Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan recently spoke at a community seminar on how our spine can change as we age. He touched on different ways you can minimize the impact of aging as well as some surgical and non-surgical techniques. The following covers some of the highlights of the seminar.

How often does back pain affect the average person?

  • 18.6% are affected annually
  • 26.8% resolve the problem
  • 28.7% have pain that returns
  • 80% experience mild pain
  • 40.2% have persistent back pain

Why should you care?

Back pain can cause you to have a poorer quality of life, increased health care costs, loss of work time, and it makes you less productive.

What causes our spine to age?

“Control what you can control” because there are some things you can’t prevent such as:

  • Genetics
  • The natural aging process
  • Micro-traumas we experience throughout our life

On the other hand, we do have a great amount of control over our lifestyle habits such as:

  • Smoking
  • Nutritional choices
  • Alcohol intake
  • Fitness

There are things you can also do when driving long distances. Taking periodic breaks or using a pillow for your lower back will help maintain the normal curvature of your spine. Nonsurgical treatments can relieve most spine pain. Surgery may be necessary for structural problems.

Degenerative Disc Disease

MRI, patient examination, CT scan (in some cases, to rule out other diagnoses), and discography are all used to diagnose degenerative disc disease. Dr. Russo stresses the importance of nonoperative care. You should always look into the nonsurgical approaches before resorting to spine surgery.  Dr. Russo also praised OAM’s physical therapists for their work educating patients in nonoperative spine treatments. Some of the treatments they suggest are regular exercise, walking, low-impact aerobics, and trunk strengthening. Other nonoperative options include rest for acute, low back pain, and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAID). If nonsurgical care is not an option, the following treatments may be:

  • Fusion – removal of the disc and replacement with a bone graft, a cage-filled bone graft, or a bone graft substitute (anterior, posterior, or combined approach)
  • Arthroplasty – articulating disc replacement

There were several other spine issues that Dr. Russo covered such as Herniated Nucleus Pulposus (herniated disc), Spinal Stenosis (narrowing of spine), and Spondylolisthesis (fracture or defect in the vertebra).

To Aid in Prevention

  • Great nutrition
  • Superb fitness (1 hour per day: 30 minutes core, 30 minutes aerobics, balance training)
  • Avoid tobacco use
  • Limit alcohol use

Who May Need Surgery

If you have:

  • Unremitting pain
  • Poor balance
  • Nerve pressure
  • Progressive curvature

How to Choose a Surgeon

There are many competent and skilled surgeons to choose from but the following may help guide you.

  • Someone who will listen to your concerns
  • Answers all your questions
  • Strong understanding of nonoperative care
  • Experienced in performing the specific procedure needed
  • Willing to share their outcomes

To download the full presentation on The Aging Spine, Click here:  http://bit.ly/K67UOD (PowerPoint 14.3MB) For details on how Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan can help you live pain-free, call us today at 616-459-7101.