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LASER SPINE SURGERY

LASER SPINE SURGERY:

Your back hurts!

And you're looking for a treatment that will make the pain stop. You’ve read about Laser Spine Surgery, and you're interested in how it may help relieve your back pain.

There's been lots of press about Laser Spine Surgery.

And, while it can help some back conditions and it does benefit some people, it seems to benefit those with only minor spine problems.

What IS Laser Spine Surgery?

Laser spine surgery uses a laser to remove tissue with heat rather that with traditional instruments.  While it may be seen as "modern" or a "magic bullet", in truth, the use of lasers has been around for a long time. Lasers use a focused beam of light to cut soft tissue.  Beneficial for 

What are the PRO’S:

It's Minimally Invasive

Fast Recovery Time

For Minor Conditions, Laser Spine Surgery Can Be Effective

What are the CON’S:

For most painful back conditions, Laser Spine Surgery is Not Effective

Laser spine surgery can truly only be used for a very small number of minor spine conditions.

Laser surgery can result in an procedure which does not completely address or alleviate the problem (inadequate operation) ,which sometimes means you’ll need additional surgery.

Pain may be from back instability. Laser surgery does not address or alleviate this condition. The basic problem is missed.

Using a laser during surgery can sometimes limit nerve damage. But in the hands of an inexperienced surgeon, a laser can actually increase the chances of tissue or nerve damage,

Using a Laser Scalpel can be less effective and pose more risk than other minimally invasive procedures.

The heat from the laser can damage adjacent nerves and lead to increased pain. 

Laser Spine Surgery is not taught in medical schools and is not considered a viable approach to spine surgery by medical advisory boards.

Laser Spine Surgery is generally not covered by health insurance.

 

A very important consideration:

Laser Spine Surgery does not have to be performed by a Spine Surgeon.

Practitioners who do not have the education, experience or understanding of the anatomy and function of the spine can legally perform Laser Spine Surgery.

A wise plan of action is to have an exam and consultation with a Spine Surgeon who is both Board-Certified and Fellowship Trained. At that exam, your spine surgeon can explain all options available for treatment of your particular (and unique) condition.

Before committing to any spinal procedure, it's wise to consider non-surgical options such as physical therapy, medication, and supervised exercise.

If surgery is indicated, explore all options available, including minimally invasive procedures that offer the benefits of less post-procedure pain and shorter recovery time.

Statistics prove, more complicated back problems often require traditional surgery for the best outcome.

 

LOW IMPACT EXERCISE FOR BACK PAIN

Along with specific back exercises, aerobic exercise that increases the heart rate for a sustained period is very beneficial for helping back problems. Aerobic exercise increases the flow of blood and nutrients to back structures which supports healing, and can decrease the stiffness in the back and joints that lead to back pain. While many patients with back pain are able to participate in vigorous exercise like running or step aerobics, others find it easier to engage in low-impact exercise, which does not jar the spine.

Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

Reconditioning through aerobic exercise is very useful for both rehabilitation and maintenance of the lower back. Patients who regularly undertake aerobic exercise to condition the back will benefit in several ways:

They have fewer episodes of low back pain, and will experience less pain when an episode occurs.

They are also more likely to stay functional (e.g. continue working and carry on with recreational activities), whereas those patients with chronic low back pain who do not engage in aerobic exercise are more likely to experience the gradual loss of functional capabilities.

It is easier to control weight or lose weight, decreasing the stress placed on the spine structures and joints.

An increased production of endorphins after 30 or 40 minutes of exercise can combat pain. These bio-chemicals are the body's natural painkiller, and frequent release of them can help patients reduce their reliance on pain medication.

Endorphins can elevate mood and relieve symptoms of depression, a condition common in those with back pain or a back injury.

Types of Low-Impact Exercise

There are several types of aerobic exercise that are gentle on the back and, when done on a regular basis, highly effective in providing conditioning.

Walking. In general, walking for exercise is very gentle on the back, and walking two to three miles three times per week is very helpful for patients. Walking also has the advantage of not requiring special equipment (except a good pair of shoes suitable for walking) and it can be done inside or outside, in almost any location, including at home on a treadmill.

Stationary bicycling. For those patients who are more comfortable seated rather than standing, biking or stationary biking may be preferable. Bicycling or 'spinning' classes have grown in popularity over the last decade as more people realize the benefits of this lower impact form of exercise. There are several upright and recumbent (reclining) bikes that can be purchased for home use, and many come with programs preloaded so that patients have a good variety of sessions from which to choose.

Elliptical trainer or step machine. These machines provide a low-impact workout because the participant is using pedals suspended above the ground to move in a continuous oval motion, as opposed to continuously stepping on a hard surface. The motor on the machine facilitates a smoother step or forward glide motion, which is less jarring than walking. The benefit of these machines is that they provide an aerobic workout as well as strengthening or resistance training because the arms of most cross-training machines can be pushed and pulled, thus working the upper body, and the resistance of the pedaling motion increased to require greater muscle exertion to maintain the movement.

Water therapy. Doing exercise in the water provides for effective conditioning while minimizing stress on the back because the buoyancy of water counteracts the gravitational pull that can compress the spine. When 'unweighted' in water, a patient becomes more mobile, and stretching and strengthening exercises are less painful. Exercises such as hip abduction lifts, bicep curls, arm circles to exercise deltoids and shoulders, and tricep kickbacks are all easier done water for most people. All these muscles build strength in the low back or neck, and reduce back pain. Water therapy exercise is especially useful for patients in too much pain to tolerate land exercises on a mat or hard floor, or for elderly patients.

What is a syrinx?

By Brooke Strickland and Dr. Andrew Cash

Around the spinal cord and brain, a watery substance called cerebrospinal fluid flows regularly to transport nutrients and remove waste. When this fluid abnormally collects and develops inside your spinal cord to form a cyst, it’s called a syrinx. With time, it may grow and damage the spinal cord and cause significant pain, pressure, weakness, stiffness, or numbness. In addition, headaches can also be a symptom.

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What are facet synovial cysts?

Synovial cysts are fluid-filled sacs that are benign and develop in the facet joints of the spine. They are somewhat uncommon and usually occur because of degeneration of the spine. If the sacs get large enough, spinal stenosis may develop.  It is most common to see these types of cysts in older patients.

What are the symptoms?

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What are pain pumps?

By Brooke Strickland and Dr. Andrew Cash

A pain pump is a way to deliver medication directly to your spinal cord. It is a small metal device that surgically fixed under the skin in your abdominal area and has a catheter that gives regulated doses of medication to your spinal cord. When the device’s reservoir is empty, a doctor or nurse will refill the pump by inserting a needle through the skin. The procedure is also reversible, meaning that the pain pump can be removed at any time if results are not as optimal as expected.

How do I know if I need a pain pump?

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What is epidural fibrosis?

By Brooke Strickland and Dr. Andrew Cash

Epidural fibrosis is a condition that develops when scar tissue forms around the nerve root.  It is common to see people develop this condition after back surgery.

What are the symptoms?

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What is congenital fusion?

By Brooke Strickland and Dr. Andrew Cash

Congential fusion happens when two or more vertebrae of the spine are fused together permanently, usually while in the womb.  This condition often puts the patient living with this condition at an increased risk for spinal cord injury.

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What is Klippel-Feil Syndrome?

By Brooke Strickland and Dr. Andrew Cash

Klippel-Feil Syndrome is a rare disease that is present at birth, but sometimes can be diagnosed later in life when symptoms first become more apparent. The syndrome causes two or more spinal bones in the neck to fuse or join together, which means the person living with the disorder will have a short neck, have limited head or neck movement, or low hairline at the back of the head.

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What is spinal cord stimulation?

By Brooke Strickland and Dr. Andrew Cash

For individuals living with chronic back pain, spinal cord stimulation is a procedure that can help. It uses an electrical current that sends pulses to the spinal cord, which react with nerve impulses in the spine that allow you to feel pain. This treatment plan is often used for individuals living with failed back syndrome, nerve pain, or other chronic pain syndromes.

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What is post-laminectomy syndrome?

By Brooke Strickland and Dr. Andrew Cash

Even after back surgery is complete, you may have persistent pain. This often depends on type of pain you had before surgery, what type of surgery you had done, and if you have had multiple operations in the same area.

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What is revision spine surgery?

By Brooke Strickland and Dr. Andrew Cash

The spine is a very complex part of the body and when it comes to operating on it, it takes great skill and attention to detail. If your doctor has told you that you may need revision spine surgery, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there was a mistake in a previous surgery, or even that it was a complete failure. The spine is a very active part of your body and can deteriorate even after surgery has taken place and a remedy to correct the problem might need to happen. For some people, a second (or maybe even a third) spine surgery may need to happen, depending on the specific problem.

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What is failed back syndrome?

By Brooke Strickland and Dr. Andrew Cash

For some people, back surgery is not as a successful as they or their doctors had hoped for. Many times results aren’t what are expected, even with the most experienced surgeon and a perfect surgical operation. This is when failed back syndrome occurs. Failed back syndrome is actually an inaccurate name, as it refers to continued back pain after surgery.

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What is thoracic radiculitis?

By Brooke Strickland and Dr. Andrew Cash

Radiculitis causes pain that radiates along the nerve, due to irritation of the root of the nerve that connects to the spine. Radiculitis that happens in the thoracic spine will likely cause pain in the chest area. The area that is inflamed is very painful and can even cause a numb or tingling sensation and many times symptoms can include a tight feeling around the chest. The condition is usually caused by an injury to the nerves in the thorax including strain or sprains. It is more common to see people that are in sports or carry repetitively heavy loads on their backs to have this type of injury. Family history can also play a part in this condition.

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What is extreme lateral interbody fusion?

By Brooke Strickland and Dr. Andrew Cash

Extreme lateral interbody fusion (XLIF) is a newer, minimally invasive procedure that allows doctors to get to the spine with little disruption to surrounding connective tissues. It fuses the  front section of the spine with the side. Traditional fusion surgeries are more invasive, have greater risk of blood loss, and usually require longer hospitalization or longer physical therapy sessions. However, XLIF can restore disc height with only a small incision along the lateral part of the back (between the lower ribs and pelvis). People living with scoliosis, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, or spondylolisthesis can all benefit from this procedure.

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What are dural tears?

By Brooke Strickland and Dr. Andrew Cash

A dural tear occurs when the sac of tissue that covers the spinal cord and spinal nerves tears during spine surgery. If this tear isn’t recognized it may not heal and can leak spinal tissue which can cause a spinal headache and can increase your risk of infection of the spinal fluid which causes meningitis.

How are dural tears treated?

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