A creeping pain beginning in your lumbar or buttock area and running down the backs of your legs could mean problems with your sciatic nerve

With an estimated 40 percent of individuals experiencing lumbar radiculopathy at some point in their lives, it’s likely that you or someone you know has experienced or is experiencing this debilitating issue. Although familiar, many people still don’t fully understand what causes lumbar radiculopathy, how to identify it and the best ways to reduce its impact on our daily lives. 

What is lumbar radiculopathy or sciatica and how do I know if I have it?

Lumbar radiculopathy, sometimes referred to as sciatica, is the irritation or inflammation of the sciatic nerve, which originates from the lower lumbar areas of our backs and branch out to the buttocks and backs of our legs. The sciatic nerve plays a vital role in controlling muscles and sensations in the lower body and is the longest and widest nerve in the human body.

Lumbar radiculopathy commonly occurs in people between the ages of 30 and 50 years. It is most often associated with a shooting or radiating sensation of pain beginning in the lower back and traveling down one leg or both. This is a crucial differentiator between sciatica and other kinds of pack pain, which often do not affect the legs. Often, patients with sciatica will describe the pain as dull, aching or even burning, with some also experiencing tingling and weakness.

Even if you are experiencing these symptoms, a doctor’s assessment is needed to diagnose the condition properly. Your doctor will typically evaluate your medical history and conduct a physical exam and may even request additional tests like x-rays, an MRI or a nerve conduction study to diagnose lumbar radiculopathy effectively.

What treatments are available?

Given proper rest, lumbar radiculopathy symptoms typically dissipate in a few days or weeks without the need for medical intervention. For those with persistent pain, there are several ways to relieve this and promote the healing process. They include:

What are the causes?

In most cases, lumbar radiculopathy is caused by:

lumbar radiculopathy or sciatica and Winter Weather

With Texas recently experiencing a blast of unprecedented winter weather, an increasing number of individuals may now be experiencing lumbar radiculopathy for the first time or dealing with worsening sciatic pain. It is commonly believed that lumbar radiculopathy is compounded by cold and although this may seem like an old wive’s tale, there’s evidence that this may be the case.

Cold weather and everyday activities required while living in cold environments can dramatically impact pain – including pain caused by sciatica. Reasons pain could increase during cold snaps include:

 

As discussed, rest and typical household pain remedies can effectively manage minor onset lumbar radiculopathy; however, for many medical interventions may be required. If you are experiencing debilitating sciatic pain, our pain management experts are available for patient consultations.

During the holidays, our heads often are filled with thoughts of gifts we can give to others to make them happy and improve their lives in ways both small and large. This year, we’re thinking especially of sufferers of lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) and recommending the perfect gift they can give to themselves.

That gift is a minimally invasive procedure and scheduling it soon can bring a New Year of reduced pain and greater activity.

Spinal stenosis is the result of aging and “wear and tear” on the spine from everyday activities. These changes cause the spinal canal to narrow, which can “pinch” the nerves in the lower back and may cause pain and/or nerve damage. This is called Lumbar Spinal Stenosis.

The symptoms are many and each is an impediment to living one’s best life. They include:

One of our more popular options is VERTIFLEX®, a small implant, available in different sizes to best match the individual’s spinal anatomy. It is made of titanium, a material used for medical implants because it is lightweight with great strength. Titanium is biocompatible and reduces the risk of inflammation or rejection.

Placing the VERTIFLEX® typically takes about 30 minutes. It is implanted through a small incision in the lower back. The procedure can be performed in an outpatient surgical center and involves no tissue or bone damage and minimal blood.

After the procedure, the patient may enjoy a significant reduction in leg pain within the first few days. All post-operative care instructions should be prescribed by the physician. The doctor also will talk about limiting activity levels immediately after the procedure and how to increase activities as the healing process continues.

It’s a proven means of mitigating the pain. It’s also the best thing sufferers can do for themselves or encourage their loved ones to do.  Get back to the small things in life that matter!

Studies show that 80 percent of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. While that number is striking, what is more interesting is how many of us accept that pain is part of growing older and that there's nothing we can do about it.

It's true that there are many causes for back pain, and some of them happen with age. A narrowing of the spinal column known as spinal stenosis is one example. Arthritis, SI joint pain, and degenerative disc disease are all conditions that are more common as we get older, but none of them mean that you have to live your life in pain.

At Pain Specialists of Austin and Central Texas Pain Center, we take a different approach to treating pain. Instead of focusing only on the pain itself, we want to start by figuring out why the pain is happening. Once we have determined the cause, then we can help you find pain relief through many different interventional modalities.

The Comprehensive Approach to Pain

You've probably heard the phrase "it's a symptom of a greater problem." We can say the same about pain. Once we identify the source of what is causing your pain, we sometimes have to attack the problem from many directions. This is what we call a comprehensive approach to pain management.

It starts by having an accurate diagnosis. To get there, your Pain Specialist will get an in-depth history, perform tests, and get accurate imaging of the painful area. Armed with that information, they can then not only give you a diagnosis, but they can also recommend a course of treatment.

We create an individualized plan that is as unique as you are. Your plan might include counseling, physical therapy, minimally-invasive treatments, or a combination of all of the above. Finding the right plan is core to relieving your pain, and your Pain Specialist will work with you to ensure that it’s done the right way.

From Classic to Cutting Edge

We know that not every treatment works for every patient. That’s why we employ a broad range of options from time-tested classic interventions like injections, all the way to cutting edge minimally-invasive treatments like Kyphoplasty and spinal cord stimulation.

Renewing Your Hope

Maybe you’ve tried treatments in the past without success. Maybe you’ve even gone so far as to have a surgery that didn’t work. When these things happen, it can be easy to lose hope. But as many of our patients will tell you, you can get your life back. Call us today at 855-876-PAIN (7246) or visit PSADocs.com to get started.

Eighty percent of all Americans will experience low back pain in some point in their lives. Back pain can be disabling. It can be the result of injury, as well as illness. At Central Texas Pain Center, we provide treatment that is customized to your individual needs. Whether your pain is sharp, constant -- or if you have weakness, numbness, or tingling in your legs -- we can help.

Changes in your body come with aging, as well as with general wear and tear. These factors can make it very hard on your ligaments to keep your spine in shape. But back pain can impact people of all ages -- it's the third most common reason that people see a physician. We determine your diagnosis based on a thorough examination as well as testing. The sooner we can begin, the sooner you can get relief and get back to your everyday activities.

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Your back takes a lot of impacts and is an essential part of your daily life. In between each vertebra are your discs, which are there to help ease any impacts. They provide height, allow bending, flexion, and twisting. Think of them as the spines' shock absorbers.

As we age, our discs begin to shrink, causing more wear and tear. In some cases, this can be more severe and lead to back pain and stiffness, often caused by other underlying issues. If you are currently living with back pain from degenerative disc disease, here’s what you should know:

Common Causes

Everyone will experience some level of degeneration over time. As you age, your discs will begin to dry out, losing their ability to absorb shock. Daily movement and physical activities such as sports, can lead to tears in the outer core. An injury can lead to instability, swelling, and soreness.

Common Complications

As the condition develops, certain complications can come along, such as:

Also, your disc center can weaken, the nucleus of your disc collapses, and bone spurs can form. Early treatment is vital to reduce further damage.

Knowing the Symptoms

Your symptoms all depend on where the degenerated disc(s) are located. For some, it can be in the lower back, others the neck. Lower back pain can travel from the lower back to the buttocks and thighs. Neck pain can travel and radiate to your arms and hands. For others, it can worsen when you sit or do specific activities.

Pain may come and go; it may be nagging or severe. All of these depend on the damage that has occurred and the location of the degeneration.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The first step in diagnosing degenerative disc disease is to have a physical exam and a full review of your medical history. You will be asked to describe your pain and when it began to occur. An MRI might be scheduled to see the damage of the discs.

With proper treatment, the source of the pain can often repair itself. Treatment might include anti-inflammatory drugs, chiropractic care, and therapy. For some instances, traction or injections may be prescribed. If all non-invasive measures have been exhausted without any improvement, surgery may be necessary.

Degenerative disc disease, though natural, can often be a significant source of chronic pain. We are dedicated to helping you reduce your pain, and get back your quality of life. Call us today at (855) 876-7246 to make an appointment to discuss treatment options. You can also fill out our convenient appointment request form.

As we age, our bodies begin to feel the effects of years of wear and tear – as well as pure age-related degeneration. A perfect example is what happens if or when the spinal canal narrows. This puts pressure on the nerves that it is designed to protect. This narrowing of the spinal canal is what is known as spinal stenosis. The condition causes pain, numbness, and muscle weakness either in your neck (cervical stenosis) or lower back (lumbar stenosis). It can also cause difficulty when walking and maintaining your balance.

Not only that, but in severe cases, spinal stenosis can also impair your bladder and bowel control. If your spinal stenosis is in the lower back – the most common kind of stenosis – you may experience pain and cramping in one or both of your legs when you stand for long periods of time.

Causes of Spinal Stenosis

There are numerous causes of spinal stenosis, such as:

What Are the Treatments for the Condition?

Fortunately, there’s a variety of treatment options for those diagnosed with spinal stenosis. These include both nonsurgical and surgical alternatives; treatment is based on the cause and severity of your condition, as well as your medical history.

Classic film star Bette Davis once said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” Boy, was she right.

As we age, our bodies change and, if we’re lucky, we only develop minor aches and pains. But if you’re not that fortunate, you can develop more painful physical problems, one being lumbar stenosis.

Lumbar stenosis occurs when the vertebrae (bones), muscles and ligaments that make up the spinal column start to degenerate and the nerves in the lower back become compressed by a bulging disc, a herniated disc, a bone spur or other protrusion.

This condition often leads to symptoms such as sciatica (leg pain); claudication (leg pain with walking); or a tingling sensation, weakness or numbness that radiates from the lower back into the buttocks and legs. As these symptoms worsen, they may become debilitating.

The good news, however, is that there are multiple non-surgical and surgical options to treat lumbar stenosis. These include:

Non-invasive, non-surgical

Medication – As recommended by your doctor, anti-inflammatory medications such pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), naproxen (Aleve), and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can temporarily ease the discomfort of spinal stenosis. On a longer-term basis, antidepressants, such as amitriptyline and anti-seizure drugs like Neurontin and Lyrica, can help reduce pain caused by damaged nerves.

Physical therapy – It’s a vicious cycle:  there is a tendency among spinal stenosis sufferers to become less active to reduce their pain but that can lead to muscle weakness and even more pain. Instead, a physical therapist can introduce you to exercises aimed at enhancing the flexibility and stability of your spine, building strength and endurance, and improving your balance.

Steroid injections – Pinched nerve roots can become irritated and swollen in specific spots. Although injecting corticosteroids into that affected area won’t resolve the stenosis, it can help reduce the pain and inflammation. A word of caution, however; reliance on or receiving repeated steroid injections is known to weaken nearby bones and connective tissue. Steroid injections should not be your “go to” cure to treat lumbar stenosis.

Integrative medicine and alternative therapies – such as massage therapy, chiropractic treatment, and acupuncture – may also be used along with conventional treatments to help you manage your spinal stenosis pain.

Minimally Invasive Treatment

If these conservative measures fail to relieve your lumbar stenosis, there are minimally invasive procedures for you and your doctor to consider, one of which is a decompression procedure in which portions of the affected ligament in the back of your spinal column are removed. This increases spinal canal space and eliminates nerve root impingement.

Invasive, Surgical Procedures

If other treatments are ineffective or if you’re disabled due to your symptom, you may want to consider surgery. In fact, surgery is often the most effective way to resolve spinal stenosis symptoms. Examples of spinal stenosis surgical procedures include:

Laminectomy, which involves the removal of the back part (lamina) of the affected vertebra to ease pressure on the nerves. To maintain the spine’s strength, the vertebra may need to be linked to adjoining vertebrae using metal hardware and a bone graft.

Laminotomy, a procedure in which only a portion of the lamina is removed.

Laminoplasty. Performed on the vertebrae in the neck a laminoplasty opens up open spaces within the spinal canal to allow for placement around the spine of metal hardware to relieve pressure and pain.

Don’t let back pain slow you down. If you’re interested in or have questions about any of these treatment options, discuss them with your doctor. The doctors at Pain Specialists of Austin are dedicated to providing the pain solutions that are crucial to getting you back on your feet and doing the activities you love. To learn more about lumbar stenosis treatment options, and our pain management methods, call (855) 876-7246 for an appointment today. We have 10 convenient locations in and around Austin, Texas. You can also request an appointment online.

How Stem Cell Can Help Spine Degeneration In Spine.

The back pain resulting from spinal degeneration can get so bad that even simple movements become major ordeals. Participating in family outings can be a chore, even bending to tie your shoes may be off-limits. When you start changing your day to day life to adapt to debilitating back pain, it’s time to seek treatment.

Traditional treatments focus on reducing painful symptoms, but many patients are looking to stem cell treatment to not just stop further degeneration, but also to restore healthy tissue (cartilage) in your spinal discs. Stem cell research continues to validate the use of stem cells for treating a variety of health issues, and musculoskeletal problems are one of the main areas of focus.

The use of regenerative medicine (either platelet-rich plasma or stem cell treatment) for treating painful musculoskeletal conditions continues to gain traction. Ongoing clinical trials are looking at what works and what doesn’t, and if there might be any long-term drawbacks to treatment. Here’s what you need to know to make an informed decision about any treatments that are not currently approved by the FDA.

Basics about spine degeneration

Our spine ages just like everything else in the human body. After years of continued physical activity, cumulative trauma, weight gain, and even smoking, can cause cartilage in spinal discs to degenerate rapidly. Symptoms of spine degeneration include pain that is often made worse by movement, and numbness, tingling or weakness in your legs or arms.

Once damage has begun, it can extend to other discs, too. The spine is an intricately designed support structure, so when one area breaks down it can affect the whole thing. Current treatments are not curative – painkillers and spinal fusion surgery both have limits and drawbacks. Most significantly, none of these currently approved treatments stops the progress of spine degeneration or heals or restores the discs. 

How are stem cells different?

Stem cells make up the building blocks of our organs and vessels. All parts of our body started out as stem cells. These non-differentiated cells have the ability to replicate repeatedly and to morph into specialized types of cells.

Stem cells that are found in our adult bodies (as opposed to embryonic stem cells) are multipotent. This means they can transform into a number of different types of cells in specific organs or areas of the body. It’s important to note that our stem cells also change as we age.

What’s the theory behind stem cell treatment?

The hope is that adult stem cells once placed into the spinal disc will transform themselves into functioning cartilage. This means fresh cells, restored discs, and a cure for the degenerative disease. When injected into areas that have been ravaged by injury or degeneration, they present an opportunity for new cell and tissue growth.

Hope for the future

There are available stem cell treatments today but it’s important that you ask questions about possible side effects, or about whether or not your particular procedure has been approved by the FDA. Here are some questions you may want to ask:

Because this is a new procedure, there are not many long-term studies about the possible long-term complications associated with receiving stem cell injections in the spinal discs.

Other options

PRP or platelet-rich plasma therapy has been successfully used for patients with spine degeneration. Like with stem cell therapy, the patient’s own cells (blood cells in this case) are sampled, treated, and then injected into the area that needs treatment. The platelets contain growth factors that can promote healing and reduce inflammation. Like any new therapy, ask about whether the procedure is “off label”, meaning it is done outside of officially approved treatments, and what that means for you.

One thing is clear: there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to diagnosing chronic pain. Pain Specialists of Austin offers a comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment. If you have any type of pain, call (855) 876-7246 for an appointment today. We have 10 convenient locations in the Austin, Texas area, and you can also request an appointment online. 

Pain-relief injections are a highly effective, nonsurgical way to provide lasting relief for muscle, joint, and nerve pain. Depending on the location and source of your pain, different types of injections may be used to provide relief. Two of the most common and effective treatments are facet blocks and nerve blocks.

Facet Blocks

A facet block is an injection of local anesthetic and steroid that reduces the inflammation in the joint space of the spine. The facet joints are located in the neck, chest, and back at each vertebral level. A medial branch block is similar, but the difference is that the medication is injected outside the facet joint space near the medial branch nerves that supply the joint.

Facet blocks and medial branch blocks are typically ordered for patients who have back pain due to injury, arthritic changes in the facet joints, or stress on the spine.

The injections can be diagnostic as well as therapeutic. For example, if the pain does not disappear as a result of the block, it indicates the pain may be coming from a source other than the treated facet joints. Or, if the pain goes away for a few hours but returns and isn’t any better, it may help rule out steroids as an effective treatment.

Often, the injected steroid has a long-lasting effect on the pain. In these cases, a facet block may be repeated. Another procedure, radiofrequency lesioning, may help ensure relief that could last for years.

Facet joint injections are a common outpatient procedure that usually takes just 10-15 minutes to complete. It is performed under imaging guidance, such as fluoroscopy or a CT scan, to enable the doctor to better see the area being treated. You may notice your pain subside for a few hours immediately following the injection, due to the injected anesthetic. Then, if the procedure is successful, you’ll notice lasting relief within 48-72 hours.

Nerve Blocks

The type of nerve block performed will depend on the source and location of your pain. Two primary types are:

During the procedure, your pain management doctor will inject a local anesthetic and steroid into the affected area. Immediately after the injection you may notice that your pain has subsided or lessened considerably.

Both types of pain-relief injections, facet blocks and nerve blocks, are safe and have an extremely low risk of complications – especially when compared to surgical alternatives.

Are you tired of taking pain medication every day, only to still be in pain? If you need relief that lasts for weeks or months, we can help. Pain Specialists of Austin helps patients like you every day. To discuss your pain-relief options, call (855) 876-7246 for an appointment today. We have 10 convenient locations in and around the Austin, Texas, area. You can also request an appointment online.

Facet blocking is a treatment created to provide targeted relief for those suffering from debilitating back pain. Spinal facet joints are the small spaces located between the vertebrae of your spine. These articular processes act as stabilizing joints, allowing you to rotate, bend and move. In short, spinal facet joints provide your spine the strength and stability you need to function on a daily basis.

Sometimes though, because of accident or a chronic illness such as spinal arthritis, a facet joint becomes irritated and inflamed. This adds pressure on the bone and nerves, generating intense pain. In these circumstances, a facet block can literally change lives by providing substantial, almost immediate ongoing relief.

How is a Facet Block Performed?

After applying a local anesthetic, your doctor will use specialized imaging equipment to locate the exact facet or facets that are causing your pain. Once located, your doctor will perform the facet block using a numbing agent or steroid-based medication to block the pain signals coming from certain body regions. Depending on the number of injections, the medication used, and other factors, facet blocks can provide relief that lasts for days, weeks, even up to a few months. Sometimes multiple injections will be required to provide you relief.

Normally, facet blocks can be performed as often as three times within a six-month period. Your doctor will work with you to determine the schedule and treatment that is right for you. The facet blocks themselves actually take only minutes to perform. Most patients report relief within 48-72 hours following the procedure. Patients are advised to rest for the entire day and will require someone to drive them home after the fact block is performed.

You should also be advised that it is not uncommon to feel some soreness for a day or two after the procedure. Facet blocks have been in use for some time now and have shown very positive outcomes for the vast majority of patients.

If you have been suffering with chronic back pain, you may be a good candidate for facet blocking treatment. At Pain Specialists of Austin, we treat you as a whole person who has a life to get back to. Our only goal is to help you live as pain free as possible.

If you need help managing your pain, or would like more information about facet blocks, nerve stimulation, trigger point injections or any other pain management treatment, please schedule an appointment at one of our 10 conveniently located clinics in the Austin area. Call (855) 876-7246 or request an appointment online today. Pain Specialists of Austin – We know pain, and our specialty is stopping it.