Severe Headaches: Migraines and How to Treat Them

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Migraines are severe headaches that affect over 30 million Americans per year. Marked by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound, migraines are debilitating and disruptive, sometimes with little or no relief for days at a time. Understanding their progression, potential triggers and effective treatments can greatly help those suffering to combat migraines and regain control of their lives.

Characteristics of Migraines

As far as severe headaches go, migraines are in a category of their own. Generally manifesting in childhood, what starts as a localized headache in one area of the head turns into throbbing, pulsating pain that causes nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, mood swings, fatigue and even sinus pain and congestion. They are exhausting and debilitating and, for many who suffer, can last anywhere from two to four days.

Migraines follow a four-stage pattern:

  1. The first stage is known as the prodromal stage, and it starts one to two days before the migraine comes on. The individual may notice being thirstier than usual, craving specific foods, yawning more often than usual and going to the bathroom more. He or she may also become irritable and tired.
  2. In the second stage, the aura stage, the visual disturbances that accompany migraines begin to pop up. The individual may experience flickering of lights, areas where he or she appears to lose vision, and has difficulty focusing. He or she may also notice difficulty concentrating or speaking and may feel some numbness or tingling throughout the body.
  3. The third stage, the actual attack, is when the headache begins. Usually starting above the eyes and moving to one side of the head (although sometimes it can cover the entire head), the headache becomes more intense, often throbbing and pulsating. During this stage, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness and worsening of symptoms during physical activity may also occur.
  4. The last stage is the postdrome stage, the period after the headache when the individual is exhausted, fatigued, lacking in energy and sluggish.

Migraine Headache Relief

Being aware of migraine triggers may go a long way in helping patients prevent migraine attacks. Some common triggers for these severe headaches include:

  • Specific types of foods, especially those containing MSG, caffeine, nitrates or alcohol
  • Missing meals
  • Stress
  • Environmental factors
  • Lack of or too much sleep

Migraine headaches are treated in several ways, depending on history of migraines, severity of symptoms and efficacy of previous treatment. Medication is one of the go-to primary treatments for migraines –from over-the-counter migraine formulas of acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine, to prescription medications that work to constrict blood vessels and block pain pathways in the brain. In some cases, anti-depressants, opioids and even beta blockers are used to treat migraine headaches. There are also alternative treatment therapies that have proven effective in easing migraine symptoms. These include acupuncture, massage therapy and biofeedback.

If you are suffering from migraines or persistent headaches, contact MISI today at 877-504-9759 to schedule a consultation with one of our migraine specialists.

Insurance Coverage Questions to Ask Before Back Surgery

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When it comes to insurance, most policies (including Medicare) cover back surgery, as long as it is deemed medically necessary by a doctor. But, insurance coverage can be confusing, which is why it’s important for patients to stay informed about their insurance coverage and what it entails.

Each insurance policy differs regarding what is covered and what is not. Additionally, there are a few things that can affect your level of coverage, so it’s important to be familiar with these aspects, to ensure you will have minimal out-of-pocket expenses. Things to keep in mind when reviewing insurance coverage before back surgery:

  • Reason for surgery. Some insurance policies will only cover surgery relating to a specific diagnosis, so be sure to read into your policy before scheduling your surgery. If your insurance policy covers back surgery, the surgery will need to be deemed medically necessary for your insurance to cover it.
  • Work-related injury. If your back surgery is due to a work-related injury, most insurance companies will require your company’s workers’ compensation coverage to pay for the procedure, rather than your personal insurance.
  • In-network vs. Out-of-network. Some insurance policies don not offer out-of-network benefits to members and require diagnosis by a specialist within their network in order for them to cover the procedure. Policies that have both in-network and out-of-network benefits allow their members more flexibility when deciding on where to seek medical treatment for back pain.  Be sure to check with your insurance company whether or not this applies to you.
  • Type of surgery recommended. There are certain types of surgeries that your insurance may not cover. Check with the doctor to find out which type of surgery he or she recommends, and then follow-up with your insurance provider to ensure that they cover it. If back surgery is covered by your insurance carrier, your coverage will not change if you choose to have minimally invasive back surgery or traditional open-back surgery.
  • Benefit level covered. Depending on your benefit level, some aspects of surgery or postoperative care may not be covered, such as medications and therapeutic medical equipment.

The key to understanding which procedures your insurance will or will not cover is communication. Speak with your insurance company, read the coverage information they send, and follow up with any questions you may have.

Deskercise Tips for Back Pain Relief

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Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle can be harmful to a person’s overall health. Unfortunately, with many people sitting behind a desk for eight hours a day, the risk of cardiovascular disease, varicose veins, obesity, type 2 diabetes or back problems is increased. That is why it’s important to incorporate some stretching or light exercise during the workday.

Exercise Tips While Sitting at Work

Stretching exercises at your desk can boost energy levels, improve mood and offer upper and lower back pain relief. Here are some tips to help develop a deskercise routine and make each day a little healthier.

  • The Posture Perfecter: Neck and back problems can occur more quickly due to bad posture, so be sure to sit properly in your chair and avoid slouching. Adjust the chair height to make sure your feet, hips, and arms are at 90-degree angles to the floor.
  • The Headshot: Stretch your neck by gently lowering your right ear to your right shoulder, holding in place for 5 seconds. Repeat to the opposite side. With each stretch, you may find yourself more flexible, but don’t go further than what is comfortable.
  • The Leaning Tower: Stretch your arms and your upper body by reaching your hands above your head, stretching toward the ceiling. Lean at the waist in this position, first to the right side, then the left. Try to keep your shoulders from rising to your ears in order to protect your muscles from tensing up.
  • The Pencil Pinch: Roll your shoulders back until the shoulder blades are pinched together and pretend you’re holding a pencil between the scapulas. Hold for 5 seconds, release and repeat.
  • The Spine Rotator: Use your chair to stretch! Sit upright with both hands on the right side of the chair. Gently rotate your shoulders to the right until your spine is twisting slightly. Release your hands and repeat on the left side.
  • The Last Man Standing: Be sure to stand up and walk around for a couple of minutes every hour. This gives the body a break from sitting and increases blood flow.

Don’t be embarrassed to work out a little at your desk. Stretching throughout the workday can offer some lower and upper back pain relief while ensuring that you live a more active lifestyle.

What to Ask at a Spine Surgery Consultation

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Just as a surgeon needs to know all relevant patient information before operating, it’s critical for a patient to know about the procedure he or she is about to undergo. That is why it’s important for patients to have a list of questions ready for a spine surgery consultation.


What Type of Questions to Ask

From filling out new patient forms to meeting with a new spine specialist, a spine surgery consultation visit can be a little overwhelming. Having a list of questions ready for the doctor when you arrive will ensure all concerns are addressed and questions answered before undergoing surgery. But what type of questions should be asked?

Questions to Ask About Diagnosis, Treatment and Procedure

Be sure to ask in detail about the condition that brings you to a spine specialist, what their diagnosis is, how they came to that conclusion and the treatment options available. Some questions to ask include:

  • What is your diagnosis of the symptoms?
  • What treatment options are available? Which course of treatment is recommend and why?
  • If surgery is recommended – please describe in detail what the surgery will entail, from start to finish. Who will be performing the surgery and how long will it take?
  • What are the risk factors and possible complications of the surgery? What are the long-term effects?
  • What can I do on my end to prepare for treatment and surgery to ensure it is as successful as possible?

Questions to Ask About Postoperative Care

Just as you asked questions about your diagnosis and the treatment plan it entails, you should ask questions about the postoperative period. Some questions to consider could be:

  • What should I expect my recovery time to be?
  • What does the post-operative process involve? What can I expect during this period of recovery?
  • How long before I can go back to normal activities, including school or work?
  • What are some complications I should look out for during my recovery time?
  • What should I do if I notice any unusual symptoms?
  • What are your expectations for recovery?

Find Out About a Surgeons Professional Background

Patients should never be afraid to ask specialists about their experience or history. When asking questions during your consultation, don’t be afraid to ask about a surgeon’s professional background and experience with the type of treatment that is being suggested. Some questions to ask include:

  • Have you performed this surgery before? What is your success rate?
  • How long have you been practicing? How long have you been performing this kind of surgery?
  • Are you fellowship-trained?

When it comes to spine surgery preparation, a great specialist knows that providing the patient with as much information as possible makes him or her feel at ease and comfortable, which will make the healing process smoother. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Pain Relief Struggles: How Do Vices Affect My Orthopedic Health?

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Pain relief from orthopedic conditions greatly depends on the body’s physical condition as a whole. This is why vices can have lasting negative effects on musculoskeletal health. But how exactly do these vices such as smoking, drinking, overeating or leading a sedentary lifestyle affect the way a person heals from orthopedic conditions?

How does smoking affect orthopedic health?

Smoking has been linked to a number of cancers, emphysema, heart disease, diabetes and strokes, among other illnesses. Smoking also increases the risk for osteoporosis as it weakens bones, reducing their blood supply and slowing their absorption of calcium. In addition, it breaks down the estrogen that bones need to stay strong and slows down the production of bone-forming cells. All together it amounts to weak and brittle bones. Based on this information, it is no surprise that studies have found that elderly smokers have a 30-40% greater chance of breaking their hip.

However, the consequences of smoking on orthopedic health don’t just apply in your golden years. Smokers, who are athletic in nature, are affected by shortness of breath and in turn, decreased oxygen delivery to the muscles. In addition, smoking weakens the muscles and joints, increasing the risk for bursitis, arthritis, tendinitis, injury, fractures and tears in tendons and ligaments.

How does drinking affect orthopedic health?

It was once believed that only alcoholics were at a greater risk for health consequences, but now it’s believed that binge drinkers are also susceptible. Alcohol has long been associated with liver disease, pancreatic cancer, heart problems and more. It has also been associated with orthopedic health conditions such as an increase in bone fractures, ultimately slowing down the process of bone healing, making those fractures more difficult from which to recover.

How does overeating and a sedentary lifestyle affect orthopedic health?

Smoking and drinking aren’t the only vices harmful to bone and spine health. If you’re seeking chronic pain relief and you live an inactive lifestyle, or you find yourself eating more than you should and gaining weight, it’s important to understand the correlation between those vices and your health. Weight issues coupled with a lack of exercise can greatly increase the risk of back pain. Inactivity combined with extra weight puts pressure and strain on your joints and spine, putting you at a greater risk for sciatica, herniated discs and pinched nerves.

These vices negatively affect bone and spine health, making chronic pain relief more difficult to achieve. Cutting out harmful vices such as smoking and drinking as well as getting into an active lifestyle will empower you to regain control of your orthopedic health. Take back your health and find your way to lasting pain relief!

Can Popping Your Back or Neck Cause Spine Damage?

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Many people crack their knuckles on a regular basis and, although the rumors have always been persistent that knuckle cracking could lead to rheumatoid arthritis, no evidence has been found to suggest that. But what about “popping” your back or neck? Is there a chance that popping either of those could lead to a spine condition?

Where does the “pop” come from?

The popping sound heard when cracking your neck or spine is believed to come from the same process that makes your knuckles crack. Joints are surrounded by fluid-filled membranes that act as a lubricant and shock absorber so your bones don’t grind together when you move. The gases in the fluid, most notably nitrogen and carbon dioxide, escape when pressure is applied to the joint, which creates the popping sound.

Can popping your back or neck lead to a spine condition?

Cracking your back once in a while should not be a cause for concern, nor does it mean that you will develop arthritis or a spine condition as a result.

However, that doesn’t mean that habitually popping your back or neck is without risks. When you routinely crack your neck or back, you’re putting yourself at risk for hypermotility, which essentially means your joints, tendons, muscles and ligaments lose elasticity. In addition, the urge to pop your neck or back on a regular basis may be a sign of an underlying condition, which should be examined by a specialist.

The Bottom Line

Although popping your back and neck once in a while may not do you any harm, doing so habitually, or even having the urge to do so frequently, may be a warning sign that something else is going on. Habitually cracking your back could wear out your joints and connective tissue, making them lose elasticity and put you at risk for discomfort or worse, chronic pain. So be sure to keep your popping in check!

Pain Relief Mysteries: Does Weather Really Affect Pain?

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Can bad weather make pain relief impossible? You may have come across someone who declared his sinus headache or joint pain was an indicator bad weather was imminent. According to many doctors, when the weather takes a turn for the worse, or rain is on the horizon, patients are able to predict the changes with relative accuracy.

Theories about Weather

While research has been conducted, the current results are too mixed to definitively prove or disprove these claims.

One theory correlates barometric air pressure to chronic pain. Barometric air pressure is how “heavy” or “thick” the air feels. When the pressure is high, it presses against our bodies and prevents joints and tissue from expanding. When the pressure drops, which happens before a storm or wet weather conditions, the lack of pressure on our joints and tissues allows them to become inflamed more easily.

Another theory asserts that nerves become more sensitive due to injury, swelling, scarring or adhesions. As a result, it may appear that changes in weather, or cold weather have a negative effect on chronic pain.

The Truth about Chronic Pain

Whatever the real reasons, sometimes patients erroneously believe that moving to warmer climates may provide them with some chronic pain relief. While a warmer climate may be helpful, the root cause of their chronic pain won’t go away. It’s important for patients to learn how to manage their chronic pain effectively, regardless of weather.

Following a pain management plan that works for the patient is an important part of pain relief. Remaining active is another crucial piece of chronic pain relief. Being mindful of their emotional or mental state and tackling issues of depression or anxiety, in time can be extremely helpful in maintaining a good frame of mind so pain can be properly managed. These are just some of the many steps you can take for pain relief, regardless of the weather changes!

De Quervain’s Disease: What you need to know from MISI

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Named after the Swiss surgeon, Dr. Fritz De Quervain, who first identified the condition, De Quervain tenosynovitis, more commonly referred to as De Quervain’s disease, is a hand condition affecting a patient’s ability to move his or her thumb. This happens when the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist become swollen, causing pain when twisting, grasping or making a fist.

The causes of this painful hand condition include chronic overuse of the wrist, direct injury to the wrist or tendon area, and inflammatory arthritis. One interesting fact about De Quervain tenosynovitis is that women are more likely than men to suffer from this condition, especially after pregnancy. It used to be referred to as washerwoman’s sprain or mother’s wrist.

De Quervain’s Treatment

Treatment for De Quervain’s disease is aimed at reducing inflammation, maintaining movement in the thumb and preventing recurrence. In order to properly diagnose the condition, a hand surgeon will perform a simple test called the Finkelstein’s Test. The patient makes a fist with their fingers closed over the thumb with the wrist angled towards their little finger. If this causes pain on the thumb side of your wrist, chances are it’s De Quervain’s disease.

De Quervain’s treatment options consist of the following:

  • A splint, worn every day and night for 4-6 weeks, to hold the affected area firm and still
  • Ice applied to the affected area in order to reduce inflammation
  • Anti-inflammatory medications, such as naproxen or ibuprofen, to reduce pain and swelling
  • Corticosteroids injections to relieve pain and inflammation

In cases where the condition does not respond to conventional treatment options, surgery may need to be considered. At MISI, our approach involves a 2cm incision over the affected tendons in the wrist area in order to release the pressure and allow more room for tendon movement. This procedure takes as little as seven minutes with an average recovery period of seven days.

Chronic Pain Relief: The Psychological Effects of Pain

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More than 100 million adults in the U.S. suffer from chronic pain. Chronic pain often not only affects the body but also the mind and emotions of a patient as well. These emotions have a big impact on how a patient finds chronic pain relief.

An individual who battles physical pain every day has many mental and emotional obstacles to overcome.  For instance, people who suffer from chronic pain are more likely to suffer from depression. The frustration, anger, hopelessness, anxiety and sadness that accompany chronic pain can be too much for someone to handle, leaving them drained of energy and feeling defeated. Long-term pain can put stress on the brain and cause cognitive issues such as low mood, exhaustion, and concentration and memory difficulties, no matter what the underlying pain condition is.

Chronic pain and its psychological effects have the ability to reduce a patient’s quality of life. In some cases, the psychological effects of pain can outlive the physical pain itself and become the major health disorder. For instance, under-managed chronic pain may lead to:

  • Increased stress
  • Depressed mood
  • Insomnia and exhaustion
  • Decreased memory and concentration

A chronic pain management program should contain aspects that encourage a sound mental and emotional wellness component. Over time, cognitive strategies and lifestyle changes can improve the psychological effects of chronic pain. There are no easy solutions, but here are some simple treatment options that can help provide pain relief:

  • Meditation and relaxation techniques can reduce muscle tension caused by pain.
  • Regular physical activity, including strengthening and flexibility exercises, can improve pain threshold.
  • Healthy eating can reduce painful symptoms such as inflammation. Research suggest that certain foods help reduce pain more than others.
  • Staying socially active and keeping positive people around you can improve mental stability and decrease likeliness of depression and low mood.

These activities can improve psychological health, reduce stress, improve sleep and increase confidence, happiness and self-esteem. Pain relief isn’t just about treating physical ailments. In order to truly understand and alleviate the burden of chronic pain, the mind needs to be treated as well.

Back Pain Relief: How Does Weight Affect Pain?

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Studies have shown that over one-third of obese Americans suffer from musculoskeletal joint and back pain. While there are many possible reasons for this, experts agree that there is a direct correlation between excess weight and how a person is affected by pain. For many who carry extra weight, back pain relief may be more difficult to achieve.

Excess Weight and Pain Relief

There are many red flags connecting excess weight to issues with pain and pain management.

  • Excess weight, particularly in the midsection of the body, shifts a body’s center of gravity forward and leads to poor posture, creating strain on the back muscles.
  • Overweight patients are also at a greater risk of suffering from conditions such as sciatica, herniated discs and pinched nerves.
  • Damage to the spine, particularly to the discs and vertebrae, can result from carrying extra weight.
  • The strain on the joints from excess weight can lead to a greater risk of osteoarthritis.

Lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle leads to weight gain, which can make pre-existing pain much worse. Studies show that overweight individuals have a greater risk of complications from back surgery.

Weight Loss for Back Pain Relief

A healthy weight loss regimen is a good place to start when seeking upper or lower back pain relief in overweight individuals. A doctor-supervised weight loss program that includes a well-balanced diet is advisable for patients wanting to achieve weight loss. In overweight patients, losing 10% of their weight can make a difference in relieving pressure from the joints, spine and lower back.

Many people suffering from chronic back pain are under the impression they will be less likely to hurt their back if they limit the amount of activity or exercise they participate in. However, regular activity helps with lower and upper back pain relief as well as other types of chronic pain. Physical activity activates the exchange of nutrients between spinal discs, keeping the spine healthy.

Low-impact activities such as walking or water aerobics are highly effective ways to get started on an exercise regimen. They help to burn calories, aid in weight loss and remain gentle on the joints, spine and lower back. For more information about back pain relief treatment options, visit the Minimally Invasive Spine Relief website.