury
• Strain resulting from heavy lifting, work, or stress
• Pain symptoms that result from osteoarthritis of the spine
• Stiffness and pain resulting from fibromyalgia

If you are experiencing chronic back pain, you should talk to an experienced pain physician like Dr. Solomon Kamson before undertaking even conservative therapies like massage. It is important that the steps that you take to try to reduce your back pain do not actually exacerbate it.

What Should You Tell the Masseuse?
If you are experiencing pain in your upper back and shoulders, ask the masseuse to focus on the erector spinae muscle group. This area, which extends from the base of your neck down through your shoulder blades, is a common area for pain related to stress and sports injury.

If you are experiencing pain in your lower back and hips, ask the masseuse to focus on the quadratus lumborum, the muscle group that connects the last rib to the pelvis. This is especially relevant if you experience back pain in situations where you are straining your lower but not your upper back (think lifting bags out of your car’s trunk or leaning over the kitchen sink from the trunk).

You can also ask the masseuse to pay attention to the gluteus medius. This muscle group in your hip is frequently the muscle group that is most taxed when your QL muscle group is strained as it will often try to compensate for the lack of motion and strength when that muscle group is injured. If you alert the masseuse to your specific issues, you are more likely to get benefits from your massage.

3 Little Things You Can Do to Keep Your Back Healthy

When it comes to dealing with and treating back pain, it’s always best if you can take preventative steps to reduce the likelihood of future back health problems and stop the progression of current back health issues. If you have a history of back health problems in your family or you have been dealing with minor back pain problems, check out these tips for everyday healthy practices that can improve your back health. If you’re dealing with chronic pain that won’t go away, contact Dr. Solomon Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest so you can get the treatment (and find the relief!) that you need.

Practice Gentle Yoga Stretches
Gentle stretches like the type your would practice in yoga are a great means of improving your back health. It’s best if you can do a full yoga work out each day, alternating the muscle groups that you target. Check out online yoga programs like the Ekhart yoga video series to get a good introduction to some basic routines that target different muscle groups and body parts.

Of course, proceed with caution when trying out any new fitness routine. If you are older or if you have had long-term back problems that limit your movements, it is in your best interest to work with a professional yoga instructor or a physical therapist rather than trying to figure out the best practice yourself. Even if you can’t make time for a full half-hour routine everyday, even doing just a few stretches and poses before bed or a few times throughout the day can be a great way to improve mobility and decrease pain that results from muscle tension.

Get Regular Cardiovascular Exercise
It is a known medical truth that regular cardiovascular exercise has a huge impact on your long-term health and life expectancy. Exercises like running and walking are especially good for improving back health, as they require full body movements. They are also great exercises for those who prefer not to go to the gym as they can be completed with a simple walk or jog around the neighborhood.

Be sure you are also getting up and moving around regularly while at work. Don’t allow yourself to stay seated for more than a half an hour at a time, even if all you do is get up to stretch and go to the bathroom. If you have a job that requires you to be on your feet all day, be conscious of your posture while on the job. Jobs that require lots of activity and standing are often better for your health, but especially in jobs that require heavy lifting, you should be certain that you aren’t counteracting the positive benefits by putting yourself at risk of strain and injury.

Take Vitamins
If you have never consulted with a dietician before, it can be difficult to know if you are maintaining a diet that targets all of your nutritional needs. Taking vitamins provides a good way to make sure you are promoting good bone and muscle strength through your diet. Of course, the best course of action is to take vitamins while also working to improve your diet, so even if you can’t consult with a dietician talk with your regular physician about finding ways that you can improve your diet.

Symptoms That May Indicate a Back Problem

If you have contacted Dr. Sol Kamson for consultation for a back health problem, you are probably very aware by this point of the specific nature of your back health problems. Of course, when it comes to something like back pain, especially chronic back pain, it can be hard to stay aware of the specific patterns of your problems.

There are a few back problems that you should be sure you don’t ignore when you are beginning the process of getting treatment for your back issues. It can be hard to give an objective report of the nature of your back problems when talking with a doctor, so take the time to keep a journal of your back problems as well as other physical symptoms. You may experience issues that seem completely unrelated from back pain or injury, but that are actually red flags that there is a problem. Jot down the date, time, type of symptom, severity of pain on a scale from 1 to 10, and what you were doing at the time.

Back Pain Symptoms
Back pain can come in all degrees and levels of regularity. If you experience a chronic low-grade back pain, be sure to pay attention to and note the following:

  • Times of the day or specific activities that seem to correlate with increases in back pain
  • Where you most often feel back pain, and if there is accompanying pain elsewhere in your body
  • Things that help and do not help your pain like application of heat, massage, painkillers, etc.

If you are experiencing more severe back pain, even if you would not classify it as a chronic problem, you should be sure to seek out prompt medical attention. The back is composed of many muscle groups as well as delicate spinal tissue. An accurate diagnosis and early intervention can help save you considerable trouble down the line.

Numbness, Loss of Mobility, Loss of Sensation
Whether you experience numbness and loss of mobility or sensation only infrequently or it has become a regular occurrence, you should seek out medical attention to determine its source. When experienced together with extreme back pain, weakness, loss of bladder control, impaired breathing, impaired movement, or an unusual posture problem, immediate medical attention is necessary, as these can be signs of an acute injury.

For many people though, these symptoms are experienced as minor inconveniences. They can be symptomatic of a problem that could be easily treated with conservative therapies or with minimally invasive spine surgery. Again, when it comes to back problems, it can be almost impossible for an individual without medical training to properly identify the root cause of these kinds of problems.

Flu-like Symptoms
If you have been experiencing symptoms you might describe as flu-like that are coupled with back pain or other symptoms of neurological issue, you could have a spinal infection. Be on the look out for symptoms including fever, chills, and redness or tenderness anywhere on the spine. When experienced with headache, back or neck stiffness, or loss of mobility, this could point to an infection somewhere in the spinal system.

Five Tips for Choosing the Best Mattress for Your Back

The average human being spends about one-third of their life sleeping. With the amount of time spent on a mattress, it is no surprise that the mattress you choose can have several effects on your back health. A mattress that does not support your back properly can cause muscle strain, poor sleeping posture, and misalignment of the spine, all of which may contribute to lower back pain. On the other hand, a mattress that offers both sleep comfort and support can reduce lower back pain, while allowing you to get the rest you need to rejuvenate the spine and body throughout the night.

However, choosing the perfect mattress is a process that can be quite difficult. There are many materials, brands, and levels of firmness to choose from. Luckily, following these simple tips can help you choose a mattress that can promote lower back health. If you find that replacing your mattress does not help, you may have an underlying condition contributing to your back pain. Consider speaking with a specialist such as Dr. Solomon Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest for further guidance.

Tip 1: Consider Personal Preference
There is not one specific mattress on the market that is ideal for everyone who suffers from lower back pain. Ultimately, your goal should be to choose a mattress that allows you to wake feeling refreshed, without pain and stiffness in your back. While mattress shopping, try out different mattresses in the store, to see which will provide you with support and comfort. If you are unsure of the mattress type that will be right for you, look for a mattress manufacturer that will allow you to return the mattress if you are not satisfied.

Tip #2: Understand What Your Mattress is Made Of
The inner springs (coils) of the mattress are responsible for providing support. The positioning, arrangement, and number of springs will vary depending on the mattress. Some mattresses have a limited number of springs, while others have many. The depth of the padding on top of the springs will also vary depending on the mattress you choose. Do not be afraid to ask the salespersons questions about the composition of the mattress, so that you fully understand how your mattress can help (or hurt) your back.

Tip #3: Be Sure Your Back is Supported
When you choose a mattress with proper back support, it will be able to support the natural curvature and alignment of your spine. This will prevent soreness when you wake up in the morning. While there is limited clinical research about which mattress type is best for back support, a few studies have found medium-firm to provide more relief from back pain than firm mattresses.

Tip #4: Balance Back Support with Comfort
Your individual level of comfort is another factor that will affect back pain. For this reason, it is important that you do not sacrifice comfort for more support. Instead, choose a mattress that is both comfortable and supportive. If you prefer a firmer mattress, consider purchasing a mattress with extra padding to add to your level of comfort.

Tip #5: Replace Your Mattress When Necessary
Some telltale signs of a mattress that is too worn are sagging in the middle or a lack of comfort. If either of these sounds like your mattress, then it is time for a replacement. If you cannot afford a replacement, consider placing boards under the sagging area, for temporary support. However, remember that this is a short-term fix and you should replace your mattress as soon as possible.

Steps to Take When You Have Degenerative Disc Disease

The majority of individuals suffering pain from degenerative disc disease can manage pain and avoid surgery. Often, the pain associated with this disease doesn’t last longer than 3 months. In approximately 10% of patients, however, the pain surpasses the three-month mark. Not only is the pain unpleasant, it often affects the way they are able to live their daily lives. Luckily, if you are suffering from chronic pain caused by degenerative disc disease, there are four steps that you can take to manage your pain and get back to your daily routine.

back pain degenerative discStep 1: Get Your Pain to a Tolerable Level
The first line of defense for a painful back is home remedies. Try applying heat and cold, or taking over-the-counter medicines to alleviate your pain. If these conservative treatments do not work, it may be necessary to contact a spinal specialist such as Dr. Solomon Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest. A specialist will be able to prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication, or suggest alternative therapies such as chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture, or massage therapy.

Step 2: Start an Exercise Regimen
It is important to remember that the pain may not go away completely. However, once it has reached a tolerable level, it is important to start a regular exercise regimen. Exercise preserves and strengthens the back, while encouraging the flow of blood, oxygen, and important nutrients to the discs and other parts of the back. Additionally, exercise releases endorphins, which can naturally relieve pain and stress.

There are three types of exercise that individuals suffering chronic pain from degenerative disc disease should participate in—stretching, aerobic conditioning, and strengthening. It is often most effective to alternate strengthening exercises with aerobic conditioning exercises every 30 minutes. This helps to control weight, while maintaining the flexibility and strength of the back. If your pain is too severe for low-impact aerobic exercises, consider water therapy. Stretching is also important to recover from back pain. For best results, take five minutes after waking up and five minutes before going to sleep to stretch each day. Before beginning any exercise regimen, it is important to consult a specialist such as Dr. Kamson—you want to be sure you are performing exercises correctly so that you are helping your back, not potentially furthering your injury.

Step 3: Identify Activities that May Be Causing Pain
As you become more physically active, you may find that certain factors in your life are triggering your back pain. First, be sure that you are sitting and walking with correct posture. You should also sit in chairs with lower back support. Next, take breaks every 20 to 30 minutes to increase blood flow to the back. This relieves stress and stiffness. You should also be sure to lift heavy objects properly. Finally, be sure that you are sleeping on a comfortable, supportive mattress at night. If you find that your back pain is making you shy away from your normal activities or have to make significant changes to your routine, it may be time to take stronger steps toward finding relief. The team at the Spine Institute Northwest can help you explore your options if you are suffering from degenerative disc disease.

Step 4: Keep Your Body Hydrated and Properly Fueled
When you give your spine the proper amount of hydration and nutrients, it is naturally healthier. Similarly, when the discs and spine are properly hydrated, they are more flexible. The proper nutrients can also help the spine to heal. There are several steps that can be taken to ensure proper hydration and nutrition. First, try to eat a well-balanced diet of vitamins and minerals, especially foods with calcium and vitamin D. You should also try to stay hydrated by periodically sipping water throughout the day. Try to avoid excess caffeine consumption, and use of alcohol and nicotine products, which may affect the way the body absorbs nutrients and heals itself.

The Relationship between Chronic Depression and Back Pain

Chronic depression and back pain often occur together, and each can make the other worse. Depression can actually intensify the sensation of pain, while being in constant physical pain can amplify symptoms of depression. Which comes first depends upon the individual’s history and circumstances, but either disease can start what can become a painful cycle.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, contact a spinal specialist such as Dr. Solomon Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest. Kamson and his skilled associates will be able to perform a physical and medical history to help determine a proper diagnosis for your back pain. They can then recommend a course of treatment that treats you as a whole person, not just a patient.

Defining These Diseases
To understand the relationship between chronic depression and lower back pain, you must first understand what each disease is. Chronic depression is a mental illness that is classified as a sad, depressed, hopeless, or otherwise low mood lasting longer than two weeks. It must also involve at least five of the following additional symptoms: Significant unintentional increase or decrease in weight, too much or too little sleep, irritation, fatigue, loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, feelings of worthlessness, memory and concentration problems, decreased sexual interest, and thoughts of suicide or death. Chronic lower back pain is a condition that persists longer than three months. It can be any condition of the back that causes discomfort or pain.

depression-back-pain

How Chronic Depression Affects Lower Back Pain
Chronic depression can actually cause lower back pain for two reasons. First, individuals suffering from depression are often less active. When they are not exercising as much, bones and the muscles that support them become weaker. This can cause pain, and also increase the risk for back injury. The second reason chronic depression can cause lower back pain is because individuals suffering from major depression may be more aware of sensations of physical pain than they would be typically. This means that any pre-existing back or joint pain may increase with the manifestation of depression. Often, it is found that the more severe pain that the patient with chronic pain feels, the more depressed they are.

How Lower Back Pain Affects Chronic Depression
While lower back pain may be increased by the presence of chronic depression, lower back pain can also be the cause of chronic depression. Statistics show that individuals suffering from lower back pain have an occurrence rate for depression that is four times greater than individuals who do not suffer from lower back pain.

One of the reasons that back pain leads to depression is because it disrupts sleep, which can increase irritability and fatigue the next day. Those with back pain are also more isolated, as their pain often causes limited range of movement that can lead them to avoid activities and stay home. Finally, back pain causes stress because it can affect relationships and family life. It can prevent the individual from working which may cause financial struggles that can affect the entire household. It can also prevent them from desiring sex with their partner, which can cause strain on the relationship. These symptoms can be both stressful and limiting to the individual suffering from lower back pain. They may lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair. These feelings can sometimes lead to major or clinical depression.

If you are suffering from chronic pain, you are not alone — and there is help. Contact Dr. Solomon Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest to take the first step and get back your life.