When to Consider Surgery for Lower Back Pain

Back pain is something everyone will experience at some point in their lives, and in many cases, it will be a passing problem. However, for some people, back pain can have a significant impact on their daily lives.

When to Consider Surgery for Lower Back Pain

Following some simple guidelines can significantly reduce the symptoms and risks of suffering from lower back pain. For example, regularly exercising, being aware of your posture, and keeping active throughout the day can all help. However, in some cases, the problem might cause chronic pain and affect mobility or the ability to carry out everyday tasks. Initially, the doctor will try conservative treatments to relieve the symptoms, but if those don’t work, they will consider surgery for lower back pain.

Reasons for Back Pain

We lead increasingly busy lives, but we also spend a lot of time sitting at the office, in the car, or in front of the TV. This can lead to lower back problems, which will likely get worse if you don’t make changes to your lifestyle.

But our modern lives are not the only culprits for lower back pain, with the following reasons affecting numerous people:

  • Poor posture
  • Spinal injury
  • Sciatica
  • Pinched nerves
  • Back strains
  • Work injuries: poor manual handling techniques and/or falls
  • Accidents: trips and falls

Treatment

In most cases, maintaining an active lifestyle will help alleviate the symptoms of lower back pain, with daily stretches and activities such as swimming, walking, and yoga being particularly helpful. Try to avoid long periods of sitting down. Consider doing some back stretching exercises at the office or get up and go for a walk several times during the day.

Conservative treatments are usually good enough for most people to recover from mild to moderate back pain, with a combination of anti-inflammatory drugs and compresses being the frontline treatments.

When To See a Professional

If the pain doesn’t get better after a few days—or the pain gets worse—then further investigation may be required. Consult your local doctor, who will conduct an initial assessment and possibly refer you to a specialist or physical therapist.

Even if assessments do not reveal any significant injuries, a round of physical therapy often helps relieve any symptoms. The physical therapists will be able to give you exercises for home and work to help strengthen and stretch the problem area. For some patients, the pain may be related to stress, in which case the doctor may refer them to a cognitive behavior therapist to address the source of the stress.

When Is Surgery Required?

The purpose of surgery is to improve the quality of life of the patient by eliminating or reducing pain and increasing range of motion. However, the decision to do back surgery is never taken lightly and will depend on the type of injury, age, and general health of the patient.

The majority of patients will have lower back surgery to relieve the symptoms of a pinched nerve, spinal stenosis, and osteoarthritis. Procedures in back surgery have improved dramatically in recent years and can be done less invasively than they were in the past. The three most common back surgeries are:

Laminectomy: This procedure is useful for patients suffering from sciatica caused by a pinched nerve. The surgeon will remove the back part of the bone covering the spine. This creates more space for the nerve and should help relieve leg pain.

Discectomy: In cases of bulging discs, this surgery can help to remove pressure on the nerve. The surgeon will remove part of a disc, which creates more space.

Spinal fusion: This surgery involves fusing two or more vertebrae together to relieve pressure on the spinal column and improve overall stability.

In all cases, the doctor or surgeon will discuss all the available options with you and will do all they can to avoid the need for surgery. However, in chronic cases, surgery can be a great option to get you back on your feet and pain-free.

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What Happens Next? A Guide to Recovering from Ankle Surgery

The ankle is a complex part of the body made up of three large bones and various ligaments, tendons, and muscles. All these parts work together to enable movement of the feet. This means an injury to any part of the joint can lead to severe mobility issues.

What Happens Next - A Guide to Recovering from Ankle Surgery

Sports players are often at risk of sustaining injuries such as sprains and fractures, but they can also occur due to trips and falls. The ankle may also be affected by conditions such as arthritis and gout. Your primary care doctor will usually monitor your condition and recommend conservative measures to ease the pain. However, in some cases, surgery may be required. If your doctor has recommended surgery, it is essential to understand the steps involved in recovering from ankle surgery.

Types of Surgery

There are many kinds of surgical procedure available to modern medical practitioners, but the three most common ones are as follows:

Arthroscopy in particular has helped with the diagnosis and treatment of issues related to the ligaments and tendons. By using smaller incisions, the recovery time is significantly shortened, and the chance of infection is reduced. 

Factors That Affect Recovery Time

  • Age and General Health Condition: the younger and healthier you are, it should result in shorter recovery times, but this changes on a case-by-case basis
  • Level of Damage: this will determine the type of surgical procedure required
  • Complexity of the Surgery: some procedures are less invasive than others, and this has a significant effect on recovery times

During the assessment, the surgeon will explain the procedure that they will use and the steps to making a full recovery.

Typical Recovery Times

As mentioned above, there is no definite answer to the question of recovery, because every surgery differs. In the first instance, it is important to follow the surgeon’s instructions regarding rest and activities. Many patients try to do too much too soon, resulting in renewed swelling and pain.

Stages of Recovery 

No matter what surgery a patient has had, the aim is to ensure that they enjoy a greater range of movement and a significant pain reduction post-op. In general, the recovery follows these following stages.

Reduce the Swelling: Immediately after surgery, the patient should keep the joint immobile and get sufficient rest to reduce the swelling. Depending on the operation required, the patient will have a special boot or cast to ensure that the ankle stays immobile post-op.

First Visit: After the surgery, the doctor will schedule an initial follow-up appointment to check the condition of the ankle and how well it is healing. At this stage, the doctor will make recommendations on the next steps in the recovery process. This appointment usually happens about a week after the initial surgery.

Weight Bearing: In the case of minor surgeries, weight bearing may be possible a few weeks after the surgery, while more complex surgeries usually require a more gradual approach. For example, in the case of an ankle fracture, the patient is likely to have three weeks in a cast post-op, followed by up to six weeks in a boot walker. During the initial three weeks, the patient is not permitted to do any weight-bearing activities.

Next Steps: In the case of surgeries such as arthroscopy, the recovery time can be very short and involve little or no time off. More severe conditions involve extended periods of immobility, so a course of physical therapy may be required to help regain a full range of movement.

Regardless of what surgical procedure the patient receives, the surgeons will provide a detailed plan of action for every step: pre-op, surgery, and post-op rehabilitation. And assuming the patient follows each step, the chances of a full recovery are very high.

How a Sports Medicine Specialist Can Help You Raise Your Game

An athlete’s injuries are an unfortunate part of the game, and can have a serious impact on a player’s ability to participate in their chosen sport. When an injury does occur, you will want to get back on the field as soon as possible, and that is why seeing a sports medicine specialist is always a good idea.

How a Sports Medicine Specialist Can Help You Raise Your Game

It doesn’t matter at what level you play sports; an injury can be a really traumatizing experience, which can also affect your daily life, confidence, and mental well-being. This is especially true in the case of a more severe injury or one that occurs on the lead-up to a major sporting event.

What is a sports medicine specialist?

Sports Medicine Specialists are physicians that have chosen to specialize in the specific treatment of sports-related injuries. Some physicians will work in general areas, while others work with specific body parts. Either way, they would have undergone thorough medical training and be an expert in their field.

Being a sports medicine specialist also involves significant knowledge of injury prevention techniques, which are designed around strengthening and improving the range of movement in the joints which are most important for specific sports. The physician will have an extensive knowledge of non-surgical treatments and create tailor-made programs alongside physical therapists.

Sports Medicine Specialists also usually work as team physicians with local or national sporting teams, providing much-needed advice and guidance to the players and coaches.

Conditions Treated

The physicians treat all kinds of musculoskeletal and non-musculoskeletal problems from sprains to broken bones; concussions to overuse injuries. Each major joint has a variety of conditions associated with it. Here are just a few examples:

  • Knee – ACL/PCL tears
  • Ankles – Sprains
  • Shoulder – Rotator Cuff Injury

Treatments

Regardless of the type of injury you have sustained, you will want to have the shortest possible recovery and rehabilitation period. And the great news is that with developments in medical techniques even career-threatening injuries like broken legs and necks can be overcome these days.

The kind of treatment that you will receive will depend on the part of the body that is injured and the extent of the injury, but the ultimate goal of a sports medicine specialist is to utilize non-surgical methods to get you back on the field as soon as possible.

Typical treatments a sports medicine specialist may provide include:

  • Nutritional Information
  • Injury Prevention Education
  • Conditioning and Strengthening Exercises
  • Rehabilitation from musculoskeletal problems
  • Designing Exercise Programs
  • Surgery

All of these techniques can also be applied to patients who are not athletes and are looking to get fit or play sports as a hobby.

When to contact a sports medicine specialist?

The answer to this is any time that you have either sustained an injury or want to develop a better level of fitness. The specialist will always work in collaboration with other professionals, who will be able to help improve your conditioning or speed up your recovery.

Give our team a call today to see how we can assist you to get better both from injury and as a player.

A Quick Guide to Orthopedic Surgery

Throughout our lifetimes we will likely have some musculoskeletal problems of some kind; it is just a part of growing older. It can appear in the form of bad backs, stiff necks, or might be the result of a sports injury or accident.

A Quick Guide to Orthopedic Surgery

Minor cases can usually be treated very easily, but in more severe cases or where significant wear and tear has occurred surgery may be required. The kind of orthopedic surgery needed will vary depending on the extent of the damage and the age and general health of the patient. But, whatever operation is chosen, the ultimate aim is to help the patient have a better quality of life.

Who are they?

Orthopedics is an area of medicine which focuses on musculoskeletal conditions affecting all the major bones and joints of the human body, as well as all the ligaments, muscles, tendons, and nerves. The ultimate aim of any treatment is to reduce pain and improve overall mobility.

An orthopedic surgeon will be highly skilled and undergo a rigorous training program to gain their credentials. They will have to continually prove that they offer best practice and usually work in collaboration with a team of physicians dedicated to offering the latest surgical treatments. As part of their training they will have studied all parts of the body in depth, but during their residencies, they usually decide to specialize in a particular area. Common specialties include:

  • Hip
  • Foot and Ankle
  • Knee
  • Spine
  • Hand, Shoulder, and Elbow
  • Sports Medicine
  • Child Surgery

Common Surgical Treatments

The field of orthopedic surgery is continuously changing as new methods and materials are developed, as well as new ways of diagnosing musculoskeletal disorders. New developments have seen new techniques designed which are less invasive, which leads to shorter recovery times, particularly crucial for sportspeople.

Arthroscopy – This technique leads to much quicker and accurate diagnoses as the doctor is able ‘to see’ inside the joint and assess the level of damage and the best course of treatment. This method can also be used to treat damaged cartilage in the joints, and depending on what joint is affected, can have a quicker recovery time due to its less ‘invasive’ nature.

Joint Replacements – There are many kinds of surgery involved with joint replacement, and the surgeon will decide on the appropriate sort based on the level of damage, your age, and general health condition. Techniques are always developing, and recovery times and success rates are continually improving.

Corrective Surgery – These surgeries are designed to treat defects such as bunions, clubfoot, and growth abnormalities which have a negative impact on your overall movement. The techniques vary depending on the condition, and your surgeon will advise on the best course of treatment.

When to see an Orthopedic Surgeon?

If you suffer from arthritis, osteoporosis, or are just having problems with general mobility and suffering from chronic pain, then an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon would be recommended, so that they can explore your condition further.

They will be able to diagnose your condition and suggest the best course of treatment to get your life back on track as soon as possible.

Three Ways Physical Therapy Can Help You Become Pain Free

We lead busy lives and often find ourselves rushing around from one job to the next. It doesn’t matter whether we play sports, work in front of a computer all day or perform manual labor, at some point we are going to suffer from aches and pains. A lot of these aches will usually go away after some light exercise or rest, but there are times when they don’t go away and can start affecting your daily life.

Three Ways Physical Therapy Can Help You Become Pain Free

If this sounds like you, then a course of physical therapy might literally be what the doctor orders.

What is Physical Therapy?

During your initial exam, your physical therapist they will take detailed notes about your pain and daily life, followed by a physical exam. This will usually help the therapist identify the cause of your pain and allow them to create a treatment plan.

After this, your session may include stretches, exercises, general tips on posture, or a combination of all these techniques. The protocol followed will always be tailored to the particular need of the patients, with the ultimate goal being to relieve pain and improve mobility as quickly as possible.

Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain

How often do you feel tense or get pain in your back, neck or shoulders? In the workplace, these kinds of problems happen all the time and can lead to lost days at work and general all-round misery. However, these issues are usually easily solved with some minor alterations to your posture and lifestyle.

Most of the problems which occur in this area are usually as a result of poor posture, lack of exercise, and incorrect lifting. Whatever caused the pain, it is critical to get on top of it before it becomes chronic. In minor cases, rest, relaxation, exercise, and massages are likely to relieve the pain. However, if you find that the pain is not getting better or you are having mobility issues, you may be suffering from a pinched nerve or muscle strain. In both cases, physical therapy will help reduce the pain.

Sciatica

Anyone who suffers from Sciatica will know what an irritating and painful condition it can be, with some people being in constant pain. Many people chose to lie down and hope the pain will go away. In the long-term, this is unlikely to provide much relief. That is why consulting a physical therapist is a good idea.

During treatment, the physical therapist will look at your posture and try and identify the cause of your pain, usually a trapped nerve in the spinal column. They will then utilize a mixture of strengthening, stretching, and aerobic exercises to reduce the pain and improve the strength and position of the spinal column.

Sports Injuries

If you are an active sports player, then injuries are likely to occur at some point during your life. When they do, you are going to want to get back into action as soon as possible. Whether you have had a small or major problem, physical therapy can certainly help.

The physical therapists will recommend a rehabilitation protocol designed to initially help the affected area recover and then rebuild strength and movement. Throughout the treatment, they will guide you and provide useful advice and encouragement as you battle back to full fitness.

An Introduction to Four Common Knee Injuries

The knee is one of the most important joints in the human body and also one of the most complex. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that there are numerous kinds of injuries which can occur to the knee, leading to severe mobility issues and, potentially, surgery further down the line.

An Introduction to Four Common Knee Injuries

In this article, we will look at four of the most common knee injuries.

A Complex Joint

The knee is made up of various bones, ligaments, and tendons essential for movement. There are two joints which connect the thigh bone with the shin bone, and the kneecap with the shin bone. Tendons, ligaments and cartilage help to connect these bones and ensure the smooth movement of the joint. Minor problems in any area of the knee can affect this careful balance and lead to pain and impaired movement.

Playing impact sports can increase the risk factors for certain knee injuries, but the truth is we are all at risk of some knee injuries due to aging or being involved in an accident.

Fractures

This type of injury can occur at any stage of life, with the kneecap being the most common site of the fracture. Fractures usually occur due to a high-impact injury such as a heavy tackle in Football or being involved in a car accident. The type of fracture varies from patient to patient, but the patient will feel pain straightaway and be unable to move the affected knee entirely.

In all cases of fracture, a trip to the emergency room is needed to assess the extent of the damage and begin immediate treatment. The treatment will depend on the type of fracture varying from immobilization, corrective surgery or kneecap removal.

Following the initial treatment, the knee is likely to be in a cast for around six weeks, at which point the patient can start their rehabilitation protocol. Again, this varies from patient-to-patient and will involve some form of physical therapy. 

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)

For anyone who plays sport, an ACL injury is one of the most feared injuries that can occur. This is because the ACL ligament plays such a crucial role in the overall balance of the knee joint, connecting the thigh bone to the shin bone.

These injuries are infamous for the popping sound which indicate a tear, and usually occur in sports involving lots of quick changes in movements and speed. Being on the receiving end of a hard tackle in football or landing awkwardly while playing volleyball are common causes of ‘the pop.’ The extent of the injury varies, leading to a different range of treatments and recovery times:

  • Grade One – minor damage, with little effect on mobility
  • Grade Two – more significant damage and a loss of movement
  • Grade Three – complete tear and total loss of mobility in the knee joint

In the case of a grade one or two tears, surgery is unlikely to be used, and a full recovery can be expected if the patient follows a strict regime of rest and physical therapy, while most cases of grade three tears will require corrective surgery to rebuild the damaged ligaments.

Meniscus Tear

Another knee injury which is usually greeted with a pop is a meniscus tear. The meniscus is a piece of cartilage which acts as a cushion between the thighbone and the shinbone, and the symptoms of a tear can be very similar to those of an ACL tear, so you will need to get checked out as soon as possible.

Like the ACL the extent of the tear is graded and will determine the type of treatment, but this particular injury is not necessarily reserved for sports players. Lifting heavy objects can be a risk factor, as can wear and tear associated with aging.

With minor tears, the injury will respond well to conservative measures such as rest, ice packs and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines. Surgery is only likely to be ordered if the tear is severe and results in a significant loss of movement.

Patellar Tendon Tears

As we mentioned above the bones in the knee joint are connected by a complex system of ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. Another area which can be injured during sports is the Patella Tendon, with a tear causing a significant loss of movement and, with the exception of minor tears, usually results in surgery to reattach the tendon to the knee joint.

The Patellar Tendon helps to connect the kneecap to the leg and plays a vital role in straightening the knee. Sports which involve jumping or running are common culprits, as are suffering from certain chronic diseases such as Arthritis and Diabetes.

As with other knee injuries, the recovery time varies greatly but is likely to include a period of immobilization and physical therapy.

Getting Players Back on the Field after Suffering Sports Injuries

As an athlete, there is nothing worse than getting injured and having to take time away from the game you love. Sports injuries range from minor sprains to significant traumas such as broken bones, ligament tears, and concussions.

Getting Players Back on the Field after Suffering Sports Injuries

Unfortunately, no matter what precautions you take, injuries can happen. But luckily, developments in medical techniques have reduced recovery times and the issues involved with the rehabilitation.

Sprains and Strains

These are probably the most common types of sports injuries, and they can occur for a variety of reasons. The good news is that many strains can be avoided by following a strict warm-up protocol before starting any physical activity or sport.

However, there are times when you just get unlucky, and if a sprain or strain occurs, it is essential that you elevate the injured joint as soon as possible. This, combined with hot and cold compresses, will help to manage any swelling.

In the case of minor sprains, rest is usually the main line of treatment, while in the case of more severe sprains, a course of physical therapy might be required. No matter what kind of injury you have, it is important to get checked to rule out any other issues and to ensure you are given appropriate treatment.

Achilles Tendon Tear

The Achilles tendon is probably one of the most important tendons in the human body, connecting the muscles to the back of the lower leg bones. The dreaded “pop” that accompanies a tear is a common fear of sports players who run a lot, such as those in football, basketball, and soccer. This is because of the sudden changes in direction and movement, which cause imbalances in the leg and feet.

For active individuals, surgery is usually recommended to reattach the Achilles tendon, followed by a period of rest and rehabilitation. The great news is that most players can resume full activities within two or three months.

 Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tears

For active sportspeople, ACL tears are one of the most feared injuries that can occur on the field and usually result in some considerable downtime. If you hear a pop followed by severe pain in the knee area, it is important to get checked out as soon as possible to avoid any further damage.

The course of treatment will be determined on an individual basis and depends on whether the ligament is completely or partially torn. The good news for some people is that surgery might not be required, especially if there is no major trauma to the surrounding bones, muscles, and tendons.

Once your surgeon has thoroughly checked the damage to the knee area, they will suggest a personalized course of treatment, which can involve surgery, physical therapy, and other forms of rehabilitation.

Whatever damage you have sustained, your doctor will be on hand to get you up and running as soon as possible.

Rotator Cuff Tear

For baseball pitchers, quarterbacks, and wrestlers, a rotator cuff injury can be severely painful and can involve a lot of time on the sidelines. A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles located in the shoulder joint that enable the arm to have a full range of movement.

A tear can occur over time as a result of age and repetitive movements or can happen suddenly as the result of severe trauma. Either way, the movement of the shoulder joint will be impaired to some extent and, in the case of a severe tear, very painful.

Luckily, surgical procedures have become less invasive, which has resulted in much higher success rates and the patients being able to get back on the playing field much more quickly than in the past.

However, no matter the severity of the tear, you will need rest and, possibly, physical therapy to aid your rehabilitation. Your doctor will give you all the information you need regarding treatment and recovery times during your diagnosis.

Get Back to Your Best as Quickly as Possible

Sports Injuries can cause a lot of pain and trauma, especially for players who live to play their chosen sport. Our team of sports medicine experts is here to help you through your rehabilitation and get you back on the field as soon as possible.