5 Key Symptoms of a Neck Injury

5 Key Symptoms of a Neck Injury

Neck pain is a common problem that about two-thirds of the population experience at some point. After all, your cervical spine and supporting muscles and ligaments support a head that weighs approximately 15 pounds. Due to the flexible but complex structure of your neck, it’s quite vulnerable to injury, both serious and minor. Tracking down the source of neck pain and whether injury is present, though, can be difficult.

To help you out, here are several symptoms that can stem from a neck injury.

General Stiffness

Stiffness is a symptom of many neck injuries. Whether it’s whiplash or a minor strain, your neck may experience some level of stiffness. This symptom alone, though, isn’t reason to worry about neck injury. The remedy could be as simple as icing your neck or doing some stretches. You might also be experiencing symptoms of arthritis.

To help ease neck stiffness, try doing 10-15 reps of these stretches:

  • Tilting your head to each shoulder
  • Rolling your shoulders backward
  • Pressing your shoulder blades together

Want more at-home pain relief ideas? Download our free book: Home Remedies for Back and Neck Pain.

Decreased Range of Motion

Neck injuries can also result in less range of motion – which is often related to general stiffness symptoms above.

If you can’t quite tilt your head all the way in a certain direction—as much as you could before the pain began—you’ve lost range of motion. This can occur after strains and sprains but isn’t cause for alarm if the symptom recedes after a few days. If your range of motion doesn’t return after weeks or you can’t move your head at all, then it’s time to consider a visit to the doctor’s office.

Headaches and Dizziness

When your head is abruptly snapped backward and/or forward with quick force, it can cause what’s known as whiplash. When you experience whiplash, muscles and ligaments stretch beyond their typical ranges of motion. In technical terms, you experience a hyperextension when your neck extends backward beyond its normal limits and hyperflexion when it does so in a forward motion.

Whiplash can result in headaches at the base of the skull, dizziness and blurred vision. Aching and stiffness can also occur. It’s not unusual for symptoms to disappear and then reappear within a few days of the injury.

Sprains and Strains

A sudden jolt to your neck from a hard fall or serious collision, such as a car accident, can result in stretched ligaments and muscles in your neck. Any pain in the back of the neck that worsens with movement or muscle spasms near the upper shoulder can be indicators of a neck sprain or strain, especially if it peaks about a day after the injury occurred. A headache toward the back of the head and decreased range of motion are also signs of a neck sprain or strain.

Tingling and Numbness

One of the more concerning possible symptoms of neck injuries is tingling and numbness in limbs. If you start to feel a numbing sensation or that “pins and needles” feeling in your arms or legs after a neck injury, then it’s best to consult a doctor. Most neck injuries have the potential to produce this symptom but typically only in more severe instances. Usually these symptoms will resolve with non-surgical treatments.

Sources: OrthoInfo, Healthline, Spine Universe

How to Detect Spinal Conditions in Your Children

How to Detect Spinal Conditions in Your Children

While there’s no exact science when it comes to parental detection of spinal conditions in your children, there are some early warning signs that you can look out for. In fact, the earlier you notice changes in your child’s back, posture or gait, the easier it is to treat, oftentimes.

Here are four ways in which spinal conditions can be detected in your children.


It’s the classic test you likely experienced yourself at some point in school or at home—a test of your ability to bend is a great way to determine early symptoms of conditions such as scoliosis. Traditionally, this test entails standing with arms forward and hands together, bending at the waist and toe-touching. A parent or physician or nurse can then do a check to see if anything feels uneven or asymmetrical. This is a good starter test that can be performed at home to potentially detect early signals of a spinal condition.


Noticeable changes in posture can also be an early sign parents should take note of in their children. While not always indicative of a spinal condition, it can be a symptom that should be looked into by a physician or nurse. If hip or shoulder placement seems uneven, your child begins to experience a marked slouch or he or she encounters shoulder, waist or hip asymmetry, it might require an orthopedic appointment confirm the cause.

Physical Symptoms

Certain types of spinal conditions carry symptoms beyond back asymmetry. In fact, young children may experience fatigue, shooting pains, feverish conditions or trouble with walking. Pain-related sleepless nights in children younger than six can be a sign it’s time to set up an appointment. (Some degree of back pain is more common in very active teenage children—but ongoing symptoms, such as weakness or increased pain, are also a sign it’s time to take your adolescent into an orthopedic clinic.)

Lab Testing

Some of the recommended clinical tests that may be ordered for your child to detect spinal conditions could include scanning and X-rays, which can pinpoint fractures, nerve damage or more chronic conditions, and blood tests, which can help to find inflammations and infections. Labs are most widely used to assess for infection and vitamin D deficiency—another potential cause of joint or muscle pain. These tests can help to rule out or identify conditions and assist your doctor in determining a treatment plan.

Ready to see our new spinal physician Dr. Wingate?

Orthopedic Spine Conditions You Should Know About

Orthopedic Spine Conditions You Should Know About

Back pain can be caused by a variety of conditions—while osteoporosis and arthritis are traditionally orthopedic conditions that you hear a lot about, there are other potential causes of your pain of which you should be aware.

Here are four potential orthopedic conditions that you should know about.


You’ve probably heard someone say something along the lines of “my sciatica is acting up” at one point or another—but what does this condition actually entail? First of all, sciatica is more of a symptom than it is an out-and-out condition. It’s often a sign of other conditions, such as the ones below. It will typically involve a consistent pain, usually at its worst when a person is sitting, in the leg and rear. That achiness or feeling of weakness can make rising from a seated position uncomfortable. Pain emanating through the sciatic nerve can cause pain from the lower back all the way down one side of your lower body to your feet.

Bonus Fact: While it’s more common among middle-aged individuals, younger people aren’t immune sciatic pain—people as young as their 20s can experience this type of nerve pain. It affects nearly half of the population at some point in their lives, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. In young people, sciatica is most commonly caused by disc herniation.

Degenerative Disc Disease

The style of the condition can vary, but generally speaking, degenerative disc disease (or “DDD”) is caused by inflammation of an aging or “degenerating” disc in the spine. Perhaps the most painful symptom of the condition is the reflex spasm that often occurs when your body is attempting to stabilize its inflamed spine. While it may not always be clear that DDD is evident right away, back or neck pain that can last several days or that becomes ongoing can be an early warning sign. Bending over and picking up objects can also spur the related pain.

Bonus Fact: This condition primarily affects people as they age (hence, “degenerative”)—according to the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch, by 50 years old, more than 80 percent of people will start to experience DDD. (But not all will have symptoms at first or at all.)

SI Joint Dysfunction

The sacroiliac joint, or “SI joint,” is situated at the base of your lumbar—essentially in the vicinity of your tailbone. It connects your spine to your pelvis. When this joint is irritated or inflamed, it can cause pain in your lumbar and one or both of your legs. Dysfunction can set it in from several causes, but two common ones are overdoing lower back movement or lack of activity in your SI joint. Injections are often considered a good way to determine an SI joint dysfunction is present.

Bonus Fact: While SI joint dysfunction can affect anyone, it’s most common in younger to middle-aged females. This is due to pelvic size and hormonal differences between men and women and can be a condition spurred during pregnancy.


When young adults experience lumbar and/or leg pain, one common cause is a slippage of spinal vertebra, causing it to become uneven with the vertebra below it. This is called spondylolisthesis—it’s a condition that can have similar symptoms to other orthopedic conditions but is typically caused by an impact or injury—or spondylolysis. This type of injury can also be quite common among particularly active teenagers—especially student athletes.

Bonus Fact: According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, spondylolysis injuries appear to be most common in athletes with lower-back-heavy movement, such as winter sports, rowing and boxing.

6 Common Causes of Back Pain

6 Common Causes of Back Pain

Back pain can be detrimental both to your physical wellbeing and your ability to enjoy your day both at work and in your free time. That’s why it’s a good idea to pinpoint what’s causing your back pain so you can start to get some relief.

Here are six such causes that are common among back-pain sufferers.

Chronic Conditions

If back pain is persistent or long-term, there’s a chance you may be experiencing some sort of chronic condition. These can vary greatly depending on your genetics and your life situation, but they can include conditions such as arthritis, which can, in turn, spur stenosis or osteoporosis. These conditions typically become more prevalent with age but can be treated with physical therapy. In addition, chiropractic treatment, injections and acupuncture are among the many non-surgical treatments that can curb your back pain.


Since your back is not only made up of vertebrae but also muscle, strains are also a factor in back-related pain. A strain of a back muscle or ligament can often be traced back to overdoing it when lifting or engaging in manual labor. In fact, the less often you exercise or the less fit you are, the more likely you are to strain your back when you suddenly use those muscles for physical activity. Orthopedic Institute’s (OI) athletic training partner D1 can help you learn the best ways to use your body during physical activity. Schedule a session with a D1 trainer.

Disk Complications

Sometimes it’s not even your spine or back muscles themselves that are causing your back pain. The disks that act as cushions between the vertebrae in your spine can also be a reason you’re experiencing pain. These disks are critical for keeping your spine in good working condition, but they can sometimes bulge or rupture for a variety of reasons, including improper heavy lifting or hereditary conditions.

Bone Abnormalities

Athletes in particular may encounter pain related to certain types of abnormalities, such as spondylolysis—a crack or stress fracture in a vertebrae—and spondylolisthesis—a weakened bone shifting or slipping out of its proper place due to spondylolysis. This is particularly evident in track and field athletes (high and long jumpers), dancers and gymnasts. In many cases, symptoms will typically improve through conservative treatment, including a period of rest from sports and other strenuous activities. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended in order to relieve symptoms.


While often easier to pinpoint due to the ability to link it to a specific trauma event, injury-based back pain can often go unnoticed if what caused it seemed minor. The truth is, acute fractures can sometimes be caused by seemingly everyday things, such as a severe cough or sneeze or a minor fender bender in your vehicle. If you can link your pain back to an event such as these, a fracture may be a possible cause.

Everyday Habits

What you do in your day-to-day life can also have an adverse effect on your back. Excess weight due to unhealthy eating habits or lack of consistent exercise can put undue strain on your spine and back muscles, as well as your joints. Your posture and how you sit for prolonged periods (if you’re an office worker especially) can also be a primary cause of back pain. Your choice of footwear or the way you position yourself during sleep can even be a cause for pain.

The important thing is that your back pain can most likely be diagnosed and treated—schedule an appointment with an OI professional to get to the bottom of it.

Benefits of Radiofrequency Ablation for Your Back & Neck Arthritis

Benefits of Radiofrequency Ablation for Your Back and Neck Arthritis

Arthritis pain can keep you from enjoying hobbies you love or getting the rest you need. If you’re not interested or able to pursue advanced surgical options, there are alternatives. One such alternative is a radiofrequency ablation (RFA) also known as a “rhizotomy.”

Read on to learn more about RFA and how it can help treat your arthritis.

What is radiofrequency ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation is used to treat severe, chronic pain associated with arthritis of the spine. The procedure uses heat, concentrated on specific nerve tissues, to prevent pain signals from reaching the brain.

A physician uses X-ray guidance to direct a specialized radiofrequency needle along the targeted nerves. A small amount of electrical current is used to target the correct nerves and to help align the needle. Then radiofrequency waves are sent through the needle to heat its tip and disrupt the nerve’s ability to send signals.


  1. RFA is a minimally invasive operation and can typically be done in day-surgery clinics. Patients go home shortly after the operation.
  1. Patients are awake during the procedure (although a sedative is administered), so any risks with anesthesia are avoided.
  1. Pain can be relieved for anywhere between six months to a year.

How does it help treat arthritis?

A rhizotomy procedure can be beneficial to facet or spondylosis arthritis in a few ways. While the joint will still be arthritic, the pain will be relieved significantly. The pain relief is also considered long-lasting. The average steroid injection provides about three to four months of relief, whereas an RFA provides 10-12 months. As a result, people get an increase in mobility and can be considerably more active.

It’s also a great alternative to surgery, especially for people with certain medical complications in which they can’t have surgery or surgery hasn’t been effective in the past. Others might be too young or not have enough pain to warrant a surgery. RFA can be particularly beneficial for these people.

Free Book: Home Remedies for Back & Neck Pain

Free Guide: Home Remedies for Back & Neck Pain

We’ve all had that moment first thing in morning where neck or back pain (or a combination of the two) are making us feel like we’ll be down for the count that day. The truth is, it’s hard to remedy consistent back and neck pain without guidance from a professional who can tell you what to do and, more importantly, what not to do.

Luckily Orthopedic Institute (OI) has a book jam-packed with home remedies for just that.

“The Home Remedy Book for Back and Neck Pain” includes tips to:

  • Relieve simple back and neck pain
  • Strengthen your back
  • Make your back more flexible
  • Learn what various symptoms mean
  • Prevent future back pain problems

And best of all, all the techniques in the book are physician-approved, safe and effective.

10 Questions with Sean Magee

10 Questions with Sean Magee

We’re giving you a peek into what makes Orthopedic Institute (OI) tick by shedding some light on our best and brightest.

Today’s featured team member is Sean Magee, one of our physical therapists (PT). Sean graduated from the University of North Dakota. He has a rich 26 years of experience evaluating and treating the spine with mechanical diagnosis and therapy.

Let’s take a deeper dive into what motivates Sean and keeps him passionate about treating patients at OI. 

1. How did you decide to become a PT?

I read a job description about physical therapy in a career magazine, and I was hooked.

2. What led you to join the OI team?

I was recruited to come to Orthopedic Institute. They were looking for a physical therapist that was certified in mechanical diagnosis and therapy to start up its Spine Physical Therapy Program.

3. What is your favorite part of your job?

Utilizing mechanical diagnosis and therapy to evaluate and treat patients

4. What makes your spine therapy program different from other general physical therapy options?

Our Physical Therapists in the Spine Physical Therapy Program are certified in Mechanical Diagnosis & Therapy of the Spine through the McKenzie Institute USA. There are only three Physical Therapists in the state of South Dakota certified in Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy of the Spine, two of which are at Orthopedic Institute ( the skilled Ryan Otto, and myself).

5. What is the best part about working with patients?

Educating and empowering them to participate in their treatment plans, to achieve their goals and to prevent future exacerbations

6. If you could tell every patient one thing before they came in, what would it be?

Our highly trained staff of doctors, nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists are here to serve you and your individual orthopedic needs with the most up-to-date orthopedic care in the region. 

7. What do you feel is your number one strength as a PT?

I think my two biggest strengths are: 1. My 28 years experience in evaluating and treating spine patients, and 2. Being certified in Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy of the Spine since 1994. That certification allows me to assess patients with a standardized mechanical evaluation. Based on the results of that evaluation, I am able to infuse the patient with knowledge about their mechanical diagnosis. After that, I am able to instruct them in things such as: improving their posture, correcting their dysfunctional movement patterns, preventing future exacerbation, and developing an individualized home exercise program to decrease their pain. All of these factors work to increase their limited range of motion, to improve their strength deficits and to decrease their functional disability.

8. Why should a patient come to your spine therapy program as opposed to another program?

At the Orthopedic institute, they will be evaluated by a one of our Physical Therapists certified in Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy of the Spine. Certified clinicians take a detailed history of the patient’s symptoms and how these symptoms behave with different activities and positions throughout the day and night. Using repeated end range movements or positions and observing how their range of motion has changed, my team will be able to create an individualized treatment plan for the patient. The patient will be prescribed specific exercises and given guidance for appropriate postures and behaviors to adopt or to temporarily avoid outside of the clinic (at home & work). By learning how to self-treat their current problem, patients gain hands on knowledge to minimize the risk of recurrence and to rapidly deal with symptoms if they recur. This program is amazingly individualized and complete unlike anything else in the area.

9. How do you spend your time when you’re not at OI? 

Doing outdoor activities; spending time with family; playing with my 15-month-old grandson Lewi; reading physical therapy journals; listening to Christian music; reading the bible daily; praying for family, friends, colleagues and patients; and going to church as often as I can.

10. What is your ideal way to spend your birthday?

Spending time with family.

Experiencing spine pain? Meet with Sean and the rest of our experienced team. Make an appointment today!

5 Common Injections for Treating Orthopedic Conditions

5 Common Injections for Treating Orthopedic Conditions

Most of us have had an injection of some kind at some point in our lives, whether it’s a seasonal flu vaccine or a Novocaine shot at the dentist. But not all injections are built the same in their execution nor their purpose.

Let’s break down the six most prevalent injections you might receive when visiting Orthopedic Institute (OI).

Epidural Injection

Primary Function: Treatment of nerve pain

This injection takes place in the epidural space, directly over the compressed nerve root in the spine or neck. These types of injections are typically used in the treatment of back, neck or limb pain or inflammation that can be sourced back to nerve damage in the spine.

Facet Block Injection

Primary Function: Treatment of severe arthritis

Facet joints can be found at each segment of the spine. They help provide stability and your range of motion. These joints can become painful over time from arthritis in the spine, back injuries or other back conditions. A facet block injection is traditionally used to assist your physician in determining if facet treatment is necessary, as well as to offer continued pain reduction for the patient thanks to a steroid element.

Medial Branch Block

Primary Function: Diagnosis of facet-joint blockage

The medial branch block goes hand in hand with the facet block joints mentioned above. The blockage is treated by injecting an anesthetic near the small medial nerves connected to a specific facet joint. There are usually multiple injections that occur in a single procedure.

SI Joint Injection

Primary Function: Treatment of lower back pain

A sacroiliac, or “SI,” joint injection can work to counteract sacroiliac joint dysfunction. There are two of these joints in your body, and they’re located near the spine on either side, connecting the sacrum (between the hip bones). Inflammation of these joints causes pain that can be remedied by an SI joint injection.

Corticosteroid Injection

Primary Function: Relief of inflammation

Also known as cortisone injections, corticosteroid injections are concentrated injections of anti-inflammatories. These types of injections offer quick relief to potentially inflamed muscles, joints and tendons. The most common places for injections are the shoulder, knee, hip, elbow and ankle.


If you feel like one of these injections might help you with your own orthopedic care, talk to our team and make an appointment. We look forward to seeing you!

In Pursuit of the Perfect Game: It Might not be Your Swing that Needs Correcting  

Article by Brianna Venekamp, Sioux Falls Woman

Photos by Julie Prairie Photography, Sioux Falls

Professional athletes don’t run onto the field, dash onto the court or hit the course without proper training and a good warm-up. Yet a familiar sight on golf courses everywhere is golfers paying their fees at the clubhouse before heading straight to the first tee.

“The golf swing puts a tremendous amount of stress and force on the spine, putting golfers at a higher risk for back injuries,” explains Dr. Peter Looby, an orthopedic surgeon at the Orthopedic Institute in Sioux Falls. “Making sure your technique is sound and that you’ve taken steps to strengthen your core muscles in the off-season is the best thing you can do to help prevent unnecessary injuries.”

Dr. Looby acknowledges that hiring a personal trainer and setting up private lessons with a golf instructor is a best-case scenario that not everyone can do. However, everyone can take some steps to improve their performance before taking that first swing.

“One thing everyone is capable of doing is taking time to warm up before they hit that first shot,” Dr. Looby says.

But he cautions that even that science is changing. In recent years, researchers have learned that static stretching—the technique of holding a stretch for 20-30 seconds to lengthen and prime the muscles before intense activity—is wrong.

“Research has shown that static stretching can actually weaken your muscle by decreasing its capacity to output power,” Dr. Looby explains.  “In fact, static stretching prior to a dynamic activity like golf can actually decrease performance rather than enhance it.”

That’s one of the reasons the orthopedic Institute has partnered with GreatLife Malaska Golf & Fitness to create a golf warm-up routine.

Dynamic stretching consists of using sport-specific movements to prepare the body for activity. It involves moving through ranges of motion and holding each position for only one to five seconds. These movements often mimic the positions and movements that are involved in the actual activity—in this case, golf. The speed and reach of the movement can be increased with repetition as the muscles heat up.

“The key is to keep the stretch moving,” Dr. Looby says. “A five-minute brisk walk, or monster walks, one right after another, instead of static quad stretches, improves blood flow and slowly prepares the muscle to do the same action at a faster speed.”

Knowing the difference between static and dynamic stretching exercises and performing them consistently (and properly) will increase your range of motion, your power, and ultimately, might even reduce your handicap!


Acupuncture: An Alternative Treatment for Pain Relief

Wielding a very fine needle, Dr. K.C. Chang locates the precise point and very gently, painlessly, inserts it into the skin. Professionally tapping the specific site within the body’s trouble-some meridian, Dr. Chang’s treatment introduces a stimulation of endorphins through the art of Medical Acupuncture. Used as an alternative treatment option, acupuncture can deliver pain relief and renewed life energy.

As one of a few board-certified physicians in South Dakota licensed in electrodiagnostic medicine, K.C. Chang, MD, Orthopedic Institute, specializes in nonsurgical treatment of the spine. As a physiatrist, Dr. Chang’s treatment methods often include the use of acupuncture. He adds, “After my residency training and during my practice, I became disillusioned with the conventional treatment options for some of my neck and back patients. I have used acupuncture on patients for over 14 years and I find amazing pain control results.”

Dr. Chang says acupuncture is based on the theory that an essential life energy called QI flows through the body along invisible channels called meridians. When the flow of QI is blocked or out of balance, illness and pain results. He adds, “According to Chinese theory, stimulation of specific points along the meridians can correct the flow of QI and result in pain relief.”

Noting a rise in the popularity of medical acupuncture, Dr. Chang adds, “Approximately 10% of the American population has tried acupuncture for pain on improving the functioning statuses control due to neck and back problems. in life. Most patients ask for acupuncture after pain control of common musculoskeletal problems, such as neck and low back physical therapy, back surgeries, pain, joint problems or muscle problems, or injections. My specialty focuses and improving everyday life functions.”

“More and more patients are seeking alternative treatments for musculoskeletal problems.”

Also within the field of medical acupuncture is the use of electroacupuncture. Dr. Chang explains, “Electroacupuncture is the use of electrical currents to induce stimulation directly to the needles at certain acupoints. After the needle as been placed in the skin, it is hooked up to electrical pulses; the electroacupuncture uses low frequency of 2-4 hz and high intensity. It involves endorphinergic mechanism, generates a slow onset of analgesia, and has longer lasting results.”

Documented as safe and reputable treatment, Dr. Chang adds, “The use of acupuncture and electroacupuncture has been recommended by the World Health Organization for 40 medical conditions ranging from asthma to chronic pain. In 1999, the National Institute of Health found it to be acceptable treatment for many pain conditions, including fibromyalgia and general musculoskeletal pain.”

How would you rate your pain level on a scale of 1-10? The question is routinely asked during a visit with Dr. Chang. He shares details about the positive responses he receives from acupuncture treatment. “Once you provide needle treatment 1-2 times per week, typically up to 10 treatments, the patient usually begins to use less medication, walks better and is able to find relief from pain.”

In closing, Dr. Chang says, “I am excited that more and more patients are seeking alternative treatments for musculoskeletal problems. My hope is that acupuncture is used as one treatment option for musculoskeletal pain.”