CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -Terri is a jovial 48-year-old who loves serving people and making them happy.
When she started having neck pain after standing for more than a half hour or so, she was afraid of being forced to give up her career.
“As a floor nurse,” she explained, “I work for 12 hours straight, and I am running around the whole time. Sitting down to wait for the pain to pass simply isn’t an option for me. The pain got so bad at some points it was almost impossible to do my job.”
“I knew based on the symptoms it was probably a pinched nerve in my neck, but I wanted to be treated by someone I could trust to present me with a variety of solutions. It was also important to see someone who understood my line of work,” she continued. “I love my job, and I want to keep working as long as I can.”
Terri turned to Dr. Michael Planalp, a fellowship trained spine specialist at Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in South Dayton. The doctors at Beacon Orthopaedics strive to guide each patient through the diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.
From radiating or shooting back pain to numbness or loss of strength in your arms or hands, musculoskeletal problems with your neck may be caused by muscle strains, deteriorating joints, nerve compression, injuries, or joint disease. Fortunately, there are a wide range of treatment options to keep us active as we age.
Thankfully, the treatment options for neck and spine pain have advanced to new heights in recent years. The traditional treatment options, such as physical therapy, cortical injections, and on-site physical therapy, are available at Beacon Orthopaedics. They also bring regenerative medicine and ortho-biologics to patients, enabling the body to better heal itself. Each of these treatments are directed by a fellowship trained spine specialist using the latest in diagnostic imaging.
Dr. Planalp suggests that it is time to see a spine doctor when neck pain persists for several days, spreads down your arms or legs, is accompanied by headaches, numbness, weakness, or tingling, or if you are injured. If any of those occur, delaying your visit to a spine doctor may cause the injury or condition to worsen.
So what signs should you look out for to indicate it may be time to see a spine doctor? Pain that gets worse when you hold your head in one place for a long period, muscle tightness or spasms, decreased ability to move your head or a headache.
“Every patient we see is evaluated with a blank slate, so we can first give them a diagnosis to work with,” Dr. Planalp explained. “At that point, treatment always progresses along a continuum based on treatment methods we have already tried, and what provides the most benefit with the least risk. We frequently start with physical therapy and progress to various types of injections prior to recommending surgical intervention. This is not always the case, and will require a patient specific treatment plan, but by no means do we jump to surgery on every patient.”
Many patients speak of concern they have at having to undergo a surgical procedure, but Planalp said that only a small percentage of patients require surgery. He strongly encourages patients to try other treatments first.
“It’s time to get a surgeon’s opinion when therapy and chiropractic manipulations do not provide relief, or when they recommend seeking a physician’s opinion. … A spine surgeon can offer an opinion about the anatomic basis for a patient’s symptoms and many well researched treatment options,” Planalp said.
There are corrective surgeries available that could alleviate many of the symptoms caused by next pain, but there are also nonsurgical treatments to consider, too.
Planalp suggests that going straight to a specialist that sees neck and spinal conditions and injuries on a daily basis is an effective alternative to traditional routes of going through a primary care doctor first.
“At Beacon Orthopaedics, we have developed a practice model that allows our doctors to provide specialized care as a first point of contact. We have specialists who take care of every part of the musculoskeletal system, so that even if one specialist is unable to care for a specific issue, we are able to walk them down the hall to a specialized doctor to help the patient with their problem,” he continued.
The treatment program begins with a review of medical history, conversation about problems and goals, and a thorough physical exam. The Beacon Orthopaedics team also utilizes the latest in diagnostic imaging such as X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, and other techniques.
From there, the doctors will provide a detailed treatment plan that is unique to each patient. The doctors will coordinate with the physical therapy teams to ensure that the treatments are tailored to each patient’s needs and goals.
A treatment option that is beginning to show signs of rapid success, and decreased recovery times, is that of regenerative medicine. Planalp said that includes treatments such as PRP – platelet rich plasma – injections or stem cell treatments.
In both options, the doctors use the body’s own healing power to provide targeted treatments to relieve the issue. Beacon Orthopaedics uses ultrasound and other imaging tools to inject the treatments at the exact spot they are needed, ensuring maximum effectiveness.
If surgery appears to be the option that is required, Beacon Orthopaedics is prepared to handle everything on-site at two of their locations. The Beacon Orthopaedics surgical team only treats orthopedic and spine patients, meaning that they are highly specialized to care for their patient population.
In other words, if you go in for neck surgery; the surgeon, techs, nurses, and physical therapists treating you all specialize in that field. They treated hundreds, in many cases thousands, of such procedures, making sure you’re being treated by experts in the field.
Dr. Planalp explained that since the teams are highly specialized, the care is more efficient. This enables cost savings which are passed on to patients, and can help make sure the patients get back home in a timely manner.
A big part of Dr. Planalp’s mission is to help prevent neck problems in the first place. Here are a few suggestions he had to reduce your risk:
· Correct your posture. Whenever you are standing or sitting, which is probably most of the day, be sure your shoulders are in a straight line over your hips and your ears are directly over your shoulders.
· Move frequently. If you often drive long distances or spend hours on end at your desk, get up, move around, and stretch your neck and shoulders whenever you can.
· Adjust your computer, desk, or chair. Your monitor should be at eye level. As a rule, your knees should rest slightly lower than your hips. Using your chair's armrests can help relieve tension in your neck and shoulders.
· Exercise good neck posture during phone calls. Tucking the handset or cell phone between your ear and shoulder can free up your hands, but it can result in neck pain. Using a headset or speakerphone instead can help save your cervical vertebra.
· If you smoke, consider quitting. Smoking has many documented negative effects on your health, one of which is that it can put you at higher risk of developing problems with your upper spine.
· Avoid carrying heavy bags with straps over your shoulder. The uneven weight distribution can cause neck strain.
· Sleep in a natural position. Your head and neck should be aligned with your body while you sleep. Forcing your ears in front of your shoulders or pushing your neck off-center can result in neck pain. Using a small pillow under your neck and sleeping on your back will better support spinal alignment. You can even flatten and relax your spinal muscles by using elevated pillows under your thighs.
For more information about neck and spine conditions, and available treatments, click here for Beacon Orthopaedics.