“Your Back Is Crooked:” Straight Talk About Curved Spines

“Your Back Is Crooked:” Straight Talk About Curved Spines

There are several different types of spinal curvature. They can occur together or separately, and can easily be confused for one another. We’ve provided a brief explanation of some of the most common types of curved spines so you can get a better idea of your specific situation.

Read on for common signs that you might have a curved spine:

Do you have scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition characterized as a sideways curvature in your spine. Usually occurring during puberty, it can be associated with hip and spinal pain later in life. Left untreated, the effects of scoliosis tend to worsen and can stress your spinal discs, cause compressed nerves and lead to arthritis of the discs and spine joints due to the spine’s abnormal structure. Think about it like this: it is much easier for gravity and weight to pull down a flimsy curved wire than a perfectly straight wire. The same is true for spines!

There are two broad categories of scoliosis:

Idiopathic

Idiopathic scoliosis is scoliosis that has no known cause. In children, there are three types of idiopathic scoliosis: infantile, juvenile and adolescent. The age of the child at diagnosis determines the subtype. In adults, idiopathic scoliosis is simply pediatric scoliosis that was not defined or diagnosed until adulthood.

Non-idiopathic

Non-idiopathic scoliosis in children is generally either congenital, meaning an abnormality in their spinal development, or neuromuscular. Neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy, can cause the nerves and muscles responsible for maintaining the balance and alignment of the spine to fail, often leading to pelvic obliquity and kyphosis. In adults, non-idiopathic scoliosis is usually degenerative or related to arthritis. This type of scoliosis is caused by wear and tear on the discs in the spine that causes it to curve over time

Scoliosis curves greater than 50° will likely get bigger over time and should be monitored by an orthopedic professional. If you notice that your shirts tend to be more wrinkled on one side, that the hemline of your dress is off or that one of your shoes is more worn down, consider making an appointment with a spine specialist.

Do you hunch forward?

Everyone hated to hear “Stop slouching!” as a child but, if you hear it now, you may have developed a forward curvature in your spine known as kyphosis. Thoracic kyphosis is an exaggerated forward curvature of the upper back. It can be caused by weaknesses in the spine that allow it to compress or crack. In children, an exaggerated kyphotic curve in the thoracic spine could be associated with Scheuermann’s kyphosis. Sometimes called “Scheuermann’s Disease,” it is caused by anterior wedging of multiple vertebrae in the thoracic spine, which runs from the base of the neck down to the abdomen. In severe cases, kyphosis can cause significant pain and disfigurement.

Do you arch your back significantly?

A significant arch in your back could be a sign of swayback. Swayback is a type of spine curvature that positions your shoulders behind your hips as opposed to keeping them centered. Swayback is simply an exaggerated case of lumbar lordosis— a curvature in the lower back that increases pressure on your spine, leading to pain and (if left untreated) a limited ability to move.

Do you have posture problems?

A  number of factors can contribute to poor posture, including stress, work environment, pregnancy and obesity. But the most common culprit is your sitting habits. If you have posture problems, take steps to address the underlying causes and position your spine correctly. To get started, check out our blog 3 Exercises To Strengthen Your Shoulders & Spine. We all sit too much. Stand up and move!

Whether you have a curved spine or simply poor posture, the spine experts at the Orthopedic Institute can help you manage it. Make an appointment today to see one of the members of our Comprehensive Spine Team

Back Pain in Kids: What Parents Need to Know

Back Pain in Kids: What Parents Need to Know

The back is a complex and critical component of the human body, so being worried about back pain is a completely rational response. Because most people generally associate back pain with old age, parents are often greatly concerned when their children complain of back pain. Kids are tough, but how are you supposed to know what to do when they experience back pain?

Check out our guide of common causes for back pain in kids, so you know when to worry: 

Common Causes

The vast majority of back pain reported by children is temporary and easily managed. Here are some of back pain’s most common causes:

Back Muscle, Tendon and Ligament Injuries

Injuries to the muscles, tendons or ligaments in the back are the number one cause of back pain in children—especially if kids are involved in high-intensity sports such as gymnastics and football. These injuries are often referred to as “soft tissue injuries.” Most parents don’t realize that sprains are injuries specific to ligaments, whereas strains are injuries to tendons and muscles.

Overuse Injuries

Children tend to be incredibly active. Between sports and regular play, they use their muscles in more ways than we could possibly list here. If you have a particularly active child, their back pain has likely been caused by simple overuse of their back, which they should recover from quickly.

Muscle Fatigue

Following long days of sitting in desks and carrying heavy book bags at school, children can begin to feel muscle fatigue. The strong strap muscles in the back help to keep us erect and standing tall throughout the day. The fatigue of these muscles, caused consistent strain throughout the school day, can lead to pack pain in students.

When to See a Specialist

One of the most important things to know about back pain in children is what back pain signs are cause for concern. Here are a few key signals that your child’s back pain may be something more serious:

Pain, Weakness or Numbness in the Legs

This is one of the most serious signs that your child’s back pain may be something more. If your child is experiencing pain, weakness or numbness in their legs, they may have a disc herniation, a epidural abscess or, in extreme cases, a tumor. If your child is experiencing these symptoms, bring them in to see a physician at the Orthopedic Institute.

Pain Persists Over Time

Another sign that your child’s back pain may be something more serious is persistence over time—especially following a traumatic injury. Pain that lasts beyond several weeks may be a sign of a more serious, ongoing spinal issue that needs surgical intervention.

Doesn’t Respond to Pain Relievers

When your child’s back pain doesn’t respond to common pain treatments, such as rest, ice and NSAID pain relievers (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.) it may be a sign that their back pain is more significant than a common play-related injury. If your child experiences significant pain that is unaided by pain relievers, you should consult with a physician—especially if that pain keeps them up at night.

Back Pain Accompanied by a Fever

If your child’s back pain is joined by a fever, it may be indicative of an infective process. If the back pain is ruled to be caused by an infection, your child may be prescribed antibiotics to help their body combat the infection. Spinal infections are also common amongst intravenous drug abusers.

Back Pain with a History of Cancer

If your family or your child specifically have a history of cancer, it should be a key consideration when experiencing back pain. Back pain caused by cancer is often accompanied with unintended weight loss. If your child experiences back pain that is unrelenting and worsens at night, see a doctor as soon as possible to ensure that they don’t have a tumor or metastasis to the spine—especially if that pain is accompanied by unexplained weight loss.

If you want your child to see someone about their back pain right away, the Orthopedic Institute’s Walk-In Clinic can help. Find out why a walk-in visit may be beneficial. Otherwise, make an appointment to see one of our pediatric back specialists, Dr. Carlson, Dr. Geisinger or Dr. Wingate

10 Facts About Microdisectomy for Leg Pain & Weakness

10 Facts About Microdisectomy for Leg Pain & Weakness

microdisectomy is a relatively common procedure used to alleviate leg pain, weakness and, occasionally, pain in the lower back. For some patients, back surgery can be a frightening concept—so we’ve put together a list of facts that you should know about the use of microdisectomies to correct back pain and weakness.

Read on for 10 facts about microdisectomies for leg pain and weakness.

1. The Procedure Can Be Minimally Invasive

While there are different surgical methods for microdisectomies, they are generally minimally invasive—often utilizing a surgical microscope and performed through a small one inch incision in the lower back.

2. It Removes the Herniated Portion the Disc

After making the incision in the spine, the surgeon removes the membrane over the nerve root and carefully retracts the nerves from the herniated disc in order to remove the source of pressure on the nerve root.

3. It Usually Offers Immediate Relief from Leg Pain

The purpose of a microdisectomy is to remove a small portion of the herniated disc in your spine that is placing pressure on the nerve root. Removing pressure on the nerve root will often completely remove the source of the pain and patients generally feel pain relief immediately following the procedure.

4. Recovery May Take Months for Neurological Symptoms

When the nerve root is damaged by the herniated disc, it may lead to numbness, weakness or other neurological symptoms in the leg or foot. Following the surgery, it may take months for the nerve root to fully heal and for these symptoms to subside.

5. You Should Try NSAIDs and Physical Therapy First

Patients should generally only consider surgical intervention when alternative treatment options, such as oral steroids, NSAIDs and physical therapy have failed to address their pain.

6. The Procedure Is Up to 95% Effective for Sciatica Pain

According to the Spine Institute of San Diego,  the success rate of micodisectomies approaches 95% for appropriately chosen patients. This translates to high rate of success and pain relief for those experiencing pain, weakness or numbness in their legs.

7. Most People Leave the Hospital Within 24 Hours

Because the procedure is minimally invasive, many patients who undergo a microdisectomy are able to go home within 24 hours of their procedure—often on the same day.

8. It is Sometimes Referred to as “Microdecompression”

Some people refer to a microdisecotomy as a microdecompression due to the procedure’s decompression of the nerve root.

9. A Microdisectomy is Different Than a Disectomy

While disectomies and microdisectomies are both surgeries involving the partial or complete surgical removal of an intervertebral disc, they are two separate procedures. The “micro” in microdisctomy refers to the use of microscopic magnification, which allows for smaller incisions and a less-invasive surgery overall.

10. Roughly 5% of Patients Develop a Recurrent Herniation

While microdisectomies have an incredibly high rate of success at alleviating leg pain in patients, one of the most common complications is a recurrent disc herniation—which may require another procedure to correct.

If you suspect that you may be in need of a microdisectomy to alleviate pain, weakness or numbness in your legs, make an appointment today to meet with one of the members of the comprehensive spine team at the Orthopedic Institute. 

From Compressed Vertebrae to Complete Relief: Yvonne's Kyphoplasty Story

From Compressed Vertebrae to Complete Relief: Yvonne’s Kyphoplasty Story

Yvonne Meyer had been dealing with tremendous pain in her back for three months when she came into the Orthopedic Institute. In July of 2018, the 79-year-old Cottonwood, Minnesota resident fell while visiting a family member and suffered a compressed vertebrae. The fall left her with unimaginable pain that kept her up at night.

“The pain in my back was so bad—I just couldn’t stand it.”

Yvonne — who has undergone more than 20 surgeries for other health issues — is no stranger to pain, but none of the medication she was prescribed brought her relief from the unbearable pain she was experiencing in her back. In October, after exhausting her other options, Yvonne came in to the Orthopedic Institute to see Dr. Walter O. Carlson, who recommended she have the kyphoplasty procedure done on her compressed vertebrae.

Kyphoplasty is a procedure that relieves pain by repairing compressed vertebrae back to their original shape. To do this, doctors fill the collapsed portion of the vertebrae with bone filler that sets and hardens completely over 3 months to restore the bone back to its original pre-injury height. While Yvonne’s compressed vertebrae resulted from a fall, many patients require kyphoplasty to repair damage done by osteoporosis.

“One of the best surgeries I’ve ever had”

After the procedure, Yvonne reports feeling a world of difference. “I didn’t have to take the pills very much,” she said. Along with the seemingly immediate relief in her pain, Yvonne loved how efficient the surgery was—citing Dr. Carlson’s work as major contributor to the ease of the surgery. She says Dr. Carlson is to credit in her positive experience. “The procedure was fast. He’s a very good doctor with a great sense of humor.”

“Getting an IV in my arm took longer than the surgery.”

In the time since she underwent the kyphoplasty procedure, Yvonne has been able to get back to doing the things that she loves without feeling constant pain from a compressed vertebrae. While she hopes she doesn’t need to book another serious appointment anytime soon, she’s happy with her results. “My procedure was tremendous. Of the more than 20 surgeries I’ve had throughout my life, this was the best.”

Compressed vertebrae can cause intense pain in your spine. If you suspect your pain is caused by a compressed vertebrae, make an appointment to meet with one of the spine specialists at the Orthopedic Institute. 

When Should You See a Doctor for Neck Pain?

When Should You See a Doctor for Neck Pain?

Your spine is important and, when you’re experiencing chronic neck pain, it can be scary. How do you know when neck pain crosses the line from being “a pain in the neck” to something more serious?

Check out this quick reference guide for common causes of neck pain and when it’s time to see a doctor. 

Common Neck Pain Causes

The tricky thing about neck pain is that it can have a number of causes. Most of the time it’s temporary and could go away with something as simple as a good night’s sleep or a dose of over-the-counter pain medication. Common causes include:

  • Tension headaches: Tension headaches are an incredibly common brand of headache and they are often associated with pain and tenderness in the neck.
  • Sleep position: Sleeping in a position where your head lacks support and your neck is strained can often cause neck pain. To avoid neck pain from sleep, try sleeping on your back. You might also need a new mattress or pillow for additional support.
  • Looking up and down: People tend to hold their cellphones too low and situate their televisions too high. This can lead to looking up or down for extended periods of time, which can cause neck pain.
  • Using the phone: While pinching your phone between your ear and your might be a convenient way to hold a conversation while keeping your hands free, this practice can put strain on your neck.
  • Dehydration: The discs in your spine that separate your vertebrae need hydration. If your body is dehydrated, these spongy discs become less spongy, which can lead to neck pain.
  • Carrying heavy objects: Carrying too much weight in one hand, such as in a briefcase or purse, can put undue strain on your shoulders, back and neck.
  • Posture: Sitting in a slouched position with your head in front of your shoulders can put a greater strain on your neck.

Serious Neck Pain Causes

While neck pain often results from less-serious conditions such as slouching or dehydration, there are a number of serious medical conditions that can cause neck pain as well. If you’re experiencing serious neck pain, you may want to consider seeing a spine specialist at the Orthopedic Institute.

  • Worn joints: Just like other joints in your body, the padding between your vertebrae can wear down with age. This can cause bone spurs which can affect your joint motion and cause pain.
  • Injuries: Rear-end auto collisions can result in whiplash injury, which occurs when the head is jerked backward and then forward, straining the soft tissues of the neck. Strains or sprains to the neck after an auto accident may not be immediately evident.  Symptoms may start or intensify in the days after the accident but generally are short lived and treated with simple conservative measures such as ice, heat, over the counter anti-inflammatories, muscle stimulation or a exercise/therapy program.
  • Disease: Certain diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer or other inflammatory conditions can cause pain and stiffness in the neck.  If you have persistent symptoms and family history of auto-immune diseases you may want to contact your physician.
  • Nerve compression: The disks in your spine that separate your vertebrae are soft on the inside with a tough exterior on the outside. A herniated disk occurs when the softer inside ruptures through the tougher exterior. A herniated disk in your neck may also cause pain in your shoulder or arm. Herniated disks, along with bone spurs in the vertebrae of your neck, can press on the spinal nerves or the spinal cord, resulting in pain, weakness or numbness and tingling

If you have severe, lasting pain, and signs that may indicate one of the more serious causes of neck pain mentioned above, it’s time to Stand Up For Your Spine. Learn more about our experienced neck and back team

What Is DRG Stimulation and How Can It Help Your Pain?

What Is DRG Stimulation and How Can It Help Your Pain?

Chronic pain in the lower body is a relatively common problem, especially among patients with neuropathic pain, or pain caused by damage to the nervous system. DRG Stimulation is a revolutionary form of pain management that can target and prevent pain signals from being transmitted. 

Learn more about your DRG (yes, you have one) and this revolutionary new treatment option for pain. 

What is the DRG?

The dorsal root ganglion, or DRG, is an easily accessible group of nerve cell bodies in your spine that is tasked with transmitting pain signals from the lower half of your body to your brain. Damage to your DRG can cause serious and persistent neuropathic pain that does not respond to traditional treatments, such as spinal cord stimulation (SCS). DRG stimulation is a way to specifically target and manage this pain.

What is DRG stimulation?

DRG Stimulation is a form of targeted neuromodulation similar to spinal cord stimulation (SCS) procedures. Neuromodulation is the strategic electrical stimulation of certain parts of your nervous system to modify any abnormal neural pathways. The key difference between spinal cord stimulation and DRG stimulation is that, while spinal cord stimulation targets the spinal cord, DRG Stimulation targets the dorsal root ganglion in particular.

DRG stimulation is performed by implanting thin wires connected to a generator on your DRG. The generator is controlled by the patient and sends electrical pulses through the wires to specific regions of your DRG. This signal interrupts pain signal transmission to your brain and helps to alleviate pain.

How Can DRG stimulation help my pain?

For people with neuropathic pain, DRG stimulation can effectively block pain signals without the need for medication. The key benefit of DRG stimulation is that it provides specific and targeted pain relief to the lower body. Compared to spinal cord stimulation, DRG stimulation is associated with fewer instances of paresthesia, or tingling in the lower body. Additionally, pain relief through DRG stimulation doesn’t diminish over time, and – because DRG stimulation requires less energy – there’s more time between generator charges.

Sheku’s story

As a lifelong athlete and former University of Sioux Falls lineman, Sheku Bannister (shown here with his wife Amanda) was no stranger to powering through pain. But nothing prepared him for life with chronic pain.

It all started in 2015 when Sheku fell three stories off a roof and severely injured his right foot and ankle, resulting in plates and pins—and chronic pain. Over one year after surgery he still didn’t have relief and was beginning to lose hope.

“I was in a dark place. The medication wasn’t working. It was a nightmare,” he said.Sheku was referred to Dr. James T. Brunz at the Orthopedic Institute. “I was fighting to get back to normal,” he said. But fighting didn’t include taking long-term pain medications, especially after watching several family members struggle with drug addiction. When Dr. Brunz suggested DRG Stimulation, Sheku considered his options. “I didn’t want another surgery,” he said. “But I decided  to take things into my hands and talk to the physicians I could trust. Dr. Brunz was one of them.”

“I would recommend DRG Stimulation to anyone—it’s a very good option.”

In March of 2018, Sheku underwent DRG Stimulation. “I don’t know how to express the increase in quality of life, let alone the reduction in pain,” he said. “It’s a day and night difference from before.”

“Dr. Brunz is amazing, but so is the OI staff across the board. Nurses, therapists, office staff… everyone I came in contact with gave me nothing but acceptance and care. They were always willing to find an answer. I’d given up on myself, but they never did.”

“The pain didn’t just affect me—it affected my family, friends… everything. It’s so nice to get back to being Sheku again.”

Since the DRG Stimulation procedure, Sheku has been able to get back to life with his wife and kids. He’s also passionate about his motivational YouTube channel dedicated to helping others overcome obstacles.

If you have had chronic pain in your lower body for six or more months, you may be an ideal candidate for DRG Stimulation with Dr. James Brunz.

Tech-Related Workplace Injuries (and How to Prevent Them)

Tech-Related Workplace Injuries (and How to Prevent Them)

The constant presence of computers in the workplace has made many of our lives easier. Emails take the place of meetings, video conferences take the place of long, cross-country trips, and extensive print research is accomplished with one search in Google. But like most new trends, there are some downsides.

Take a look at our list of the most common, tech-related workplace injuries, as well as tips on how to avoid them.

Repetitive Strain Injuries

Repetitive Strain Injuries, or RSI, are some of the most common injuries in today’s tech-infused workplaces. If you spend most of your day repeating the same motions over and over, such as typing or using a touch screen, you could be at risk of placing too much force on our muscles or joints. Some common tech-related types of RSI are carpal tunnel (numbness or tingling in the hand or arm caused by a pinched wrist nerve) and trigger finger, (inflamed tendons in the finger causing a finger or thumb to lock when bent).

These conditions become much more likely the more often you repeat the same activity over and over, without taking breaks. Be sure to not only get up from your desk at least once an hour, but also shake out your hands and wrists for a minute or two. If the pain persists, visit our hand specialists at Orthopedic Institute.

Hearing Loss

Ear buds are everywhere these days. As many workplaces move away from individual offices and towards an open concept layout, using headphones is a new form of professional manners. And of course, ear buds are by far the most popular choice. The problem is that ear buds, more than over the ear headphones, are causing widespread hearing damage. Not only that, but this hearing loss is irreversible.

Even moderate volume can cause hearing loss if you listen to it for too long. Follow the 60/60 rule: Keep your volume below 60% for less than 60 minutes per day.

Muscle Pain and Headaches

Work can be stressful. We all know that. But we may not realize the physical effects that constant stress can have on your body. When you’re stressed, your body produces excess hormones that affect muscle tension and pain sensitivity. So not only will you experience pain from holding your muscles tight all day, you will feel that pain even more intensely than normal.

And of course, lack of sleep and staring at a computer screen all day can lead to persistent headaches.

The best ways to relieve the pain are to relieve stress in your life. Start by getting sleep! Be sure to turn off your electronic devices at least an hour before bed to make sure you maintain healthy sleep patterns. Similarly, small changes such as exercise and massages can help keep stress levels down. If muscle pain persists, call us to discuss options such as acupuncture and physical therapy.


Stay aware of the way computer, tablet and cell phone usage is impacting your body, and you can keep yourself healthy as well as productive.

How the Way You Sleep Affects Your Orthopedic Help

How the Way You Sleep Affects Your Orthopedic Health

It’s no secret that drifting off to dreamland (and enjoying the right amount of quality sleep) is essential to overall health. But the position you sleep in, the mattress you sleep on and pillow you sleep with – make a big difference. Whether you’re a back, side or stomach sleeper … how you curl up at night could lead to neck or back pain in the morning.

Get comfortable, and learn how sleep position affects your orthopedic health. 

Sleeping on your stomach

This is a comfortable position for many people, but if you’re already prone to lower back problems it’s best to avoid it. Most of your weight is in the middle of your body. So, in some cases, sleeping on your stomach can cause the lower region of your spine (the lumbar area) to extend beyond normal limits. Your neck will also be twisted out of alignment when you turn your head to the side to breathe. When you sleep this way you’re definitely upping your odds of waking up with a sore neck, back or shoulders. Can’t sleep any other way? Put a thin pillow under your head – or better yet, no pillow at all. That will reduce the angle of strain on your neck. For your back, try putting a pillow under your lower back to reduce the strain on lumbar region.

Sleeping on your back

If your spine could talk, it would say “sleep on your back.” Why? Because sleeping this way evenly distributes your weight and avoids unnatural curving of your spine. That said, it can be less comfortable than other sleeping positions. Just remember, with your head, neck and spine in alignment, you can get a better rest and wake up refreshed! If you give it a try, pay attention to your pillows: adding a small pillow under your head and neck (not your shoulders) helps maintain a neutral position to the mattress. Pillow support is essential for avoiding or alleviating back pain and spinal problems. Sleeping on your back can cause snoring. Try elevating your body with a cushioned foam wedge pillow or by using an adjustable bed. It will allow for easier breathing and (hopefully) less snoring.

Sleeping on your side

Odds are you like sleeping on your side—most of us do! This common position is especially good for people with breathing problems. If you are experiencing back or neck pain, try taking the fetal position while sleeping this way. Tuck both your legs (not just one) up toward your chest. This will keep your back naturally arched. Next, put a small pillow between your knees to help take some strain off of your lower back and promote hip alignment. Again, it’s all about pillow placement. Make sure you’re keeping your head, neck and spine as naturally aligned as possible to prevent pain when you wake up.

If you have neck pain…

Your spine needs to be in a neutral position while you sleep. If you’re a stomach or side sleeper, try sleeping on your back. Also, pay attention to your pillows. If the pillow does not allow your head to sink in or if it has too much loft, it could be forcing your neck into sustained forward bending and causing pain. The main function of the pillow is to support the neck and head. Therefore it should fill the natural hollow in the neck between the head for easy adjustments for your sleep style. If you must sleep on your side, consider purchasing a down or artificial down pillow for side sleepers, which contains more fill. You could also combine two pillows to help fill the space between your neck and shoulder.

If you have back pain…

Your mattress or sleep position may be the cause of the pain. First, consider the age of your bed. Sagging mattresses should be replaced to give you the best lumbar support. Your mattress should not be to firm or too soft, a medium-firm good quality mattress usually works best for most people with back pain. Remember, your spine needs to be supported in a neutral position. If lying on your back produces low back pain, and there are no observable sags in your mattress, try placing a pillow placed under your knees when you sleep to achieve the neutral position. If that has no effect, a small pillow or a towel roll that is 1 to 1 ¼ inches compressed can be placed in the small of the back. Are you a side sleeper? Try placing the pillow or towel roll between your knees and a pillow behind your back.

There is not any one sleep position that will work for everyone. If you are experiencing pain without relief, make an appointment for an evaluation with our physical therapy team.

3 Exercises to Strengthen Your Shoulders and Spine

3 Exercises To Strengthen Your Shoulders & Spine

Our arms and shoulders assist us with almost all of our daily activities, so it’s easy to see why strong shoulder muscles are so important! Weak shoulders can increase your risk for injury at the gym or going about your day lifting kids, household items, grocery bags and more. Poor posture can also lead to neck and back pain.

Don’t let back pain and decreased range of motion sneak up on you. Try these three, easy-to-do shoulder and spine exercises at home. No equipment necessary.

1. Wall Angels

This upper-body mobility exercise not only strengthens the muscles responsible for holding your shoulders back (and improving your posture), it can also help maintain full range of motion. Our physical therapists recommend wall angels for everything from shoulder injury rehabilitation to improving minor back and neck pain.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, 6-12 inches away from the wall, and your back against the wall. Your arms should be resting at your sides.
  • Bend your elbows 90 degrees and rotate your arms so that your shoulders, arms and back of your hands are touching the wall in a “hands up” position.
  • Slowly move your arms up and over your head to form a wide “V” while maintaining contact between your elbows, hands and the wall. Only go as high as you can to keep the backs of your hands and elbows in constant contact with the wall.
  • Bend your elbows and lower your arms back to the starting positions by actively pulling your shoulder blades down.
  • Raise and lower your arms like this for two sets of 15 reps. You should feel your muscles working between your shoulder blades.

2. Quadruped Scapular Retraction

Never heard of “scapular retraction?” Essentially, it’s pulling your shoulder blades (scapulae) back to improve posture and strengthen your shoulders. Modern life, and all of our sitting and/or hunching over computers and smartphones, has made us all much more likely to slump our shoulders.

  • Start on all fours with your wrists stacked directly under your shoulders, and your knees stacked directly under your hips. This creates a “neutral” spine.
  • Push into the ground, round your back slightly, and actively pull your shoulder blades together. Try to keep your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears.
  • Repeat 10-12 times for 1-2 sets.

3. Lateral Arm Raise

This simple exercise can be done while standing or sitting, and with or without hand weights. You will strengthen your lateral deltoid muscles on the side of your shoulders, as well as the muscles in your upper back.

  • Stand straight with your feet hip distance apart and your arms down at your sides.
  • With or without weights, raise both arms to the side with palms facing down until they are at shoulder level and parallel to the floor.
  • Hold the position for one second and slowly lower your arms.
  • Repeat for two sets of 10-12 reps.
3 Alternative Non-Surgical Treatments for Head & Neck Pain

5 Alternative Non-Surgical Treatments for Head & Neck Pain

Head and neck pain can occur for a variety of reasons. Some pain will go away with time, or through a change in lifestyle or behavior. But if you’re dealing with head and neck pain that lasts more than a few days and doesn’t improve with over-the-counter pain medicine, it’s time to make an appointment with one of our pain management specialists for diagnosis and treatment.    

Depending on the cause of your head and neck pain, these five non-surgical treatments might be effective for you. 

1. Physical Therapy

From muscle tenderness, tension and tightness to poor posture – certain types of headaches and neck pain can be relieved through physical therapy treatments. A trained physical therapist can design an exercise plan that strengthens your neck muscles and takes pressure off your spine. They might also apply heat or cold pads during a therapy session to either increase blood flow and range of motion (heat) or decrease blood flow and inflammation (cold). Still other physical therapy treatments could include therapeutic massage, chiropractic treatment and/or neck-strengthening exercises you can do at home.

2. Trigger Point Injections

Trigger points are areas in muscle that are very irritable, and, when pressed, produce a twitch within the affected muscle. A trigger point may produce not only pain in the affected muscle, but in a distant area, including locations in the head and neck, called referred pain. Trigger points may develop because of trauma, injury, inflammation, or other factors. A trigger point injection is a procedure where a medication, usually a local anesthetic, is injected into the painful muscle to provide relief. The pain relief should be experienced not only in the affected muscle, but in the area of referred pain as well.

3. Anti-Inflammatory Steroid Injections

If your pain is being cause by inflammation around the nerves in your neck, a cervical epidural steroid injection can help by “coating” the nerves in the area. Patients experiencing a herniated disc, a degenerated disc, osteoarthritis or inflammation that reduces the space around the nerves can benefit from this type of treatment. The goal of the injection is to reduce inflammation and associated nerve pain – and the injection itself is given with the patient laying face down under local anesthetic.

4. Botox injections

Think BOTOX® is just for wrinkles? Think again. It can be effective for the treatment of adults with cervical dystonia—a condition that causes the muscles in your neck to tighten or spasm without your control. BOTOX injections can reduce the severity of abnormal head position and neck pain. If you have chronic migraines (≥ 15 days per month) with headache lasting 4 hours a day or longer, this treatment could also be right for you.

 5. Radiofrequency Ablation (Rhizotomy)

Yes, it sounds complicated. But in reality, Radiofrequency Ablation (or RFA) is a non-surgical, outpatient therapy procedure that’s used to help patients with chronic head and neck pain related to spinal arthritis.  As with any non-surgical treatment, this procedure is only recommended after thorough examination and diagnosis. During the RFA procedure, heat is delivered to targeted nerve tissues, preventing pain signals from reaching the brain.

If you or a loved one are experiencing chronic head or neck pain, don’t wait. Learn more about our pain management program and all the options available to you at Orthopedic Institute.