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.

Orthopedic Conditions: What Causes Joint Pain?

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Joints connect your bones, allowing for flexibility, mobility, and support. Because joints are an essential part of our daily activities, those who suffer from joint pain can experience a wide spectrum of pain throughout the day. Joint pain is one of the most common orthopedic conditions. It is often related to conditions like arthritis; however, there are many non-arthritic causes of joint pain such as gout, sprains and strains.

Common Causes of Joint Pain

As the population ages, joint-related orthopedic conditions become much more commonplace. This is due to the joints and surrounding bones, tendons, and ligaments wearing out or becoming affected by problems like gout, bursitis, tendonitis, and osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis, which affects approximately 27 million Americans, is also known as degenerative joint disease. This condition occurs when the protective cartilage at the end of the bone has begun to wear out.

In addition to arthritis, those suffering from fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, and, in some rare cases, bone cancer, are vulnerable to joint-related pain. Damage to joints and surrounding tissue can cause both short and long term problems, but age appears to be the primary reason for joint pain that requires chronic pain management.

Symptoms and Treatment for Joint Pain

The key symptoms of joint-related pain include joint swelling, redness, tenderness, warmth, stiffness in the joint, weakness, loss of range of motion in the joint, locking of the joint, and limping. These symptoms are often debilitating enough to necessitate help from an orthopedic specialist. One of the hallmark symptoms of arthritis is joint pain, generally caused by inflammation and erosion of the joints and cartilage between the bones.

Treatment options for joint pain depend on the underlying cause of the pain. Due to the variety of orthopedic conditions which can result in joint pain, it’s important for patients to be diagnosed properly in order to proceed with treatment. Treatment for these conditions can be immediate or part of a comprehensive chronic pain management plan. They may include one or more of the following:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. Topical creams made specifically for arthritis pain and prescription muscle relaxers.
  • Physical therapy, which can help strengthen muscles around the joints and stabilize them.
  • Steroid injections can alleviate severe instances of joint pain, such as; arthritis, tendinitis, and other chronic conditions.
  • Lifestyle changes, especially exercise and weight loss, can help reduce joint pain in those who are overweight.
  • Other techniques such as heat, ice, rest, and glucosamine supplements can be helpful in reducing the joint-related pain.

Do Hip and Leg Pain Increase With Age?

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The process of aging brings about aches and pains people may not expect. Whether caused by wear and tear on the joints or conditions related to aging, hip and leg pain are common occurrences for those experiencing the pains of getting older.

Many factors increase the chances of leg and hip pain as a person gets older.

Joint and bone conditions.

In addition to those who are overweight, the elderly are at a higher risk of developing debilitating conditions such as arthritis and osteoarthritis, which cause inflammation of the joints and weakening of tissue. Osteoarthritis is one of the main causes of a hip injury.

Knee & Hip Bursitis

Another common condition that emerges with age and causes intense pain in a number of areas including knees and hips, is bursitis. This condition is a direct result of the fluid sacs in the joints becoming inflamed.

Degeneration of tissue.

With aging comes a decrease in joint cartilage, which can also result in leg and hip pain.

Decreased bone density.

As men and women age, they tend to lose bone and muscle density due to hormonal changes of menopause or conditions such as osteoporosis. These changes in bone density can result in increased hip and leg pain, ultimately changing posture and causing other complications.

Spinal herniation.

As aging occurs and spinal discs begin to degenerate, they can often herniate. This may cause pain in the lower back, but it may also affect the sciatic nerve, resulting in pain that radiates into the hip and leg area.

Injury from falls or accidents.

Weakened bones and joints and changes in the spine can affect the way an older person walks or stands. Hip and leg injuries are not uncommon as a person ages, and those injuries can cause chronic pain.

Pain relief from leg and hip pain can be achieved with the right course of treatment. Following a comprehensive clinical assessment that includes imaging and a physical examination, a treatment plan can be determined according to type, severity and cause of the pain. In most cases, pain relief can be achieved with non-surgical treatment methods, including medication, physical therapy and rest.

As aging occurs, it is important to take a special interest in one’s spinal health. This means being mindful of lifting techniques and listening to the body when there is pain or discomfort. Try these leg and hip stretches at home to help alleviate back pain, and to learn more about pain conditions and treatments, visit the MISI pain relief website.

Can Acupuncture Offer Pain Relief?

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Acupuncture has long been recognized as one of the mainstays of alternative medicine, offering patients pain relief through a more holistic method. A practice in traditional Chinese medicine, this technique is said to help balance the flow of energy in the body.

How does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture practitioners believe that a disruption to the flow of energy in the body can cause many ailments, including chronic pain. In order to cure these ailments, it is essential to balance the flow of energy. In acupuncture, very thin needles are placed strategically through the skin and into various “energy flow” points in the body, redirecting the flow of energy and re-balancing the body. Western practitioners believe that acupuncture triggers a boost in the body’s natural pain killers, increasing blood flow and stimulating pain relief.

How is Acupuncture Used for Chronic Pain Relief?

Studies show that primarily, acupuncture helps with post-operative and chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, as well as post-operative dental pain. However, used in conjunction with other treatments or as an alternative therapeutic treatment, acupuncture has shown promise in providing pain relief for many acute and chronic conditions. This includes conditions such as fibromyalgia, headaches, lower back pain, osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, myofascial pain, tennis elbow, neck pain and even labor pain.

While studies are still in progress to determine the biological and physiological connections that make acupuncture a potential alternative method for chronic pain relief– there is no doubt that acupuncture can be an effective part of pain relief and management.

Acupuncture Side Effects

It’s important to note that side effects associated with acupuncture are generally due to poor acupuncturist training or poor hygiene. Minor risk associated with acupuncture can include soreness, light bleeding and bruising around the needle placement locations. However, more severe side effects can include organ injury, if the needles are inserted too deeply, or infections. That is why it’s vital to find your state’s certified training requirements and license regulations. While most states regulate acupuncture and require practitioners to undergo certified training to be licensed, some states do not have regulations in place.

Pinched Nerves

Facet Disease: What you need to know from MISI

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For those suffering from chronic back pain, the possibility of a ruptured disc or a pinched nerve may have crossed their minds; but what about facet disease? Learning more about this degenerative spine condition could not only help diagnose the condition, but also treat it more effectively.

Facet Joint Basics

In order to understand facet disease, a patient must first understand the role of the facet joint. The facet joint is located in the spine and acts as a small connector running along the lower, mid-back and neck section of the spine. The facet joints allow for vertebral stability in movements such as bending forward, back, sideways or twisting. The facet joint’s role is to make sure the vertebrae are well supported so the body may handle all of the bending and twisting it requires without straining or causing any damage.

Causes and Symptoms of Facet Disease

Many things, including age, genetics and injury, can cause degenerative facet disease. This condition appears when the facet joint wears out and inflammation begins due to continuous use or trauma to the joint area.

There is one telltale sign of facet disease: pain when hyper extending or tilting (bending backwards) the lumbar or cervical spine or twisting. Symptoms of facet disease in the neck can also include headaches that radiate up the back of the head.  Patients often can find some symptom relief by bending forward.

Treating Facet Disease

Degenerative facet disease treatment focuses on the reduction of arthritic symptoms, including pain and inflammation. Non-surgical options include regular exercise to strengthen the spine and surrounding muscles to alleviate strain; use of anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers; cold/heat therapy; chiropractic care; pain management injections and small procedures such as radio frequency ablation.

While uncommon, there are cases severe enough to require surgical measures. In these cases, spine stabilization surgery is performed in order to prevent further degeneration of the adjoining disc, a common progression with facet disease. This surgery will also prevent the eventual debilitating changes that could hinder the patient’s ability to engage in an active lifestyle. There are also a variety of minimally invasive surgical options for degenerative facet disease treatment. These options can be explored with the help of highly qualified, fellowship-trained professionals.

To learn more about facet disease and the various minimally invasive options available for treatment, visit the DFW Spine Institute website.

Herniated and Bulging Disc Treatment

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MISI-Herniated-Bulging-Disc-TreatmentSome individuals are under the impression that all disc injuries are interchangeable. The truth is there are notable differences between disc conditions, and these differences will determine the best treatment, depending on whether it is a herniated or bulging disc.

Disc Conditions: What are the Differences?

In order to understand what a herniated disc is, one must understand the structure of the vertebrae in the spine. In between each vertebra is a disc made up of an outer layer of tough but flexible cartilage and an inner layer made of softer, jelly-like fluid. This cushion serves as a shock absorber for vertebra.

When the outer cartilage of the disc ruptures and some of the inner layer is pushed out into the spinal canal, it becomes a herniated disc. Also known as a ruptured or slipped disc, a herniated disc can cause discomfort and pain, particularly when pressing on a nerve root. A herniated disc, depending on its location, can also cause numbness, tingling or weakness along the legs, arms and back. It can be caused by stress on the disc from a variety of causes, such as heavy lifting, trauma or general wear and tear.

A bulging disc protrudes outside of the area it would normally occupy. A bulging disc will generally occur as a result of aging and is more common than a herniated disc. While a bulging disc is not usually painful, inflammation can sometimes occur, which can result in the need for diagnostic testing and bulging disc treatment.

Herniated and Bulging Disc Treatment Options

When it comes to a herniated or bulging disc, it’s important to remember that although different issues cause them, the treatments are very similar in nature. Correctly diagnosing the problem is the key to proceeding with treatment.

Surgery is a last resort when treating herniated discs, as there are non-surgical ways to minimize pain and discomfort. Non-surgical options include a combination of medications, injections and physical therapy. After exhausting all non-surgical treatment options, herniated discs can be treated with minimally invasive surgery.

Bulging disc treatment options vary depending on how far the disc has expanded. Typically, a bulging disc can be treated non-surgically. However, if the bulging disc worsens and advances into a herniated disc, surgical intervention may be necessary.

If you suspect you might be suffering from a herniated or bulging disc, consult your doctor to develop a treatment plan best suited for your needs.

Back Pain Relief During Pregnancy

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As pregnancy progresses, it’s not uncommon for expectant mothers to begin experiencing back pain as their bodies change. However, understanding what triggers the pain and possible ways to alleviate it can greatly benefit mothers-to-be and help them find the upper or lower back pain relief they are looking for.

What triggers back pain in pregnancy?

A pregnant woman’s body goes through many drastic changes in a short period of time. These changes may enable her to carry her child safely, but they do little to make her feel comfortable or pain-free. Back pain during pregnancy is triggered by a number of changes the body undergoes:

  • Weight gain.

    Typically, a woman can gain anywhere from 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. The back has to compensate for the extra weight it’s carrying around, causing discomfort and pain.

  • Physical and hormonal changes.

    As a woman’s body prepares for childbirth, hormones are released into the body that enable joints and ligaments to loosen and become more pliable. This may cause some discomfort and pain. In addition, a woman’s expanding uterus may cause her rectal abdominis muscles, which run parallel to each other on the right and the left from the pubic bone to the ribcage, may separate at the center, making the pain worse.

  • Changing posture.

    A pregnant woman’s center of gravity moves to the front. To compensate, a woman may adjust her posture to even things out, but that may not always help. In fact, the strain may cause more pain and discomfort.

What to do for back pain relief?

Fortunately, although there are many reasons for being in pain, there are also many alternatives for pregnant women to experience back pain relief. Whether the focus is on lower back or upper back pain relief, here are some tips that can help the expectant mother enjoy her pregnancy pain-free:

  • Keep good posture.

    That means standing as straight and tall as possible, sitting in chairs with good support and keeping shoulders and knees relaxed.

  • Use pregnancy or body pillows to keep a good posture while sleeping

    . Pregnant women should lie on their side with knees bent for minimal stress to the back.

  • Wear low-heeled shoes

    to maintain good posture and balance, as well as maintaining good support.

  • Regular massages

    can help ease the tension in the back and alleviate pain. Other forms of treatments, such as chiropractic care, can bring further back pain relief.

  • Stay physically active

    . Depending on a doctor’s recommendation, expecting women can engage in physical activity to strengthen their back and help alleviate discomfort.

Regardless of how a woman finds back pain relief, it’s important to recognize when to see a professional. If you or a loved one experiences chronic pain while pregnant, talk to your doctor for the best approach for a pain management plan.

Ice or Heat for Back Pain Relief ?

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If you’re one of many back pain sufferers, you’re probably familiar with the use of ice or heat for back pain. Two very common non-pharmaceutical treatments, heat and ice therapies have their own benefits. It’s important to figure out which is the right form of therapy for your condition.

Ice: Shocking the Muscles into Relief

Ice therapy is a common and effective method for reducing swelling and inflammation caused by lower back injuries, muscle sprains and conditions such as arthritis.

How does cold therapy help? The shock of the cold applied to the injured area causes the veins to contract, giving the muscles room to flex and become less inflamed. Combining ice therapy with heat is a great way to help the area recover faster. Doctors generally recommend ice therapy in three 10-15 minute increments a day for the first few days following an injury.

Heat: Blood and Oxygen Flow

Heat therapy can be a more effective method of lower back pain relief for those suffering from chronic lower back pain and back injuries. When applied, heat relaxes the veins, which has several effects on the injured area:

  1. It improves blood flow so nutrients and oxygen, necessary for the healing of tissue, can get to the injured area faster.
  2. The heat relaxes and soothes the muscles, reducing pain.
  3. The increased flow of oxygen and blood helps the body to eliminate cellular waste so the injured area can heal faster.

Heat is often used in combination with ice therapy for injuries to the lower back. However, it’s also an effective solo treatment for chronic back pain. Moist heat — showers, baths or moist warm towels — often works best for back pain relief, but heating pads and all-day heat packs can help alleviate pain throughout the day. Typical treatment lasts 15-20 minutes.

Long-lasting Pain Relief

Heat and cold therapies can be great for relieving back pain for minor injuries, but if the pain persists, you may need a more effective way to get the upper or lower back pain relief you need. If you’re experiencing chronic pain from arthritis, a degenerative disc or another back condition, talk to your doctor to find the right pain management plan for you.

Scoliosis Treatment 101: What You Need to Know from MISI

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About two to three percent of Americans today suffer from a condition known as scoliosis, an abnormal curvature in the spine. While many choose not to deal with it, those with severe cases can consider long-lasting scoliosis treatment to drastically improve their spine condition.

Scoliosis refers to an abnormal, sideways curvature of the spine.  A normal spine from a back view looks straight from top to bottom with no curvature. Scoliosis is not a disease, but instead describes a structural abnormality in the body.

The spine provides major support for our bodies to stand upright. Deformity in the spine arises from congenital, neuromuscular, degenerative or idiopathic (no identifiable cause) conditions. Idiopathic represents the most common cause of scoliosis in children, while degenerative scoliosis occurs most frequently in adults. Degenerative scoliosis results commonly from traumatic bone collapse, osteoporosis or osteoarthritis. Scoliosis can run in families, with girls more commonly afflicted with severe scoliosis.

A person with scoliosis may show signs of fatigue or possibly exhibit no symptoms at all as pain rarely occurs except in severe or degenerative causes.

Symptoms of scoliosis appear as any of the following:

  • One shoulder appears higher than the other
  • Shoulder blade on one side protrudes more
  • Rib cage appears imbalanced
  • Uneven hips
  • Waist appears to be uneven
  • Body leans to one side
  • One leg may look shorter
  • Difficult breathing, limited mobility and pain in severe cases


Adult scoliosis treatment can vary depending on the severity of signs and symptoms.  Most cases of scoliosis appear to be mild and can be monitored over time with X-rays. Mild cases require no treatment. If severe spinal curvature is present, it can reduce the space in the chest needed for the heart and lung, most likely requiring surgery. Surgery can also keep scoliosis from deteriorating and stop the rotation and twisting of the spine.

In the past, moderate to severe scoliosis cases required scoliosis treatment with open back surgery, but medical advances have allowed for new surgical options. Surgeons can now perform minimally invasive surgery to correct the abnormal curvature of the spine and relieve pain. Minimally invasive spine surgery does not cut across muscle or use expandable retractors that prolong recovery after surgery. With scoliosis treatment by minimally invasive spine surgery, the pain and discomfort of open back surgery is avoided and recovery is quicker.

Spinal Fusion: When is it Necessary and Can it be Achieved with Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

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In a recent post, we discussed Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s spine conditions and his herniated disc treatment with minimally invasive spine surgery. In Romo’s case, spinal fusion was not necessary in his treatment for a herniated disc. By comparison, the minimally invasive spine surgery Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning needed to heal his neck pain and arm weakness was a pinched nerve treatment called anterior cervical discectomy that did require fusion.

Why did Manning need a fusion if Romo didn’t? In this post, we will discuss what spinal fusion actually means and when it is necessary. Importantly, both quarterbacks made excellent recoveries after receiving the minimally invasive spine surgery they needed. In fact, both were selected for the 2015 Pro Bowl! The same spine surgery procedures are routinely performed to achieve back pain relief at Minimally Invasive Surgical Institute by our fellowship-trained spine specialists.

What is spinal fusion?

Simply put, spinal fusion refers to connecting or “fusing” two adjacent bones in your back. To really understand spinal fusion we have to discuss a little anatomy, including the basic bones and joints that make up your spine.

Your spine is made up of a series of 33 bones (called vertebrae) that extend from your skull all the way down to your hips, forming the spinal canal (a protective tube of bone that your spinal cord runs through). There are 3 major joints that connect adjacent vertebrae at each spine level: a pair of 2 facet joints and 1 intervertebral disc (which is a special type of joint).

Intervertebral discs are in the front of your spinal canal and act as shock absorbers for the wear and tear of everyday life. Facet joints are at the back of your spinal canal and are key to the flexibility in your spine, allowing you to bend forward and lean back. They also provide structural stability to the spine, preventing one vertebrae from sliding too far away from the other, which could narrow your spinal canal and injure your spinal cord.


How is spinal fusion achieved?

In spinal fusion procedures, the soft and mobile joints between vertebrae are replaced by strong bone that enhances stability, providing back pain relief. In most cases, parts of the spinal joints are removed to make space for bone to grow and connect the two adjacent vertebrae. Often times, removing part of the intervertebral disc and/or facets is also very therapeutic, because when these joints degenerate they can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerve. Removing the intervertebral disc in the lower back is called a lumbar discectomy surgery, and removing a disc in the neck is called a cervical discectomy.

Following the removal of joint material from the facets and discs, this space is filled with biologic substances that promote bone growth across the joint space –Fusion! Since you have 33 vertebrae, losing movement at a few levels due to fusion generally has a relatively small impact on the overall flexibility of the spine.


Why does spinal fusion require implants such as rods and screws?

In order for bone growth to occur across adjacent vertebrae, that segment of spine must be kept stable. If the spine were to move too much at the site where bone growth is supposed to take place, fusion would not occur. Implants such as screws and rods are used to hold vertebrae at that spinal level in place while fusion develops. A piece of scaffolding (called an inter-body graft) is often also used to maintain the spacing between vertebrae and aid in fusion. Once fusion occurs, these implants serve no purpose, but they are generally left in place because they do not cause discomfort.


When is spinal fusion necessary?

The main indications for spinal fusion are to enhance spinal stability and/or improve spinal balance. By improving spinal stability and balance, fusion procedures can reduce pain and improve neurologic function. Spinal balance is critical to the pain free function of our spine and essential to our ability to stand upright without expending too much energy. In some cases, individuals are born with their spine curves out of balance (pediatric scoliosis). In others, spinal imbalance is the result of arthritis and progressive degeneration of the spine. In both cases, fusion procedures can be used to restore spinal balance.

Fusion is more frequently used to correct spinal instability, which simply refers to motion of spine segments that is greater than normal. The physical stress of everyday life often leads to degeneration of the joints in the spine, which can cause spinal instability. The increased movement of degenerated unstable joints leads to more inflammation, greater degeneration and further instability – it is a viscous cycle. Joints in the spine are very sensitive and the whole process is incredibly painful! The goal of fusion procedures is to replace these painful unstable joints with solid bone that provides stability and reduces pain.


What are some common spine fusion procedures? 

Spine surgery continues to evolve at an exciting pace, with experts using new technology and novel techniques to treat spine conditions and provide back pain relief. The most common fusion procedure used to treat spine conditions affecting the neck and arms is called an anterior cervical discectomy with fusion (ACDF). Spine conditions affecting the lower back and legs can be treated with lumbar fusion procedures, including transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF), and direct lateral interbody fusion (DLIF). If you are considering a spinal fusion, you should discuss which technique your surgeon plans to use and why.


Are there minimally invasive options? And if so, what are the advantages?

Yes! All of these fusion procedures can be achieved through minimally invasive spine surgery. Minimally invasive techniques minimize bleeding, muscle cutting and trauma to the surrounding soft tissue. This reduces post-operative pain and accelerates recovery compared to traditional surgery options.


What type of doctor is qualified to perform a spinal fusion?

Technically, any orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon is licensed to perform a spinal fusion.  But given the technical and constantly evolving nature of complex fusion surgeries, doctors who have special fellowship training in spine surgery are the most qualified to perform the procedure. If you are considering a cervical or lumbar fusion and are interested in learning more about the benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery, make an appointment with one of our fellowship-trained spine surgery specialists.