• Remember the Spine

      Isn’t it strange that we are called “vertebrates,” and yet we rarely think about our vertebrae – i.e., our spine? Forgetting about the spine is a very old habit of ours; though anatomy theaters were filled with articulated skeletons by the late sixteenth century, most Renaissance medical and anatomical studies focused on the skull and limbs rather than the spine.

      In the winter of 1510-11, Leonardo Da Vinci was at the University of Pavia near Milan, where he was able to take part in 20 autopsies that allowed him to make a host of pioneering observations of the mechanics of the body. Though they went unpublished for generations, he made the very first accurate drawing of the spinal column, capturing the delicate curve and tilt of the spine, and the snug fit of one vertebra into another.

      Da Vinci drawing of the spine

      figure drawings

      Our sedentary modern lifestyle causes most of us to forget our spine. Since movement is literally the “backbone” of athleticism and life, and the spine is the foundation of all movement, we would do well to remember the spine. We need to change our daily habits of movement so that we restore the spine we were given at birth. Much attention has been given lately to the dangers posed by excessive sitting, both to our spine, and to our overall health as well.

      Everyone desires freedom of movement, and the wisdom of the body has arranged it so that all of our multiplicity of movements ultimately depends on the most immobile part of our skeleton – the spine.

      Maintaining that mobility requires us literally to re-member our spine, to both be conscious of it as an independent segment of our body needing its own exercise and care, and to integrate its health into our overall exercise and activity regime.

      If you are having back pain and believe that it is an issue of your vertebral column, there are new non-invasive diagnostic techniques we can provide. Just set up an appointment with one of our orthopedists for a consultation.

      Movement is what we should strive to do all the time, moving as well and as often as possible. This will allow us to have fewer injuries, live longer, and have more productive lives. Our spine truly is the backbone of our lives.

      So, remember the spine!

      When Leg Pain Really Isn’t Leg Pain

      Leg pain isn’t always leg pain. If it’s running down the back of your thighs and calves, then the problem may be located somewhere else entirely. And anyone who’s experienced the slow, dull pain that arises from the sciatic nerve, will know that leg pain might not actually arise from the leg.

      Why? Because of the unique role of the sciatic nerve.sciaticNerve

      As the nerves exit your spine, they form a bundle as it extends into your legs and continues all the way to your feet. This is called the sciatic nerve. Through this nerve back problems can be transmitted to your lower extremities and often feel like a pulled hamstring. Man holding hamstring

      Many people who experience this radiating pain don’t realize that it’s a sciatic problem, so it takes an experienced orthopedist to correctly identify the issue and work with the patient to remedy the problem.

      There are a number of solutions to deal with leg pain coming from the sciatic nerve. Proper stretching and exercise is always the foremost prevention. Often a simple injection can clear up most of the pain within a couple weeks.

      Additionally, physical therapy can help you find a routine that corrects your posture and alignment to make sure the sciatic nerve isn’t impeded for future activities.

      The quickest way to get on the road to recovery is through an accurate diagnosis. At Manhattan Orthopedic our spine specialists and sports medicine practitioners collaborate regularly and through a team-based approach work to get our patients feeling better as quickly as possible.

      If you’re experiencing similar issues, then go ahead and make an appointment to see one of our specialists today. Taking care of the problem now will help ensure a quick recovery and get you back into the action just as summer starts to really ramp up!

      Back to the Basics

      Call it a change in pressure or the natural aging process, but the winter weather has a way of stiffening our backs and making it ache. Maybe it’s all that snow you shoveled after not shoveling much of anything for nine or ten months. Or what about when you fell down the driveway while you were shoveling? Either way, these usual slips and strains only become more agitated as the cool dry air works its way into our homes and offices.

      Warding off the winter aches starts with a hot shower in the morning and some light stretches for your hips, thighs, and hamstrings. Targeting the major muscles of your legs will in turn stretch your back.

      We want to loosen the back muscles because of their supporting role in so many of our movements. Slight knee or hip injuries can cause your back to compensate, causing exactly the type of strain that rears it ugly head in the winter months.

      If this is the kind of strain you’re dealing with, then it’s important to do stretches and exercises that strengthen your core and increase your range of motion. Gentle twists can ease out your back and abs, while certain Yoga bends can help stretch and strengthen the problem areas.

      If you’re doing winter chores or going outside on an icy day, it goes without saying to be careful on the sidewalk, but also keep in mind that you haven’t been doing certain winter activities for months. All it takes is one nor’easter to put enough snow on the ground to keep you shoveling all morning and then bending over with a sore back all night.

      Healthy body mechanics go a long way in preventing injury, so if you find yourself in a snowball fight, you’ll get the most power by throwing from your legs and not your back. Also, never throw a snowball with straight knees. Not only do you get more propulsion with bent knees, you won’t throw your back out in the process.

      This is also great advice for anyone shoveling snow, but you knew that already, didn’t you?!

      Myth-Busters: Back Surgery Edition

      There are a number of misperceptions surrounding spinal surgery, but the one we hear most often is that it simply doesn’t “work.” Let’s think about that for a moment.

      What does it mean to say surgery “works?” Are we referring to a full recovery? Are we talking about relief from pain, improved function, or preventing conditions from getting worse? There are a great variety of back conditions that require unique treatment. Saying that spinal surgery doesn’t work, does not take into account the variety of conditions, the variety of treatments and procedures, and the different prognoses for recovery.

      Such misperceptions are not necessarily the individual’s fault: doctors, too, have a role in explaining the problem or condition in detail and being as clear as possible about the diagnosis, the surgery and what to expect from recovery. Effective communication with your physician is essential and will allow you to know what to expect throughout the recovery process.

      Studies have shown that persons who are more informed about their condition and the recovery are more satisfied than those who do not fully understand what to expect. Informed patients communicate more clearly with their physicians, which in turn leads to more effective treatment. Seems pretty simple.

      At Manhattan Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Group, we pride ourselves on making sure our patients are informed and understand what surgery entails and what to expect as they pass through the stages of recovery. By avoiding confusion we make sure that our patients are comfortable and well-informed throughout their treatment.

      If you’ve been feeling a little hesitant about seeing a doctor for your back pain or have some questions you’d like cleared up, go ahead and make an appointment with one of our conscientious spine specialists today. The only thing worse than a bad back is knowing that you could have done something about it but didn’t.

      Not Always What it Seems: The Aging Spine

      We feel our age in a myriad of ways. Aside from not knowing what the kids are listening to, we get aches and pains and wrinkles and crinkles and, well, you get the idea. The great thing about the time we live in is that although we’ve grown older, medical science has improved our ability to diagnose conditions and treat them.

      Take for instance the natural wear and tear that occurs to the spine. Back in the day, back pain was just another onus to bear in one’s old age. Now, degenerative issues can be easily addressed through a variety of non-operative treatments such as physical therapy and injections. Some spine conditions can develop as a result of aging that are more complex.

      Many older patients develop problems with their balance and coordination or changes in their bowel and bladder habits. On first glance, this may seem to have little relation to the spine at all. There may be minimal associated neck pain, however on closer examination these symptoms may be caused by a degenerative condition called cervical spinal stenosis. Cervical stenosis is typically caused by the natural age-related degeneration of the spine. Bone spurs and collapsed discs can press on the spinal cord and therefore interfere with many neurological functions.

      There is another condition that causes some concern in our older patients because it’s usually thought of as being a condition of children: scoliosis. As you can imagine, adults who develop scoliosis have problems with walking, standing in line, or even sitting in the same position over long periods of time. Scoliosis is often the result of degeneration of the spine leading to weakened spinal tissues that can no longer support the body. Scoliosis can be treated through a variety of methods, although for many older patients there’s little to no pain at all.

      The point here is that the spine is a unique and complex structure, and degenerative problems that affect the spine can pop up in unexpected places. If you’ve experienced any confusing problems that don’t seem connected to the rest of your body, then it’s worth coming in for a quick check up. Catching spinal problems early are often the easiest to fix with non-operative procedures, and taking care of these issues now can go a long way in keeping you fit for a long time to come.

      It’s Hot Outside, So Warm Up Your Back

      For many people, the shift from the cold months of winter to the alluring heat of summer often means getting back to physical activities before they’re fully in shape. So whether you’re an Ironman athlete or a Weekend Warrior with a weed whacker, injuring your back has the potential to sideline your season before it even starts. Read more…

      Spring Cleaning: Throw Out the Trash, not Your Back

      There’s nothing worse than showing up stiff and sore to the office or passing on the weekend golf game on account of your back—nothing worse, that is, than knowing your injury was preventable.

      The good news is that protecting your back doesn’t require an extensive knowledge of yoga or Pilates. Prevention takes strong core muscles and simple back stretches that incorporate more than just bending and twisting. Read more…

      Dr. Varma to speak at the 92 Street Y

      The New Era of Back Pain Relief

      Our very own Spine Specialist, Dr. Vikas Varma and Aaron Huppert, PT, CertMDT will speak at the 92St Y on February 8th, 2011 at 6:30 pm.

      New technology, improved therapies and surgical techniques, and unprecedented collaborations between orthopedics and neurosciences have created a new era for treating back pain that was previously prolonged and sometimes only marginally effective. Discover how these advances can help provide permanent pain relief and the questions to ask medical specialists when contemplating these new treatment options.

      Click here to learn more.

      To purchase tickets, click here or call 212.415.5500.

      Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion (XLIF)

      Interbody fusion surgery has been performed by spine surgeons for several generations. Indications range from disc herniations, infections, tumors, scoliosis, instability, and back pain. Traditionally these operations have been performed through a large incision across the abdomen or chest, in order to access the spine. Historically, interbody fusion surgery is a very effective method of achieving spinal fusion. However, with advances in technology, this procedure can now be performed in certain patients utilizing a minimally invasive surgical approach. Read more…

      Minimally Invasive Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (MIS TLIF)

      Lumbar spinal stenosis is a common condition affecting millions of Americans each year.  Nerve compression can cause pain, numbness, and weakness and can interfere with even simple daily activities.  When non-operative care fails to control the symptoms, surgery may be indicated.  This typically consists of spinal decompression, and possibly spinal fusion. Read more…