Image result for spinal stenosis

Cindy suffered from spinal stenosis, a condition causing the open spaces in the spine to narrow, which can put pressure on the nerves. The condition can cause pain, numbness and muscle weakness. She already endured one spinal surgery, but it didn’t correct the issue.

“The spinal stenosis greatly affected my life,” she said. “I had to lay down most of the day, and still was in incredible pain, even though I was on pain medication. I had no quality of life.”

She was unable to work or do many things without help. Because the pain was so severe, she underwent a second spinal fusion procedure.

During the surgery, her doctor used cancellous chips, a type of bone allograft that can be used in a variety of orthopedic procedures.

“The recovery following surgery was difficult, but it was all worth it in the end,” Cindy said. “I went from being unable to function to being able to do anything I want to do. I have no pain and no limitations.”

After her surgery and recovery, Cindy took time to reflect on what it meant to receive donated human tissue in the procedure.

“I feel incredibly blessed that a donor was available to help me in this way. I am sorry someone lost their life, of course, but I am very glad that the donor and the donor’s family were unselfish enough to donate.”

She also thought about what she would say to her donor, if she could.

“I would tell my donor how much they changed my quality of life for the better, and how I would never forget the sacrifice they made. My life has changed 180 degrees because of the transplant made available to me.”

Motorcyclist Breaks Record after Cervical Spine Surgery by Dr. Frank Phillips

November POM Photo.jpg

Dave Siebert, 62, of Grayslake, IL, is up for just about any physical challenge. Two of his favorite activities are wreck diving (scuba diving among shipwrecks) and racing motorcycles which he builds himself.

With a life full of adventure and high physical demands, Dave is used to orthopedic conditions. Over the past ten years, he has undergone two hip replacements, a shoulder replacement, and a broken arm. Each of these he took in stride and has experienced successful recoveries.

However, a new, gradual pain crept into Dan’s body last spring that concerned him in a different way. He could feel the strength slowly drifting from his left hand; something he called a “frostbite” effect. He could barely hold the clutch of his motorcycle. The weakness and loss of control spread to his leg, leading him to stumble and trip. “I remember falling off a chair trying to tie my shoe,” he recalls. “That’s when I knew it was bad.”

Dave consulted his orthopedic physician who told that this time the problem was a cervical spine (neck) nerve impingement. His doctor recommended that he see a specialist, specifically Dr. Frank Phillips, director of the minimally invasive spine surgery specialty at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush.

After a visit to examine Dave and discuss his MRI, Dr. Phillips recommended a minimally invasive cervical fusion, which would eliminate his neck pain and restore his sensory perception, coordination, and balance issues.

Dave agreed to the procedure at Rush University Medical Center and was pleased to be home and walking within 48 hours.

“I didn’t like feeling unable to do something. Being able to walk was the first thing on my mind. Since I’ve had the surgery, I’ve been better and better.” As part of his healing, he focused on building strength and flexibility by practicing piano and yoga, and then swimming.

Just two months after surgery, Dave was even able to walk comfortably in his son’s wedding. Since then, he has graduated to the activities he loves most: wreck diving, building and racing motorcycles.

Just a year after surgery, Dave broke a national record: 15.3 seconds in a quarter mile race while riding a 1972 2-stroke Suzuki motorcycle that he rebuilt himself. He is thankful to be active again and is looking forward to a diving trip in Cozumel, Mexico this winter.

“Dr. Phillips really knew what he needed to do and he did it,” he explains. “It’s comforting when you have a doctor who is really on his game. I was very impressed with the whole experience.”

Learn more about minimally invasive spine surgery

Featured Body Part: Core

By ATI Physical Therapy

Featured Body Part: Core

Your ‘core’ is a complex series of muscles, extending far beyond your abs, including everything besides your arms and legs. It is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body. The core is comprised of several muscle groups including the local muscles (lumbar multifidus & transverse abdominis), global muscles (erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, external and internal oblique abdominis, rectus abdominis), and other muscle groups such as the psoas major, pelvic floor musculature and the diaphragm. Specifically, the transverse abdominis performs an anticipatory contraction prior to extremity movement in order to contribute to core stabilization.

The function of the core is to stabilize the spine from potentially harmful forces and to create and transfer forces through the body. Think of your core like the foundation of a house. A nice strong foundation lets you build a stable house. A nice strong core lets you absorb and create forces for meaningful movement. Poor core strength can contribute to injuries ranging from your ankle all the way up to your hips, back, shoulders, and neck.

Signs of a Weak Core
These common symptoms can be signs that you have a weak core:

  • Lower Back Pain – Since the core is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body, muscular weakness can be a sign of a weak core.
  • Poor Posture – The core muscles hold your spine and pelvis in place. If these muscles are weak, your body will be unstable, causing an inability to stand up straight or sit properly.
  • Bad Balance – Since your core muscles stabilize your entire body, a weak core will affect your ability to balance.
  • General Weakness – Since the core is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body, muscular weakness can be a sign of a weak core.
  • Inability to Hollow Your Stomach – The inability to hollow your stomach is another potential sign of core weakness. Can you do it? Take a natural breath and pully your bellybutton toward your spine. Hold this position for a count of 10 and then release. If you were unable to hold this position for the full count, you may have a weak core.

Injury Prevention
John Duncombe, PT, DPT, OCS, CIMT, CSCS, GCS, gives us some tips to help prevent core weakness and injury:

  • Warm Up – Perform at least 5 minutes of cardiovascular activity or dynamic total body warm up activity prior to initiating core exercises. Dynamic total body warm up activities may include jumping rope, jumping jacks, dynamic squats and lunges, inchworms, walking knees to chest, hip rotations, and gluteal kicks. See a trained ATI clinician for assistance with these exercises if needed.
  • Stay Tall – Make sure to try to keep your chest up, shoulders stacked on top of your hips, and stomach muscles turned ‘On’ as often as possible. No matter the activity, sitting/standing/walking, this position helps to alleviate unneeded stress to your spine and specifically your lower back.
  • Isometrics – Stronger muscles provide greater stability to the spine to help establish and maintain proper body mechanics during prolonged activities and lifting. Common examples include various plank positions, the Pallof Press, and abdominal bracing.
  • Active Range of Motion – Maintaining good flexibility in your hips (primarily your hamstrings, hip flexors, and piriformis) as well as your lower back will allow for your pelvis and lumbar spine to move freely during your day.

John Duncombe, PT, DPT, OCS, CIMT, CSCS, GCS, also gives us some tips to help rehabilitate the core:

  • A Strong Trunk Leads to a Healthy Spine – Work on strengthening both the local and global muscles (see above for which ones these are) to help maintain proper body positions as you move throughout your day.
  • Be Balanced – Work on dynamic flexibility exercises for your Hips and Shoulders. Lacking mobility in your extremities will put more stress on your trunk to complete dynamic movements and lifts while at home or work.
  • Suck in the Gut – Sitting/standing tall and slightly sucking in your lower abdominals (just below your belt or waistline) towards your spine will activate not only your inner core, but all necessary trunk muscles for optimal functional movements.
  • Check your Chair – Many of us sit for the majority of our day. In our car to/from work, while at work, relaxing at home, etc. Make sure your spine is upright and you have good support for your back. Consider a small pillow or rolled up towel in the small of your back to remind you to not slouch and stress your lower back.

When weighing your treatment options for injury rehabilitation, consider physical therapy. Physical therapy offers a wide variety of treatment options including strengthening, stretching, and sustainable home exercise programs. Stop in or call any ATI location for a complimentary injury screen or to learn more about how physical therapy can help you overcome your pain.

Work with ATI to get to the core of your issues!

3 Ways to Combat Low Back Pain in Runners

By Ryan Domeyer PT, DPT, CMPT for Athletico Physical Therapy

For runners, the compressive load during foot strike is between 2.7-5.7x body weight,low back pain in runners which can contribute to back pain. That said, there is no consensus on whether running is a risk factor for developing low back pain, with some research  suggesting a weak association of low back pain with elite competitive runners. However, since there is a high prevalence of low back pain in daily activities, it is not uncommon for runners to experience pain in the lumbar spine (lower back) during training. Here are three ways to help combat low back pain in runners.

1. Neutral Spine Position

The spine has three natural curves that allow the body to stay erect and absorb force during locomotion. While running, it is common to see an excessive arch or a rounded lower back. Both of these compensations can lead to increased stress on spinal tissues and possible pain. Prior to running, runners can use a mirror to determine if their low back is too arched, too flat or in a neutral position. Runners can also request an appointment at Athletico for a video gait analysis. At the end of the analysis, the patient will receive individualized comments and images of their running gait, along with tips, exercises and critiques to help maximize running performance.

2. Improve Core Strength

One way the spine is protected is by having large muscles groups to help maintain the neutral spine position. The “core” muscles include the abdominal muscles as well as the back and leg muscles. For more information about the core, read Athletico’s “What is the Core of My Body?

Although the traditional exercise for improving core strength is sit ups, there are other alternatives that improve strength without stressing the spine. Planks and supermans, for example, are both good exercise options because they help to improve strength while maintaining the neutral spine when performed correctly.

3. Improve Hip Strength

The gluteal muscles are the largest muscles in the body and are commonly underutilized due to the high prevalence of sitting during daily activities. The gluteal muscles work to propel the body forward and also protect the low back from stress. When the gluteal muscles are weak, more stress can be forced on the low back, which can potentially lead to pain. The easiest way to improve strength of the gluteal muscles is with bodyweight exercises like bridges, planks, side planks, bird dogs and hip abduction raises.

Taking the Next Step

If you are a runner that is experiencing back pain, consider taking the next step by scheduling a comprehensive examination with a physical therapist. Doing so will give you specific direction to help you run without back pain

Schedule a Complimentary Injury Screen