Archive for February, 2011

Your Mattress & Back Pain

Your Mattress and Back PainFour facts are indisputable. First, more than 40 million adults experience recurring or chronic back pain, most of which is non-specific. This means that there is no specific therapy to remove the source of the pain. Second, we spend one-third of our lives lying on a mattress. Third, there is a definite relationship between the mattress you sleep on and your back pain. Restful sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy back and spine. Fourth, choosing the right mattress can (1) improve your condition if you have an existing back pain issue, and (2) prevent you from developing back pain.

Mattresses come in a variety of types – memory foam, innerspring, latex, air, adjustable, etc. If any of these mattresses is too soft, the body will “sink in” causing low back pain and irritated spinal joints. If the mattress is too hard it can cause pressure points and reduce blood circulation. Today it is generally acknowledged that any type of medium firm mattress is preferable provided (1) it conforms to the spine’s natural curves thereby keeping the spine in alignment when you lay down; (2) distributes pressure evenly; and (3) minimizes transfer of movement from one sleeping partner to the other. This last point is important since most of us will change position more than 50 times during our sleep cycle.

Other factors that influence mattress selection include:

  • Preferred sleep position – lying flat, lying on the side, or lying on the stomach (not recommended as it forces the spine into an unnatural angle and may aggravate back and neck problems)
  • A proper cervical pillow will lessen the chances of neck and back pain
  • Your height and body weight
  • Mattress size, material, warranty, test period, cost, etc.

Mattresses have a definite role in the management of back pain. The best mattress for you is one that is tailored to your particular needs. If you have questions about back pain, or are uncertain as to how to proceed with mattress selection, you should consult a back and neck specialist.

~ New Patients Welcome ~
Call Today: 281-446-3876 (281-44 NEURO)

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Diving & Spinal Cord Injury

Diving and Spinal Cord InjuryRecreational swimming and diving rank third among all physical activities (after walking and camping), and is the most common activity among children. The fun of diving into a pool or other body of water too often turns into trauma that ends up in the emergency room. Each year more than 7,000 young Americans experience a diving accident. Consider the following:

  • The head and neck are the most common body area injured in a diving accident and account for more than half of all sports-related spinal cord injuries. The injuries are almost exclusively located in the cervical vertebrae
  • A large number of water-related spinal cord injuries can be catastrophic. The loss of sensation and movement in the upper and lower body (quadriplegia) or the loss of sensation and movement from the waist down (paraplegia) happens far too often. These injuries require a lifetime of care and medical treatment
  • 90% of diving-related accidents occur in water that is less than six feet deep. Even when the water is deep enough to prevent divers from hitting the bottom, the surface tension of the water can cause spinal injury if the diver hits the water improperly. In this regard, recreational and competitive divers alike are at risk
  • 90% of diving accidents occur in private residential swimming pools (66% in below ground pools/33% in above ground pools)
  • 70% of the injuries are the result of head first dives, 18 percent from jumps or cannonballs, and 12 percent from flips or handstands
  • Even an experienced diver can be seriously injured by diving improperly, diving into water less than 6 feet deep, falling off a diving board or sliding down a water slide head-first.

Diving Board/Platform Diving/Edge of Water Diving
Each year nearly 700 serious spinal cord injuries occur as a result of diving off a board or platform. Collision with a diving board or platform is the leading cause of these injuries. The odds of injury caused by contact with the diving board increases dramatically if a child or adolescent is attempting a flip, handstand or backward dive. Injuries such as broken bones, whiplash, spinal injury and lacerations can result from diving from the waters edge into a pool or other body of water.

Preventing Diving Accidents

The following measures can be taken to prevent diving accidents:

  • Always dive into a pool with your hands in front of you, so if anything hits the bottom of the pool, it’s your hands and arms, not your head
  • Always check the depth of the water and for any obstacles before diving. Diving should not be done in waters less than 6 feet deep
  • If in doubt about water depth, enter slowly, feet first
  • Never dive into murky water
  • Remember that in non-pool waters there may be submerged obstacles such as sandbanks, rocks and tree branches that are not visible from above the surface
  • For adolescents, young adults and older adults – Don’t Drink and Dive

Prevention strategies also include educating young children about water safety to prevent them from jumping into shallow or turbid water, requiring that adult supervision or a certified lifeguard is present, employing visible depth indicators around the pool, learning proper diving technique when attempting new and unusual dives, and installing soft pool bottoms.
Finally, remember that diving injuries to the cervical spine aren’t always visible or immediate. Neurological effects (such as nausea) might occur after the diver is out of the water and the correlation to the incident might not be obvious Other evidence of nerve damage may be observed immediately or after a delay. These include tingling in the extremities, vision problems, concussion and impaired motor function. All diving-related neck injuries should be evaluated by a head and neck specialist – delayed treatment can cause further complications.

~ New Patients Welcome ~
Call Today: 281-446-3876 (281-44 NEURO)

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Smoking & Spinal Fusion Surgery

Smoking & Spinal Fusion Surgery

smoking, spinal fusion, Houston, Woodlands, Katy, Memorial City, Sugarland, Texas Medical Center, Spring, Sealy, Baytown, Pearland, Beaumont, Galleria, Tomball, Conroe, Humble, Kingwood, Port Arthur, Galveston, Texas, TX, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin

Patients often ask about the effects of smoking on spinal fusion surgery. Nicotine has a significant negative impact on the human musculoskeletal system by lowering bone mineral density, contributing to intervertebral disc degeneration, and limiting the restoration of the blood supply to bone grafts. Numerous studies have shown that smoking also (1) slows the production of bone-forming cells (osteoblasts) thereby increasing the time required for healing, (2) impairs the absorption of calcium, and (3) increases the risk of bone fracture. Other studies have found a direct link between smoking and low-back pain independent of surgical intervention.

Spinal fusion, the permanent surgical immobilization of two or more adjacent bones (vertebra) of the spinal column, has become the standard of care in the United States with more than 500,000 spinal fusions performed annually on the neck and low back. The effects of smoking should be of particular concern for individuals who undergo a fusion in the lumbar and cervical regions of the spine. Smoking causes an increased rate of pseudarthrosis, the failure of bone to fuse following spinal fusion surgery. This leads to increased postoperative pain. Studies of lumbar and cervical fusions consistently show that successful fusions occur in a significantly higher percentage of nonsmokers than smokers.

Finally it should be noted that cigarette smoking is a significant risk factor for the development of postoperative complications such as deep wound infection, improper healing and bone graft pain.

~ New Patients Welcome ~
Call Today: 281-446-3876 (281-44 NEURO)

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Neck Pain and Cervical Pillows

Cervical Pillow

Chronic cervical or neck pain is a widespread problem that can be the result of a neck injury (e.g., whiplash), pinched nerve, arthritis (osteoarthritis or rheumatoid), spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease (e.g., bone spurs), and muscle related conditions such as neck strain, fibromyalgia and severe neck ache and stiffness (e.g., polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)).

A cervical pillow can provide some relief from cervical pain by providing support to the head and neck while you sleep. Unlike regular pillows, cervical pillows are ergonomically designed to change the shape of the cervical spine whether you are lying on the back or the side. Selecting the best cervical pillow for you can be a trial and error situation since there are a number of factors to consider.

For Example:

  • Pillow Design – there are numerous pillow designs to consider – the contour pillow, roll pillow, dogbone pillow, wave or S shape, wedge, etc.
  • Pillow Material – foam, fiber, memory foam, water-filled, air-filled, buckwheat, etc.
  • Firmness/Softness of the pillow material
  • The Size of the person and the amount of neck support that can be tolerated
  • Size - pillow should support the back of the neck as well as the back of the head
  • Cost
  • Trial Period – is necessary to find the pillow that is most comfortable to you
  • Warranty

Other Factors to Consider Include:

  • A cervical pillow that restricts changes in sleeping postures or places more pressure on the back of the neck than on the back of the head might actually cause neck trouble. Don’t use the cervical pillow if it causes discomfort of any kind.
  • Although cervical pillows can provide temporary overnight relief from neck pain, it is always prudent to consult a head and neck specialist to determine the cause of your neck pain and to discuss alternative solutions.

~ New Patients Welcome ~
Call Today: 281-446-3876 (281-44 NEURO)

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Osteoporosis in Men

Osteoporosis is a progressive, degenerative bone disease most commonly associated with aging. This abnormal thinning of bones can progress without pain or other symptoms until a break occurs. Osteoporosis is incurable, but it is preventable and treatable.

Although current media attention focuses on osteoporosis in women, the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) reports that more than 2 million men have osteoporosis and another 12 million men have osteopaenia (low bone density), a precursor to osteoporosis. Based on their statistical analysis, the NOF predicts that 25% of men over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis and (2) that men over 50 are more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than they are to get prostate cancer. Despite the gravity of these statistics, male osteoporosis and osteopaenia too often remain undiagnosed and inadequately treated conditions.

Risk factors for osteoporosis in men include: age, family history of osteoporosis, low body weight, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, inadequate calcium or vitamin D intake, low estrogen levels, a sedentary lifestyle, previous fracture not related to trauma, and disease or medication affecting bone metabolism (e.g., corticosteroids, certain anticonvulsants, or excess doses of thyroid hormones). In addition, other medical problems such as chronic kidney, lung or gastrointestinal disease, prostate cancer and some autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis can contribute to the development of osteopaenia and osteoporosis.

The importance of screening for osteopaenia and osteoporosis must not be underestimated. Early detection is the most important step toward the prevention and treatment of these conditions. A non-invasive, painless bone density test will determine whether you have osteoporosis or are at risk of developing the condition. Because standard x-rays cannot detect osteoporosis in its early stages, the following procedures are commonly employed:

  1. Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) – x-ray beams of differing energy are used to detect bone and soft tissue density separately. This fast and highly accurate technique can be used to measure bone density in the spine, hip, forearm and the total body.
  2. Single energy x-ray absorptiometry – a single x-ray beam is used to measure bone density at peripheral sites like the forearm and heel. In this technique, the area to be tested is wrapped in a tissue-like substance or immersed in water to improve the quality of the results.
  3. Ultrasound – measurements taken during an ultrasound may provide data on the structural integrity of bone. New ultrasound devices such as quantitative ultrasound (QUS) can estimate bone density of the heel within minutes, providing an automatic print-out of results.
    Each of these tests will allow your doctor to (1) detect osteoporosis at its earliest stages, so that treatment can begin, (2) monitor your rate of bone loss, and (3) monitor your response to treatment.

All men 50 and over should take the following essential steps to keep bones strong: (1) engage in regular weight-bearing exercise (brisk walking, weight-lifting, stair-climbing, etc.) and (2) follow a healthy diet, with an emphasis on calcium, low-fat or nonfat dairy products as well as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

If you or a loved one have one or more risk factors for osteoporosis, it’s important that you consult with your doctor without delay.

~ New Patients Welcome ~
Call Today: 281-446-3876 (281-44 NEURO)

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Questions About The Spine

Q: What are the regions of the spine?
A:
Starting at the top, the spine has four regions with a total of 33 vertebrae:

  1. The first region is comprised of the seven cervical or neck vertebrae (labeled C1–C7).
  2. The second region is comprised of the 12 thoracic or upper back vertebrae (labeled T1–T12).
  3. The third region, known as the lower back, is comprised of the five lumbar vertebrae (labeled L1–L5).
  4. The fourth region is known as the sacrum and coccyx. This group of nine bones (5 in the sacral and 4 4 in the coccygeal region) is fused together at the base of the spine.

Q: Is the spinal column straight?
A:
No. The spinal column has three gradual curves. These curves serve to increase spine strength, maintain balance in upright positions, absorb shock when walking, and protect the spinal cord from injury. Abnormal spine curvature (scoliosis) usually occurs in the thoracic region due to a congenital condition, sciatica, poor posture, one leg being shorter than the other, or paralysis of muscles on one side of the body.

Q: What is the spinal canal?
A:
The spinal canal is a tube formed by the stacked vertebrae.

Q: Are all vertebrae the same size?
A:
No. Although vertebrae differ in size and shape in the different regions of the spinal column, they all share the same structure. The exception is the first and second cervical vertebrae which differ structurally in order to support the skull.

Q: How long is the spinal cord?
A:
An adult male has a spinal cord roughly 18 inches in length. An adult woman has a spinal cord roughly 17 inches in length. The spinal cord extends from the brain to the lower back. An injury to the spinal cord can cause a
loss of communication between the brain and the parts of the body below the injury.

Q: What keeps the vertebrae from rubbing together?
A:
Each of the 24 moveable vertebrae in your spine are separated and cushioned by an intervertebral disc. The discs, which account for ¼ the length of the spinal cord, serve as shock absorbers and allow movement of the spinal column.

Q: Does the spinal cord have nerves?
A:
Thirty-one pairs of spinal nerves branch off the spinal cord. The nerves are numbered according to the vertebrae above which it exits the spinal column.

~ New Patients Welcome ~
Call Today: 281-446-3876 (281-44 NEURO)

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My Back Hurts! Motor Vehicle Accidents / Truck Injury / Whiplash: Houston TX, Attorney Assistance, Personal Injury Attorney and Lawyer, Towing

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You may take some comfort in knowing that you are not alone. More than 8 out of 10 adults will experience Back Pain at some point in their life. Your back contains numerous muscles, ligaments, joints, vertebrae, and inter-vertebral discs. All of which can cause pain if injured. Because of this, the source of your pain can be difficult to diagnose.

To schedule an appointment, please call
281-713-6296
or schedule online at www.spinehealth.com

Experts at the Kraus Back and Neck Institute, Houston, TX, are extremely experienced at treating back pain.  The pain may have been the result of a high speed motor vehicle or truck accident or truck injury, or might have occurred after turning the wrong way when getting out of bed.  Even a low speed motor vehicle injury may cause whiplash to the spine.  The Kraus Back and Neck Institute in Houston, treats patients in Houston and surrounding areas including Katy, Sealy, Sugar Land, the Woodlands, Galleria, Humble, Kingwood, Conroe, Baytown, Beaumont, Galveston and Port Arthur.  Dr. Gary Kraus and Dr. Masaki Oishi, both Board Certified Neurosurgeons, have found that they can treat most patients effectively, without the need for surgery.

Q: Which part of the back is most likely to be affected?
A:
Back Pain most often occurs in the lower back (lumbosacral region).  This area can be subject to significant vector forces during a truck injury or accident, or any type of motor vehicle accident.  Poor lifting body mechanics may also be a major cause of low back injury.  It is also important to use good posture when sitting.  Placing a lumbar support below the lower back can help to take pressure and stress off of the low back.
http://www.spinehealth.com/causes-back-pain.php

Q: What are the most frequent causes of Back Pain?
A:
Muscle strain is the most common cause of Back Pain, followed closely by ligament sprain. If not treated properly, both of these injuries can cause an imbalance in the spinal structure, often resulting in chronic (long lasting) pain. Your Back Pain may also be due to fibromyalgia (fatigue and pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons; herniated or ruptured disc; osteoarthritis; and osteoporosis (compression fractures of the vertebrae).  Many patients also injure their back during sports injury.

Q: What causes back muscle strain?
A:
Poor lifting techniques, excess body weight, poor posture and unexpected twisting are the most common causes of a strained back muscle.  Whiplash injury from a motor vehicle accident or truck accident may also be responsible.  When an analysis is done, it is often improper body mechanics, either chronic or acute, which are the cause of back injury.  Tips and techniques for proper lifting.

Q: When should I seek treatment for Back Pain?
A:
If not treated promptly acute Back Pain can become a chronic (long lasting) condition that can lead to a disability. If there is pain going to the legs, there is most likely pressure being exerted upon a nerve, and it would be appropriate to see a neurosurgeon.  If there is weakness, then the nerve may have some damage, and surgery should definitely be considered.  If there is loss of bowel or bladder control, this may require a more urgent surgery.

Q: How will the doctor diagnose my Back Pain?
A:
To diagnose the cause of your Back Pain the doctor will (1) do a physical examination and develop a medical/family history including your account of the onset, site, and severity of the pain; (2) duration of symptoms, limitations in movement; and, (3) a history of previous episodes or conditions related to the pain.

Q: Do I need an attorney after an injury?
A:
When it comes to the need of expert medical care, one need a doctor.  When it comes to the need of expert legal advice, one needs an attorney.  During a motor vehicle injury, whether it be a car injury or a truck injury, one’s health and the health of all those involved in the injury is of primary importance.  That being said, it is also important to obtain the police, and a qualified attorney.  There will be important questions regarding cause of injury, damages, and it is important to gather appropriate evidence to determine who is at fault.  It must be stressed that no evidence gathering should stand in the way of prompt medical attention, but fact finding is important because there may be serious economic consequences of a severe motor vehicle car or truck injury.  The police will help to gather facts before the towing company removes the automobile.

The Kraus Back and Neck Institute in Houston can help to locate an attorney for those who have suffered motor vehicle accidents or truck injuries.  They can help to navigate through the system, and help to find personal injury attorneys / lawyers.
Call   281-713-6296

Q:How will the doctor confirm the Back Pain diagnosis?
A:
There are a number of techniques the doctor may use singly or in tandem to confirm the Back Pain diagnosis including: x-ray imaging (with or without discography and/or myelograms); computerized tomography (CT); magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); electrodiagnostic procedures such as electromyography (EMG), nerve conduction studies, and evoked potential (EP) studies; bone scans; thermography; and, ultrasound imaging or sonography

Patients who have experienced a motor vehicle injury, truck  injury, any other type of accident or injury, or those who simply turned the wrong way and developed pain, and welcomed to contact the Kraus Back and Neck Institute in Houston, TX.  Patients are frequently seen from the Houston area, and surrounding communities of Katy, Galleria, Cinco Ranch, the Woodlands, Sugarland, the Woodlands, Pearland, Westchase, River Oaks, Conroe, Baytown, Beaumont, Port Arthur, Humble, Kingwood, Atascocita, as well as other regions of Texas and the United States.

To schedule an appointment, please call

281-713-6296
or schedule online at www.spinehealth.com

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How to Lift: Tips from the Kraus Back and Neck Institute, Houston

low back and neck injuries from lifting, Houston, Kingwood, Humble, Katy, the Woodlands, Beaumont, Baytown

low back and neck injuries from lifting, Houston, Kingwood, Humble, Katy, the Woodlands, Beaumont, Baytown

At the Kraus Back and Neck Institute in Houston, TX,  patients with low back injuries and neck injuries are seen very frequently.  One of the most common things which we do every day, yet give  very little thought to, is lifting.  Because we do it so frequently, lifting can cause significant injury to the low back.  This can occur as a result of lifting heavy objects once or light objects multiple times.  If you proper techniques of lifting, back injury can be avoided.

First we will focus on bending itself.  One of the worst things which we can do is to bend at the waist.  This place is huge stresses upon the lumbar spine.  It is much better to bend at the knees while keeping the back in a relatively straight and upright posture.

The position of the feet is very important when lifting objects.  Keep the feet at least a shoulder width apart from each other.  This helps provide extra leverage and stability.

The position of the object  which we are lifting in relation to our body is very important.  Make sure to keep the object as close to the body as possible.  The further the object is away from our body, the greater the torque is placed on our lumbar spine.

Balance the objects which you are carrying so that both sides of the body have an equal weight distribution.  We often see people carrying a heavy object such as a suitcase in one hand while leaning to the other side to balance the weight.  This places excessive stress upon the lumbar spine.  It is much better to try to carry equal weights on either side and create a balanced load for the lumbar spine.

Avoid lifting objects which are too heavy for you.  This will of course vary depending upon the abilities of the individual.  It is best to avoid a level of extreme strain and struggle as this has a much higher risk of causing injury to the back.

While lifting objects, keep your body straight  and pointed at the object.  One of the worst things we can do is twist the body while lifting at the same time.  This does place significant stress and strain upon the lumbar spine.

When possible, avoid lifting objects and especially heavy ones, above the waist and shoulders.  When one lifts bear arms up in the air, the curvature of the lumbar spine increases.  If one is lifting an object at the same time, excess strain will be placed on the lumbar spine.

Since injury to the low back and neck, or any other portion of the spine, can occur as a result of improper lifting techniques, it is important to pay good attention to proper body mechanics.

If one pays attention to these guidelines, many back injuries will be avoided.  Remember that back injuries can occur as a result of repetitive injury to the spine or from an isolated single injury.  It is easy enough to remember to incorporate these simple lifting techniques into our daily routines at the same time significantly decrease chances of a low back injury.

Take our interactive quiz about what is causing my back pain

Learn about causes of neck pain

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The Kraus Back and Neck Institute, located in Houston, TX, specialized in the surgical and non-surgical treatment of low back pain, neck pain, degenerative disc disease, disc degeneration, herniated disc in the lumbar and cervical spine, and sciatica.  They serve patients in the Houston and surrounding areas, including Katy, Galleria, Cinco Ranch, the Woodlands, Sugarland, the Woodlands, Pearland, Westchase, River Oaks, Conroe, Baytown, Beaumont, Port Arthur, Humble, Kingwood, Atascocita, as well as other regions of Texas and the United States.

~ New Patients Welcome ~
Call Today: 281-446-3876 (281-44 NEURO)

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