Occupational Therapy Offers Relief For Hand Pain From Arthritis

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newsOccupational Therapist Roxanne Perry with Armonk Physical Therapy & Sports Training with tips on how OT can help manage osteoarthritis hand pain and prevent further joint damage.

Opening a jar, buttoning a shirt or brushing your teeth are everyday activities that feel far from routine for those with arthritis in their hands, a highly common condition causing pain and disability for millions of Americans. But occupational therapy, or OT, focusing on the hands can ease pain and increase range of motion for these patients, whether used on its own or after surgery, according to Roxanne Perry, a licensed occupational therapist and certified hand therapist at Armonk Physical Therapy & Sports Training.

With 27 bones in each of our hands (including the carpals which are the small wrist bones and are often involved when a patient has arthritic pain) perhaps it’s not surprising that osteoarthritis is the most common cause of hand arthritis – a word that literally means “inflamed joint.” Osteoarthritis itself is the most common type of arthritis in the United States, affecting about 12% of American adults and occurring when the smooth cartilage covering joints gets worn away because of age or overuse – causing pain, stiffness, swelling and sometimes knobby finger joints.

Hand therapy is a specialized practice area among occupational therapists, who treat these patients to preserve or increase their hand mobility so they’re able to perform everyday tasks more easily and comfortably.

“As a non-surgical option or a way to boost your recovery from hand surgery, occupational therapy is tailored to fit each person’s individual situation and needs, both at home and at work,” says Perry, who has more than 20 years of clinical experience treating injuries of the upper extremity. “The ultimate goal is to restore and optimize the way your hands function as well as to improve your independence and overall quality of life.”

Preventing further joint damage

For those with hand osteoarthritis for which surgery isn’t recommended, OT serves a preventative role, Perry explains. Patients are taught ways to prevent further joint damage, which can include:

Splinting: Immobilizing affected joints, particularly at night, helps them rest when you do and cuts down on joint inflammation, pain and swelling, Perry says. Splints used during sleep are made of a thermoplastic material that stretch and mold closely to the shape of the hand, while neoprene splints may be prescribed during the day to allow movement while also providing support. An occupational therapist will ensure splints are fabricated and fitted to each patient’s needs.

Home exercise program: In addition to working with hand osteoarthritis patients during office visits, occupational therapists also teach them range-of-motion exercises and gentle strengthening techniques they can perform at home. These therapeutic movements may include finger touches, curls, stretches and bends. A typical OT schedule involves office visits twice each week for 4 to 6 weeks and is generally covered by insurance with a prescription.

Information on pain management: Occupational therapists can offer education about over-the-counter and other types of anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain. Other pain management techniques may include soaking the hands in warm water or dipping them in warm paraffin wax. Additionally an OT can provide information on joint protection and adaptive equipment that can help increase patient’s independence.

“Avoiding further joint damage is a big part of effective treatment for hand arthritis,” Perry notes. “It’s not something you’d want to attempt without the guidance and expertise of an occupational therapist.”

If surgery needed, restoring strength and function

Surgery for osteoarthritis of the hand may be suggested when a patient either suffers from too much pain – a highly individual decision – or too little function. Surgical techniques can include; basal joint arthroplasty, also known as a joint replacement of the thumb, osteotomy, in which part of the bone of a joint is removed to realign the joint, and fusion of the joints, a procedure use when arthritis is particularly bad.

But even in this scenario, OT can play a crucial role in restoring a patient’s quality of life. If surgery is indicated, OT helps patients to manage post-operative pain; reduce swelling; promote wound care and healing; and restore range of motion, strength, and function.

“While a conservative, non-surgical approach is generally successful for managing hand osteoarthritis, sometimes surgery is the best course,” Perry says. “But either way, an occupational therapist can improve patients’ hand function and pain levels, reducing the stress on involved joints. OT shouldn’t be a last resort – it should be the first thought for people who develop hand arthritis.”

– Armonk Physical Therapy & Sports Training has provided personalized, integrative, and skilled one-on-one physical therapy services to residents of Westchester/lower Fairfield counties since 2001. http://www.armonkptst.com/ – Roxanne Perry, OTR, CHT, is a licensed occupational therapist and certified hand therapist at Armonk Physical Therapy & Sports Training.

4 Lifestyle Habits That Worsen Back Pain

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This article is courtesy of PRWeb and Dr. Michael A. Gleiber, MD, FAAOS.

newsThe millions of people who experience some level of back pain – from occasional aches, to chronic discomfort – are encouraged to read the latest article by minimally invasive spine surgeon Dr. Michael A. Gleiber, MD, FAAOS, in which he reveals the four most common lifestyle habits that trigger back pain and destroy spine health.

“Back pain isn’t always the result of an injury,” commented Dr. Gleiber, who is also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and a Spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “Often, it’s the things people do – or neglect to do – in their daily lives that is the root cause of their pain and deteriorating spine health. Tragically, many of these people don’t even know the damage that they’re doing until the pain becomes unbearable, and they can no longer carry out their day-to-day tasks at home or at work.”

According to Dr. Gleiber, the four lifestyle habits that are causing the most back pain and spine injury are:

1. A sedentary lifestyle that is virtually devoid of exercise. This causes the muscles that support the spine to become weak, and in turn forces the vertebrae and discs to absorb extra stress.

jumpingrope2. Exercising strenuously only on the weekends, and doing little or no exercise the rest of the week (“Weekend Warriors”). This imposes excessive strain on the back and spine, which is not prepared or strong enough to absorb the shock – ultimately causing back pain and, ironically, greatly increasing the risk of injury.

3. Sitting down for several hours a day at work. Staying for prolonged periods of time in any single position is damaging to spine health. However, to make matters worse, most people who sit for many hours each day have incorrect posture; often because they are hunching forward to see their computer screen.

4. Regularly eating junk food, which often leads to weight gain and therefore puts extra stress on the spine. In addition, people who eat too much junk food are typically not getting the nutrients they need to keep their spine strong and healthy, such as Calcium and Vitamin D.

Added Dr. Gleiber: “The good news is that with commitment and the right guidance, people can create new, better lifestyle habits that not only alleviates and ideally eliminates their back pain, but vastly improves their overall health and wellness. For instance, people can start exercising at least three times a week to strengthen their core muscles, get up from their desk once an hour to stretch and walk around a bit, and muster up all of their willpower to make eating junk food an occasional indulgence rather than a regular occurrence.”

The full version of Dr. Gleiber’s latest article entitled “How Your Lifestyle Can Contribute to Back Pain” is available on his website at http://michaelgleibermd.com/news/lifestyle-can-contribute-back-pain.

Additional articles by Dr. Gleiber on spine health, back pain relief, effective exercising and more are available at http://michaelgleibermd.com/news.

About Dr. Michael A. Gleiber, MD

– Dr. Michael A. Gleiber, MD is a trusted expert in the field of minimally invasive spine surgery. He currently serves as Spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, is a writer for The Huffington Post, and is frequently invited to provide his medical expertise in the media. Dr. Gleiber has been honored with multiple recognitions, including Castle Connolly Top Doctors for Spine Surgery, SuperDoctors of South Florida, Top 10 Spine Surgical Specialists Florida by Vitals.com, and is listed amongst Top 50 Spine Surgeon Leaders.

Learn more at http://michaelgleibermd.com

Easy Ways To Reduce Neck Pain

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This article is courtesy of PRWeb and Harvard Health Publications, please share your comments below…..

doctorOnline access can help people improve their health. The Internet can offer a means to research health conditions, connect socially, reach health care providers, find diet and nutrition information, and learn about exercise.

When the source of neck pain seems like a mystery, the culprit may be a smartphone or laptop, reports the June 2016 Harvard Health Letter. Bending the head down to look at a screen puts the body in an unhealthy position. “Think of it as an overuse injury. The neck and shoulders are being forced into one static position for too long,” says Dr. Clare Safran-Norton, a physical therapist and clinical supervisor of rehabilitation services at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Looking down flexes the neck forward. Supporting this position requires the help of the muscles in the neck, and sometimes the shoulder and shoulder blade muscles. “After a while, the muscles will get tired, overstretched, and weak, and will begin to hurt,” says Dr. Safran-Norton.

But there are plenty of simple fixes. Many focus on raising the screen or reading material to eye level to avoid looking down. For instance:

* Place a pillow on the lap, then rest the laptop or tablet on the pillow.

* Raise a monitor to eye level by placing it on a stack of large, sturdy books.

* Prop up a book in a book holder, and then place that on top of a pillow or table.

Simple neck exercises can also help reduce pain. But when pain lasts more than two weeks, Dr. Safran-Norton recommends seeking professional help. More serious causes of neck pain include arthritis, neck bone spurs, ruptured discs in the spine, fractures, scoliosis (sideways curvature of the spine), old whiplash injuries, and poor posture.

Read the full-length article: “Do your habits cause your neck pain?”

Also in the June 2016 issue of the Harvard Health Letter:

* Five ways the Internet can help boost health

* How stress affects seniors, and how to avoid it

* What to know when taking multiple medications

The Harvard Health Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/health or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).

Best & Worst Exercise Equipment For People With Back Pain

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Thank you to PRWeb and Dr. Michael A. Gleiber, MD, FAAOS for supplying this article, please share your thoughts below…..

humanbodyMinimally invasive spine surgeon Dr. Michael A. Gleiber, MD, FAAOS has published a new article in which he lists the four kinds of exercise equipment that can help alleviate back pain and support recovery from a spine injury, and the three kinds of exercise equipment that people with back pain should definitely avoid.

Minimally invasive spine surgeon Dr. Michael A. Gleiber, MD, FAAOS has published a new article in which he lists the best and worst exercise equipment for people with back pain.

“Many people who suffer from back pain or have a spine injury believe that they must give up their gym membership,” commented Dr. Gleiber, who specializes in treating all spinal disorders including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, myelopathy, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, spinal trauma, and tumors and infections of the spine. “However, exercise can actually help alleviate their back pain and support their recovery — provided that they are using the right equipment in the right way, and steering well clear of the wrong equipment.”

According to Dr. Gleiber, the four kinds of exercise equipment he recommends for people suffering from back pain are:

1. Elliptical machines, which place minimal stress on the back and other joints.

2. Stationary bikes (both upright and recumbent), which provide an aerobic workout and strengthen the lower body, with little to no impact.

3. Treadmills, which are ideal for people who are out of shape, or resuming an exercise program after a lengthy break.

4. Weight machines, which can be particularly helpful for upper body exercises, and unlike free weights, do not require bending of the knee in order to lift the weight.

And on the other end of the spectrum, the three kinds of exercise equipment that people with back pain should definitely avoid are:

1. Lying leg press machines, which place enormous stress on the lower back.

2. Hip abductor machines, which strain the spine with each squeeze or pull.

3. Loaded standing calf raise machines, which place excessive weight on the shoulders and stress on the spine.

Added Dr. Gleiber: “Even when using this recommended equipment, people should immediately stop exercising if they experience additional back pain. And if they have any doubt about an exercise machine, they should check with their medical doctor – and not gym staff!”

The full version of Dr. Gleiber’s latest article entitled “The Best (and Worst) Exercise Equipment for Back Pain” is available on his practice’s website at http://michaelgleibermd.com/news/best-worst-exercise-equipment-back-pain/

Additional articles by Dr. Gleiber on spine health, pain relief, effective exercising and more are available at http://michaelgleibermd.com/news.

About Dr. Michael A. Gleiber, MD

– Dr. Michael A. Gleiber, MD is a trusted expert in the field of minimally invasive spine surgery. He currently serves as Spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, is a writer for The Huffington Post, and is frequently invited to provide his medical expertise in the media. Dr. Gleiber has been honored with multiple recognitions, including Castle Connolly Top Doctors for Spine Surgery, SuperDoctors of South Florida, Top 10 Spine Surgical Specialists Florida by Vitals.com, and is listed amongst Top 50 Spine Surgeon Leaders. Learn more at http://michaelgleibermd.com

What To Expect After Calling 911 For Chest Pain

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This article is courtesy of PRWeb and Harvard Health Publications, please share your comments below…..

didyouknow?If a person calls 911 with a suspected heart attack, the first test is an electrocardiogram. The following steps typically include an evaluation by a doctor and a blood test to look for signs of heart muscle damage.

Every 43 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack. Getting to the hospital quickly is just one reason why people should call 911 if they have chest pain or other heart attack symptoms, according to the June 2016 Harvard Heart Letter.

“If you’re having a heart attack, there are two reasons why you want to be in an ambulance,” says Dr. Joshua Kosowsky, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School. One is that in the unlikely event of cardiac arrest, the ambulance has the equipment and trained personnel to restart a person’s heart. Cardiac arrest, which results from a malfunction of the nerves that stops the heart’s pumping ability, is fatal without prompt treatment. However, most heart attacks do not cause cardiac arrest, Dr. Kosowsky stresses. “It’s rare, but it’s certainly not a risk you want to take while you’re driving or riding in a car.”

The other reason to travel via ambulance is that in many places in the United States, if a person calls 911 complaining of chest pain, the dispatcher will send paramedics who are trained to perform an electrocardiogram (ECG). This simple, painless test records the heart’s electrical activity through 12 small electrodes placed on the chest, arms, and legs. A six-second recording can then be transmitted to the receiving emergency department, which can help speed up the treatment once the person arrives at the hospital.

At the hospital, a doctor interprets the ECG, which will reveal whether the person is having a major heart attack, in which an artery feeding the heart is blocked and choking off the blood supply to part of the heart’s muscle. This usually creates a distinct signature on the ECG and warrants quick treatment to open the blocked artery.

A person with a suspected heart attack will also get a blood test to measure troponin, a protein that rises in response to heart muscle damage. Other possible tests include a chest x-ray to look for alternative causes of chest discomfort, such as pneumonia or heart failure.

Read the full-length article: “When chest pain strikes: What to expect at the emergency room”

Also in the June 2016 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter:

* Heart-healthy supper suggestions

* Managing the risk of stroke from atrial fibrillation

* How volunteering may help your heart

The Harvard Heart Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).

Self-Care Steps To Heal Back Pain Flare-Ups

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Courtesy of PRWeb and Harvard Health Publications….feel free to share your comments below…..

humanbodyHot and cold compresses, physical activity, exercise, and safe lifting techniques help men to heal and to prevent low back pain. For pain control, acetaminophen (Tylenol) may have limited benefit, but is still worth trying.

For many men, low back pain gets better over time, often within a few weeks. Pain control is important, especially early on. Although recent studies have questioned the effectiveness of acetaminophen (Tylenol) for back pain, this over-the-counter mainstay is still worth a try, reports the July 2015 Harvard Men’s Health Watch.

A review in the medical journal BMJ found little evidence that taking acetaminophen relieved pain or shortened the duration of back pain flare-ups. But not all back pain is the same, so acetaminophen could still be helpful for some men.

“Taking acetaminophen for three to five days is all you need to find out if it will work,” explains Dr. Jeffrey N. Katz, professor of medicine and surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and editor of Back Pain: Finding solutions for your aching back, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

In addition to pain relievers, these other steps should be part of any recovery plan for low back pain:

* Ease pain with cold or heat. Both can reduce reliance on pain relievers.

* Stay as active as possible. Extended bed rest is not helpful; continuing to do usual daily activities, to the greatest extent that you can, speeds healing.

* Develop back-safe techniques. For example, lift heavy weights with the leg muscles, not the lower back.

Read the full-length article: “Best bets for back pain”

Also in the July 2015 Harvard Men’s Health Watch:

* How effective is the new DNA stool test for colon cancer?

* Not all processed foods are unhealthy

* Some men can safely delay treatment of low-risk prostate cancer

* Glaucoma: A common cause of preventable vision loss

The Harvard Men’s Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/mens or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free). Contact us for a complimentary copy of the news letter.

Article On Chronic Pain After Hernia Repair

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informationredThe hernia expert explains that, while the recent article outlines clinical solutions that have worked in certain cases, more must be done to develop new treatments for all patients suffering from post-surgical complications.

According to an article published July 9 by General Surgery News, much of the discussion that took place at the recent World Hernia Conference in Milan was centered around the issue of chronic pain in patients who have had an inguinal hernia repair. The article notes that there is no clear trend that points to a single method of hernia repair that would lead to a decrease in long-term chronic pain. While many specific studies and anecdotal pieces of evidence were presented at the conference , hernia specialist Dr. Shirin Towfigh of the Beverly Hills Hernia Center reminds that more research still needs to be done, particularly in the area of new hernia mesh solutions, in order to minimize hernia repair problems such as chronic pain or bleeding after hernia repair surgery.

Dr. Towfigh notes that part of the difficulty in determining which methods are more effective is due to the fact that different methods of repair are better suited to different patients. She specifically highlights the section in the article that discusses the need to identify which patient types would be more susceptible to mesh related complications. It is this two pronged approach of detecting which patient types will respond poorly to mesh, in addition to developing new mesh technologies, that is likely to best minimize future complications, she says.

The article highlights a case of a surgeon who specialized in the explanation of hernia mesh for patients whose mesh was causing them chronic pain after their surgery. Overall, patients experienced a decrease in chronic pain after mesh explanation, but still around one third of those patients only experienced minor relief or no relief at all.

Dr. Towfigh explains that she is currently working on a clinical trial with a new mesh technology which is completely resorbable, meaning that it is designed to safely break down and be absorbed into the body after its purpose is served. If successful, this new type of mesh has the potential to provide the same effect as a mesh explanation, but without the need for an additional surgery that could risk further complications.

As an expert surgeon and diagnostician of hernias in men and women, Dr. Shirin Towfigh aims to continually educate her patients and peers about new advances and methods in the treatment of hernias in all types of patients. Female hernia sufferers in particular know Dr. Towfigh as a top choice for whatever degree of hernia treatment they may need. Anyone interested in scheduling a consultation with Dr. Towfigh at the Beverly Hills Hernia Center can call them at 310-693-6096 or visit them online at http://www.beverlyhillsherniacenter.com.

Relieving The Pain Of Rheumatoid Arthritis Of The Foot

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By Dr. Parul K. Patel

seniorjoggerRheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease affecting more than 1.5 million people in the United States. While the disease can affect any joints in the body, small joints in the feet and hands are often the first affected. About 90% of people with RA eventually develop symptoms in the ankle and the foot at some point, according to a study in The Open Rheumatology Journal.

Rheumatoid arthritis leads to an oversensitivity in the lining that lubricates joints and helps them move. This leads to inflammation that causes damage to the joint as well as ligaments and surrounding tissues. As the ligaments weaken, it may lead to joint deformities in the foot as well as bone softening and collapse. RA usually affects both feet and the same joints in each foot. Areas of the foot affected by RA include:

• The hindfoot or heel. As RA develops, you may have trouble walking on uneven surfaces and experience pain beneath the fibula outside the foot. Eventually, the alignment of your foot can shift and lead to flatfoot as well as more pain on the outside ankle and the tendon inside the ankle.

• The midfoot or top of the foot. RA weakens the ligaments supporting the midfoot, potentially causing the arch to collapse. As you lose the arch of your foot, your foot may collapse and the front of your foot may begin to turn outward. Rheumatoid arthritis can also lead to cartilage damage that causes pain.

• The forefoot or the ball and toes of the foot.
People with RA often develop deformities in the toes and forefront of the foot such as claw toes, bunions, and pain under the ball of the foot. Bunions can become so serious that the big toe actually crosses over the second toe. The small toes may dislocate and deform into clawtoes that make it painful to wear shoes.

Treating RA Foot Pain

While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, there are treatment options that can reduce the pain and discomfort of foot symptoms. RA foot care generally begins with wearing correct footwear. This means avoiding narrow-toed shoes and heals and choosing shoes with a low heel and high ceiling. Orthotics can also reduce foot pain, support the arch, and potentially prevent many common foot deformities.

Steroid injections into affected joints can also relieve pain by reducing inflammation of the joint lining. A foot specialist can recommend the best course of action to treat your pain and may recommend a special exercise regimen that avoids excessive pressure on the foot.

Surgery is often required to alleviate RA pain and correct foot deformities like bunions and hammer toes. Depending on the problem, surgery may involve correcting the position of joints and bones, fusing or resetting joints, or removing boney growths.

If you are dealing with RA symptoms in your feet, it’s important to see a foot specialist before the problems worsen and lead to serious deformities or an inability to walk.

– Dr. Parul K. Patel, DPM of Infinity Foot & Ankle is a podiatric specialist who offers comprehensive podiatric care in the Greater Dallas area. Dr. Patel treats a wide variety of foot conditions including rheumatoid arthritis with a combination of preventative, medical, and surgical care.

Three Serious Issues Your Shoulder Pain Could Be Hinting At

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By Dr. Louis Catalano

grandparentsEveryone has shoulder pain at some point in their life. Most often, it is caused by rotator cuff tendonitis or shoulder bursitis – maladies that cause pain with activities such as raising the arm overhead, reaching into a coat sleeve, or reaching into the backseat of a car. Often times these pains are sporadic, but not severe.

However, here are three serious issues that your pain could be hinting at:

1. Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis.
This disorder can occur with mild trauma or no injury at all. It is more common in diabetics. Patients present with gradually worsening pain and loss of shoulder range of motion. The range of motion that is often lost is external rotation, or the ability to twist one’s shoulder away from the body with the shoulder at the side and the elbow at a 90-degree angle. The patient can also gradually loose the ability to reach overhead or behind one’s back. This problem should not be ignored because early treatment, including physical therapy and a steroid (cortisone) injection, can make recovery more easy and rapid. By avoiding treatment, the shoulder can become more “frozen”, and make a full recovery of range of motion difficult, if not impossible. Also, surgery may be needed if the shoulder becomes “too frozen”.

2. A pinched nerve in the neck.
These patients present with pain in the back of the shoulder, neck or both. They will also complain of numbness and tingling down the arm and into the hand. Constant numbness/tingling is worrisome. Any weakness of the shoulder, elbow, or hand is very concerning as well. The important point is that any symptoms in the arm/elbow/hand, whether numbness or tingling or weakness, must be evaluated immediately. A pinched nerve in the neck can possibly result in permanent numbness/tingling or weakness, so medical attention should be sought promptly.

3. Cancer.
Pain from a cancer lesion around the shoulder will be severe, constant, and tends to be worse at night. The pain will worsen, and never “go away”. Most patients will be ill, with unexplained weight loss or fevers/chills. I have seen a few patients who sustained a shoulder fracture caused by cancer, and this was the first manifestation of the cancer! Some cancer, like multiple myeloma, develops in bone. Other cancers often metastasize to bone and these include lung, prostate, colon, thyroid, and breast cancers. If a patient has a history of one of these cancers, and has severe, unrelenting shoulder pain, that patient should seek immediate medical attention.

Not all shoulder pain could lead to these, but if you have a decreased range of motion, frequent back pain or any of the above listed symptoms, it might be worth giving your doctor a call.

Louis W. Catalano III, M.D. is an assistant clinical professor of orthopedic surgery at Icahn Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, residency director and attending surgeon in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital and attending hand surgeon at the CV Starr Hand Surgery Center at Roosevelt Hospital. Dr. Catalano has had his publications appear in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Hand Clinics, Journal of Hand Surgery and other leading surgical publications. He is presently on NY Magazine’s “Best Doctors List” and takes care of many musicians, dancers and athletes in the New York area. Dr. Catalano currently resides in Pelham Manor with his wife and two children.

What’s Causing Your Back Pain?

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Thank you to PRWeb for providing this article. What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments section…..

doctorAccording to Dr. Kaliq Chang with Atlantic Spine Center, back conditions can be complex, so patients would benefit from being aware of the details of their symptoms and be ready to communicate them to practitioners.

Getting relief for chronic back pain – estimated to affect 80% of American adults at some point in their lives – isn’t as easy as showing up at a doctor’s office and saying your back hurts. In fact, patients should be prepared to answer as many questions as they ask in order to receive an accurate diagnosis, according to Kaliq Chang, MD, of Atlantic Spine Center.

“Back conditions can be complex, so patients would benefit from being aware of the details of their symptoms and be ready to communicate them to practitioners,” says Dr. Chang, an interventional pain management specialist. “Low back pain isn’t a specific diagnosis in itself, and receiving an accurate diagnosis is absolutely crucial to addressing the problem correctly. Indeed, we’re hard-pressed to fix a patient’s back problem if we can’t pinpoint what’s causing it.”

Initially, a variety of non-invasive measures – including medication and physical therapy – are used to treat lingering back pain that stems from injuries, aging, genetics or any other cause. Interventions such as steroid injections, nerve ablation procedures, and spinal cord stimulators are employed when those modalities do not provide adequate relief. Finally, surgery is considered a last resort only after these less invasive treatments have failed.

Fruitful Q&A between doctors and patients

When patients come to Dr. Chang complaining of back pain, his first step is to obtain a complete history of symptoms. Here are some of the most important questions he says patients should be prepared to answer to receive a precise diagnosis:

* Where is your pain? Neck, mid-back or lower back?

* When did your pain begin? Was it related to an activity or injury?

* Have you had a prior episode of back pain?

* How would you describe your pain? Stabbing, sharp, burning, aching, cramping, throbbing or otherwise?

* Does your pain radiate into your legs? From your buttocks into the upper leg? Past the knee to the ankles or feet? Down one leg or both?

* Does your pain get worse after activity?

* What triggers your pain? Sitting, standing, walking, laying down, bending forward, bending backward?

* What improves your pain? Sitting, standing, walking, laying down, bending forward, bending backward?

* What pain treatments have you already undergone? Chiropractic treatment, physical therapy, acupuncture, spinal injections? Surgeries such as open spine decompression or spinal fusion?

* Do you have any other health problems?

* What medications do you take?

Testing can help pinpoint a diagnosis

After a detailed question-and-answer session between patients and doctors and a physical exam, certain diagnostic tests may be ordered to shed further light on the problem. These tests, which include electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies, x-rays or MRI images, are used to confirm any abnormality or disease in the spine that may cause pain, such as bulging or herniated discs, spinal stenosis or other back conditions.

“Tests can’t determine what’s actually causing a patient’s back pain,” he says. “That’s why it’s so important that patients provide detailed information about the history and course of their symptoms to their doctor. Tests can only enhance what the patient is able to convey about their situation.”

Dr. Chang encourages people to be patient when attempting to figure out exactly why their back hurts, as difficult as that may seem at the time.

“A lot of back pain can be short-lived,” Dr. Chang says. “Different diagnoses will require very different treatment approaches, so accurately diagnosing back pain is critical. The sooner a precise diagnosis is made, the sooner patients can access the right treatment to achieve pain relief and boost their enjoyment of everyday activities.”

Kaliq Chang, MD, is an interventional pain management specialist board-certified in anesthesiology at Atlantic Spine Center.

Atlantic Spine Center is a nationally recognized leader for endoscopic spine surgery with three locations in New Jersey in West Orange, Edison and North Bergen. http://www.atlanticspinecenter.com