Category: Conditions

When to Worry About Neck Pain

Highlighted spine of woman with neck pain; blog: when to worry about neck pain

 

Neck pain can be a real … pain in the neck. But, how should you judge whether it’s something serious that you should see a doctor for or something that will just heal on its own in a couple of days? Here are a few useful tips to consider when deciding if you should seek medical help.

Serious Accidents and Injuries

If you’ve been in a serious accident, such as a car crash or sports injury, that has caused substantial pain or restricted your neck movement, you should visit the hospital or call emergency medical services immediately. These are not the types of injuries that will just disappear in a few days or weeks.

Whiplash

Whiplash is an injury to your neck bones, muscles, ligaments and/or nerves. It is commonly the result of your head or neck being jerked forward or backward. The most common symptoms of whiplash include stiffness or pain in the neck. Whiplash can take effect immediately after an incident or appear in a few days or even weeks. Other symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Headache
  • Loss of balance
  • Loss of memory or difficulty concentrating
  • Shoulder or back pain

If you are experiencing signs of whiplash, visit your doctor for treatment as symptoms can get worse over time, or there could be more severe issues that you are unable to diagnose and treat on your own.

Signs of Nerve Damage

Usually, neck stiffness isn’t enough to warrant a trip to your doctor, unless it’s been bothering you for longer than a few weeks. But, what if you are experiencing other symptoms along with your stiff neck? These symptoms combined with a stiff neck could indicate that you have nerve damage, potentially caused by a bone, joint, or cartilage putting an abnormal amount of pressure or pinching a nerve.

  • Shooting pain down your arms or legs
  • Dizziness, vertigo, recurring loss of balance, or unexplained clumsiness
  • Migraines
  • Recent injury
  • Tingling feeling or numbness in your extremities
  • Bladder or bowel control issues

Signs of Meningitis

Meningitis can be a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection that causes inflammation of the membrane of your brain and spinal cord. It can lead to neck stiffness along with the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Unexplained sensitivity to bright lights
  • Nausea
  • Confusion

If you experience these symptoms, you should seek medical care immediately. Meningitis that is caused by a bacterial infection can be fatal if not treated quickly.

Contact Regional Neurological Associates

If you have questions or concerns about your neck pain, reach out to Regional Neurological Associates today. Our team specializes in diagnosing back pain and neck pain, and in assessing risks and treatment options. Understanding that each back and neck pain patient is unique, we take an individualized approach to care to help alleviate that pain as much as possible. Call (718) 515-4347 to schedule an appointment.

 

7 Early Warning Signs of Multiple Sclerosis

multiple sclerosis nerve comparison illustration; blog: early warning signs of multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disorder that causes the immune system to mistakenly attack your body’s nervous system. More specifically, the immune system attacks the protective cover of nerve fibers, which can cause communication issues between your brain and other parts of your body. If allowed to progress, the disease can result in permanent damage to your nervous system.

There is currently no cure for multiple sclerosis and current treatment focuses on slowing the progression of the disease and improving symptoms. As such, early diagnosis and treatment are paramount, so you should be aware of the early warning signs. 

The specific symptoms of multiple sclerosis can vary from person to person, and there are currently no specific laboratory tests that confirm or deny the presence of the disease. Instead, doctors will review your symptoms and medical history and perform various tests to determine if you are affected by multiple sclerosis.

Early warning signs for multiple sclerosis include:

  • Vision Difficulties: Unexplained vision difficulties such as seeing double, blurred vision, or loss of vision can be signs that your optic nerve is becoming inflamed, a common symptom of multiple sclerosis.
  • Muscle Spasms or Stiffness: Other common symptoms of multiple sclerosis include muscle stiffness or uncontrollable and painful spasms or jerking movements of the arms and legs. 
  • Numbness or Tingling: As multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the nervous system, your nerves can become damaged. You may not feel (numbness) or have conflicting signals (tingling) in parts of your body. 
  • Vertigo or Dizziness: Balance issues are common with multiple conditions and diseases, including multiple sclerosis. This can have you feeling dizzy or lightheaded and often occurs after you stand up.
  • Bladder Control Issues: Approximately 80% of people affected by multiple sclerosis have dysfunctional bladder symptoms including inability to hold urine, feeling like you have to urinate often, or strong urges to urinate.
  • Memory and Attention Span Difficulties: People with multiple sclerosis often have difficulties with their attention span, organization, short or long term memory, and even difficulty speaking.
  • Depression and Other Emotional Changes: Severe depression, mood swings, or irritability are common symptoms for people affected by multiple sclerosis. The emotion difficulties can even include unexplained laughter or crying.

Contact Regional Neurological Associates

At our New York practice, based in the Bronx with satellites throughout Westchester and Manhattan, the board-certified physicians at Regional Neurological Associates manage a range of neurologic conditions including multiple sclerosis. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call (718) 515-4347 to schedule an appointment.

Recent Advances in the Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease

MRI image of human brain with red color marked focal lesion in the hospital room.; Blog: Recent Advances in the Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease

 

The 21st century has seen amazing progress on the front of understanding diseases that affect the central nervous system. Much of the research done has been targeted on gaining an insight into the disease process, distinguishing exactly which genetic mutations cause the disease to manifest and how these mutations progress to a pathological state.

In the case of Parkinson’s disease, we know that this mutation is of the LRRK2 gene. Much of the work done originally to combat this involves blocking this gene. However, early success was limited due to complications associated with early medications that specifically targeted it. 

Because of this toxicity, researchers have started to work backward in their approach to combating the symptoms and effects of Parkinson’s disease. This has been done by going back to medications used for other conditions, such as asthma and metabolism maintenance in the stomach, and looking at the potential benefits these medications have when combating Parkinson’s. 

A great deal of the focus of these medications is to slow or stop the breakdown of nerve signals, the symptom most commonly associated with the disease, as well as maintaining a healthy gut as there has been increasing speculation on whether the LRRK2 gene targets the gut or the brain initially. There has been a great deal of work in recent years that looks at the association between the gut and the brain, hence the push for probiotics as a means of combatting mental health. It is believed that the pathological state of Parkinson’s disease may follow a similar avenue of convection. 

Another avenue of treatment that has gained significant traction is limiting the inflammatory issues that target the nervous system in a diseased state. The approach to limiting this and potentially slowing the progression of symptoms has been taken by incorporating medications that were originally designed for combating autoimmune disorders, showing strong signs of early success across clinical trials. 

While there is not yet a cookie-cutter treatment approach to significantly slowing the progression of Parkinson’s disease, it is optimistic to believe that the next ten years could see significant progress. The prognosis for slowing the progression of Parkinson’s is increasingly hopeful due to the innovation guiding new treatment options and medication development.

About Regional Neurological Associates

At Regional Neurological Associates, we combine neurology and psychiatry to provide you with the most unique and comprehensive care. Our expert team is dedicated to state-of-the-art individualized care and stays up-to-date on the latest advances for the treatment of neurological conditions including Parkinson’s disease. 

If you are experiencing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease or are living with the disease and would like a second opinion regarding your treatment plan, call Regional Neurological Associates at (718) 515-4347 to schedule an appointment today. One of our expert physicians will review your medical history and conduct a comprehensive neurological examination. With an accurate diagnosis and proper care, maintaining a great quality of life with Parkinson’s Disease is possible.

5 Types of Headaches Explained

Closeup of young man touching temples with fingers as if suffering from severe migraine, feeling sick, isolated on gray background; Blog: Types of Headaches

 

Headaches are a strikingly common medical complaint that nearly all of us have experienced at one point or another. They are quite often described with vulgar language while individuals experience extreme discomfort during an episode. 

Before going into some of the more common types of headaches that individuals face, it is important to state that one should always seek medical attention following any type of trauma affecting the head, neck or spine that causes severe pain or neurological deficiency. This may be indicative of a much more severe problem than a typical headache and could be life-threatening if not addressed quickly.

Despite how common they are, there are a number of complexities that differentiate each episode from one another based on the mechanism of onset, presentation of symptoms, location of pain and potential management for the condition. Below are five of the more common types of headaches that people commonly face:

1. Tension Headaches

Tension headaches affect approximately 3 out of 4 people at some point in their lives and can be brought on by a number of different reasons. Often, they result following emotional distress, stress or strong emotional distraught, or general tension in the neck and shoulders. The pain will usually be focalized in the back and sides of the neck as well as the base of the neck, especially when the muscles of the neck and shoulders start to spasm. Management is best done using over the counter anti-inflammatory medication or heat on the back of the neck. These headaches usually do not persist for long.

2. Migraines

 Migraines are less common than tension headaches but are widely considered to be much more severe in both symptoms and duration, lasting up to multiple days at a time with little to no relief. While they are not as well understood as other types of headaches, there are a number of triggers that can lead to an episode, such as stress or missing meals. Often there may be visual disturbances along with intense pain on one side of the head. Management is often addressed with medication, either over the counter or prescribed, removal of triggers and escaping to a dark, quiet room.

3.  Sinus Headaches 

Sinus headaches occur when pressure in the sinuses of the head build-up in conjunction with severe congestion. Often, this will occur seasonally as allergies are in full swing. Often, they will present with pain in the front of the head as well as potential earaches. Utilizing allergy medication to reduce sinus symptoms may help reduce the frequency and severity of sinus headaches.

4. Exertional Headaches

Intense physical activity such as running, jumping, heavy weight lifting n may cause exertional headaches. Often, these types of headaches result from a build-up in pressure that occurs while performing activity, causing a strain on the body as a whole but especially the head. They usually subside quickly and may be aided by over the counter medication.

5. Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are named such because they tend to recur over a period of several weeks. They usually present with pain limited to one side of the head, typically around one eye. In most cases, medication will need to be prescribed to manage the condition and make symptoms more bearable. Often, the individual episodes will last less than 3 hours.

When to Seek Treatment

If you are experiencing chronic headaches or head pain that does not line up with any of the types of headaches listed above, it is advised to seek medical attention to identify the source of your pain.  

One of the oldest neurology practices in the Bronx and Westchester, the physicians at Regional Neurological Associates specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of neurological conditions including chronic headaches such as migraines. To schedule an appointment, call (718) 515-4347.

Can Dementia Be Prevented?

Can Dementia Be Prevented? ; cropped view of retired man playing with puzzles on table

One of the questions we receive the most is ‘Can dementia be prevented?’

As with many neurological conditions affecting the brain, research is still relatively new and not completely understood in this field as long-term effects have not been seen yet. However, there has been a large push over the course of the last 20 years to better understand the human brain and the conditions that afflict it. 

Much of the research to date has focused on different factors such as genetics, lifestyle and trauma that may predispose individuals to develop dementia at some point during their lifespan. Unfortunately, at this time, the vast majority of the causes of dementia cannot be cured. However, research continues to develop in the areas of drugs, vaccines and other medical treatments. 

Ways to Reduce Your Risk

Age and genetics play a key role in an individual developing this dementia, but there are controllable factors that may reduce one’s risk and aid in prevention.

1. Diet

The brain, like all other organs in the body, responds to the diet humans consume based on the nutritional value it contains. For those who eat many processed foods that are high in fat and sugars, the body as a whole and the brain do not receive the nutrients needed for long-term sustainability.

By eating unsaturated fats and more leafy greens, one can help to preserve brain health. Additionally, incorporating more fish and omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to help preserve brain function.

2. Exercise

Regular physical activity, especially in the aerobic capacity, helps with oxygen delivery and blood flow to the brain. This keeps function high and helps to maintain brain mass in areas that control vital functions such as memory and learning. 

In addition to these benefits, exercise helps to preserve motor control function. This keeps the central nervous functioning at a high level through a feedback loop that incorporates sensory and motor skills.

3. Person-To-Person Contact

Those who engage in regular communication with others have been shown to have higher levels of brain activity and better retention of brain mass later in life. This is especially important for older individuals who may be living alone without family. For this population, it is especially important to get out and engage with other community members in order to maintain stimulation.

4. Continue Challenging The Mind

There is a saying that “learning never stops” and for those looking to prevent or minimize dementia, this is especially true. By keeping the brain engaged in learning or tasks such as reading or crossword puzzles, brain activity and acuity is kept sharp throughout life.

By taking on small educational projects, one can greatly help their chances of maintaining a high level of function later in life. 

5. Avoid Trauma

While this may be difficult for many, especially former and active service members, avoiding trauma to the brain is a proven way to help preserve brain function and memory later in life. For athletes, it is important to use protective headgear when applicable and practice proper techniques. 

While it is not possible to completely prevent dementia in all people, practicing the techniques listed here are a great way to minimize risk. If you or a loved one is experiencing any degree of memory loss, it is advised to seek medical counsel from a neurologist immediately. 

If you or someone you love is experiencing memory difficulties or other changes in thinking skills, call Regional Neurological Associates at (718) 515-4347 to schedule a professional evaluation by one of our experienced physicians. As with many conditions involving the brain, a timely diagnosis may impact treatment results.

Treatment Options for Migraines

woman with migraine; treatment options for migraines

Anyone who has ever dealt with migraines needs no introduction to how painful and debilitating they can be. For those suffering from chronic migraines, quality of life is often impacted.

Migraines are considered chronic when a person has headaches on more days than not. There various traditional and alternative treatment options for migraines that may be available to offer relief and restore your quality of life.

1. Medications

Medications are a very common treatment option for those who suffer from migraines. This method is normally are broken up into two categories: pain relief and prevention.

  • Pain relief medications fall along a spectrum of options depending on the severity of the migraines. Over the counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be used alone or in combination with drugs such as caffeine to help alleviate the symptoms of more mild migraine attacks. However, most individuals who suffer from chronic and severe migraines may receive little to no benefit from these options as they are less potent and do not have long-lasting effects. Medications, such as those for anti-nausea, may be prescribed to help patient’s manage the adverse symptoms commonly associated with migraines.
  • Preventative medications are commonly prescribed for issues aside from migraines but may help with the symptoms associated. Some of these include medications for hypertension, depression, seizures, and so on. As they all have a number of side effects and intended actions, it should be discussed carefully with one’s physician.

2. Botox

While most known for use in cosmetic procedures, Botox is FDA-approved for the treatment of chronic migraines in adults who are age 18 and older. A form of botulinum toxin, Botox works to prevent migraines before they start by entering the nerve endings around where it is injected and blocking the release of chemicals that are involved in pain transmission.

3. Nutrition  

Adequate hydration and nutrition is often the most overlooked aid in relieving symptoms associated with migraines. When the body is dehydrated, migraines will often be more severe, especially in those who have a prior history. By ensuring proper hydration, the blood stream’s concentration is at a more ideal level, allowing for adequate flow to the brain and the body as a whole. If water intake is greatly increased, be sure to add in electrolytes so as to maintain the body’s natural balance.

In addition to water, there are a number of foods that have been shown to help relieve the painful symptoms of migraines. Foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, have anti-inflammatory properties and help with metabolism at the brain. This can help to reduce the pain levels associated with more severe migraines.

Your physician may recommend that you work with a registered dietician as part of your treatment plan for chronic migraines.

4. Acupuncture

Based on eastern medicine and the concept of meridians, this method utilizes different trigger points to alleviate migraine pain. Case studies have shown some degree of success depending on the patient and their pain. According to the American Migraine Foundation, the frequency of headache is dropped by 50% or more in up to 59% of individuals receiving acupuncture and this effect can persist for more than 6 months.

5. Psychotherapy

Some individuals have found that working with a therapist has helped them learn how to interpret and understand their pain better, which has allowed them to gain an understanding of their condition and better control their perception of pain. A form of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy can also aid in the treatment of anxiety and depression, which are extremely common in patients suffering from chronic pain conditions.

6. Meditation

Meditation can be effective for individuals whose migraines are triggered by stress, anxiety and tension. The idea is that by alleviating the underlying cause of stress, mind-body techniques like meditation can help relieve headaches and potentially prevent them from occurring in the first place. Some brain wave and imaging studies suggest that the practice of mindful meditation can actually modify brain structure and activity.

When to Seek Help

Whether you suffer from minor or severe pain caused by migraine headaches, the physicians at Regional Neurosurgical Associates can help you live a normal, pain-free life. Our goal is to determine what is triggering your migraine and provide long-term solutions to help prevent future cases. Call Regional Neurological Associates at (718) 515-4347 to schedule an appointment today.

What You Can Do to Help Prevent Stroke

Prevent Stroke

 

May is American Stroke Awareness Month, and at Regional Neurological Associates, part of our mission is to educate our patients, and the general population, on stroke signs and symptoms, risk factors, and prevention methods. We pride ourselves on providing cutting edge neurological care, including stroke recovery. However, the best-case scenario for us is early detection, or, even better, prevention of the stroke.

When it comes to the brain and neurological health, it can seem like there is little we can do to influence it. However, that’s not the case. Steps can be taken to reduce your risk of certain conditions. Changing bad habits and making healthier lifestyle choices are often a key part of maintaining overall wellness, including neurological health.

So, let’s examine some important steps to take to help prevent a stroke.

Know What a Stroke Is

The CDC defines a stroke as an episode that “occurs when something blocks blood supply to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die. A stroke can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death.

Lose Weight & Exercise

Being overweight and sedentary increase your risk of having a stroke, partly because obesity and inactivity are often associated with hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes. All of these things increase the risk of an ischemic stroke.

If you’re looking to get into an exercise routine and you’re not sure where to start, plan to work out for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Curb Drinking

Drinking too much alcohol can raise both your triglycerides and your blood pressure. A two drink per day limit is recommended for men and a one drink per day limit is recommended for women. Another adverse effect of alcohol is that binge drinking can cause irregular heartbeat. Having four or five drinks in a two-hour period is considered binge drinking.

Quit Smoking

Giving up smoking is always a good idea, especially when it comes to preventing circulatory diseases. Nicotine can cause high blood pressure and carbon monoxide can lower blood oxygen. Tobacco also has a long list of adverse effects on vascular health such as: increasing plaque buildup, lowering levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, thickening and narrowing blood vessels, and making blood more likely to clot.

Pay Attention to Nutrition

Diet should be part of your overall wellness plan and contribute to any weight loss plan necessary. However, let’s look at some specific food types to avoid and foods to seek out when trying to prevent stroke.

Avoid:

  • Sodium/salt
  • Trans & saturated fats (high cholesterol)
  • Processed foods containing the above

Choose:

  • Lean protein
  • Leafy greens
  • Fresh fruits & vegetables
  • Foods high in potassium

Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is responsible for more than 50% of strokes, making it the number one cause. Hypertension can increase your chances of having a stroke by four to six times. High blood pressure can cause build up or structural weakness in arteries that can either create blocks to the brain’s blood supply or cause a hemorrhage.

Identify, Monitor and Treat Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat, causes clots within the heart. Those clots can travel up to the brain and cause a stroke.

Be Vigilant About Treating Diabetes

Diabetes can add fifteen years to your cardiovascular age. Meaning, if not treated properly, diabetes can cause a lot of damage to your blood vessels, which can, in turn, increase blood pressure and even a stroke.

Aggressively Treat Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

If you have previously had a TIA, your risk of having a stroke much greater. Make sure you are consulting with your physician and monitoring your progress.

Get Familiar with the Warning Signs of Stroke

If you know what a stroke is, you might already be familiar with the symptoms of a stroke. They can include:

  • Unsteadiness on your feet
  • Vision loss
  • Unusual severe headache
  • Numbness of the face
  • Weakness on one side of the body

One device that helps some people remember the warning signs of stroke is using the acronym FAST.

F: Face – does it droop to one side?

A: Arms – does one arm drift back down when you lift both?

S: Speech – is it slurred or sound odd?

T: Time – call 911 immediately if any of these signs occur.

If you are concerned about the possibility of stroke, schedule an appointment by calling (718) 515-4347. The physicians at Regional Neurological Associates can assist you whether you’re worried about showing the warning signs of stroke, have had a stroke and need help with recovery, or have another neurological issue.

If you think you or someone you love has suffered a stroke, call 911 immediately.

6 Treatable Risk Factors of Stroke

risk factors of stroke

Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds, with someone dying of stroke every 4 minutes. It is the leading cause of serious long-term disability and overall, the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. But, did you know that many of the leading causes of stroke are preventable?

Here are six treatable risk factors of stroke that you can control by making healthy choices and managing existing health conditions:

1. Smoking

Smoking cigarettes doubles your risk of ischemic stroke and increases your risk of hemorrhagic stroke by four times. Those who smoke are also at increased risk of developing heart disease and lung cancer. Of course, the best thing you can do is to not start smoking in the first place. But, if you already have, it’s never too late to quit. If you are unable to quit smoking on your own, talk to your healthcare provider about quit-smoking aids such as nicotine patches, medications, counseling and other programs that may be available to you.

2. High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the leading risk factor for stroke. In the United States, an estimated 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure with only slightly half having the condition under control. It is important to check your blood pressure regularly and understand your numbers and risk factors because there are often no warning signs or symptoms. In many cases, high blood pressure can be prevented and managed with simple lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and regular exercise.

3. Heart Disease

The term heart and blood vessel disease, or simply heart disease, can be misleading does not refer to a single condition. Instead, it is an umbrella term used to describe several types of conditions that affect the heart including coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, heart infections and congenital heart defects.

Many of these conditions are related to a process called atherosclerosis which develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries within the heart. This buildup of plaque causes the arteries to narrow and restricts the ability for blood to flow through. If the buildup forms a clot that blocks the blood flow entirely, it can cause a heart attack or stroke. As with high blood pressure, you can help lower your risk of heart disease by eating a balanced diet and participating in regular physical activity. Not smoking, managing your weight and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption can also help.

4. Diabetes

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, in terms of stroke and cardiovascular disease, having diabetes is the equivalent of aging 15 years. Not only does diabetes affect the body’s ability to process sugar, but also destructive changes to the blood vessel throughout your body, including the brain. While in some cases, diabetes is caused by uncontrollable genetic factors, often times it can be prevented and managed by implementing healthy lifestyle habits.

5. Cholesterol Imbalance

There are two types of cholesterol–low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Sometimes referred to as “bad cholesterol” an excess of LDL can cause cholesterol to build up in the blood vessels and lead to atherosclerosis, or cardiovascular disease. As previously mentioned, this narrowing of the blood vessels is also a leading cause of stroke. Ways to improve the balance of your cholesterol levels include reducing consumption of saturated and trans fats and increasing your intake of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.

6. Physical Inactivity and Obesity

Sedentary lifestyles and obesity have grown to become a widespread health concern, as they have been proven to be associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. The World Health Organization reports that obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. For adults, overweight is defined as a body mass index greater than or equal to 25, and obesity as a BMI greater than or equal to 30. Due to inflammation caused by excess fatty tissue, obesity can increase the risk of stroke due to inflammation caused by excess fatty tissue.

When a Stroke Occurs

While it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to reduce the risk of stroke, it is equally important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke, as well as how to respond. If think you or someone you loved has suffered a stroke, call 911 immediately.

If the occurrence of a stroke is confirmed, the physicians at Regional Neurological Associates can help guide you through the process of stroke recovery, including identifying risk factors to help reduce the risk of recurrence. To schedule an appointment, call (718) 515-4347.

Common Myths About Back Pain

myths about back pain

We’ve all had those mornings where there’s a tinge in our backs that simply won’t go away. After a bit of stretching or maybe an over-the-counter pain reliever, we can usually get our back in order once again.

For some people, however, this tinge never seems to go away. To make it worse, everyone from your well-meaning family members to coworkers seem to have advice and suggestion–both solicited and not.  

As with anything related to your body’s health, you can’t always believe everything you hear or read–especially on the internet. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common back pain myths:

Myth: Exercise causes back pain

The assumption that back pain could be worsened by any type of exercise is one of the most common back pain myths.

Although neck and back pain are major concerns, exercise may actually be a good way to help release the tension in your muscles and improve your back’s range of motion. In fact, many doctors recommend exercise for people who have recently injured their back.

If you suffer from back pain, it’s best to start with simple gentle movements and build your way up. With any type of exercise, you should always be cognizant of your back and maintaining proper form.

On the flip side, just because you do exercises such as walking or running, it may not help back pain. These  “weight-bearing exercises” put more stress on your back, based on gravity alone.

Typically an exercise regimen should focus on stretching and core training which is more catered to back health and alignment.

yoga

One of our favorite recommendations for back pain is yoga.  Focused on balance and steadiness, yoga encourages your body to develop defenses against the causes of back pain, which include weak abdominal and pelvic muscles, as well lack of flexibility in the hips. When you strengthen these muscles, you improve your posture, which reduces the load on your back, and thus reduces the aches you feel. In addition, stretching can increase flexibility by increasing blood flow to tight muscles.

The best way to be sure that exercise won’t cause further harm your back is to consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.  

Myth: Bed rest is best

You’ve probably been told after feeling that tinge in your back to lie down and rest. You’ve also probably been told to rest for a few days and simply lay in bed until the pain goes away.

Lying down may help relieve back pain immediately after an injury, but too much bed rest causes muscles to tighten up, which may make pain worse. Inactivity can also raise your risk of blood clots.

Prolonged bed rest and immobilization inevitably lead to complications, such as loss of muscle strength and endurance, contractures and soft tissue changes, disuse osteoporosis, and degenerative joint disease. Cardiovascular complications include an increased heart rate, decreased cardiac reserve, orthostatic hypotension, and venous thromboembolism.”

These complications are much easier to prevent than to treat.

Myth: Losing weight will solve your back pain

This myth isn’t entirely untrue, as being overweight or obese can lead to back pain and other spinal complications. However, where the problem comes into play is with the notion that being thin automatically solves all back pain entirely.

The truth is that, while being overweight can be the leading cause of some individual’s back conditions, thin individuals can still feel just as much back pain as obese individuals can. It all depends on what the actual contributing factor of the pain is. While overweight individuals feel back pain from the weight put on their bodies, those who maintain a healthy weight may still experience back pain from various other conditions or injury.

It’s not about being thin or fat, it’s about maintaining a healthy weight. Doing so can help prevent back pain, result in more positive outcomes from treatment for back pain, and reduce your risk of other common health conditions such as stroke, heart disease and diabetes.

Not sure where to start? Check out these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for assessing your weight.

Myth: Surgery is the best solution for chronic back pain

For most cases of chronic back pain, spinal surgery is actually not recommended. When back pain is severe and consistently limits the ability to sleep or function, surgery may be considered if anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy and lifestyle changes don’t provide relief within six to 12 weeks.

Relief can often be achieved through an integrative medicine approach which seeks to restore and maintain health and wellness across a person’s lifespan by understanding the patient’s unique set of circumstances and addressing the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect health.

By personalizing care, integrative medicine goes beyond the treatment of symptoms to address all the causes of pain or illness.

Ultimately, it may be determined that surgery is the best solution for a patient’s back pain, but in most cases, it should be considered a last resort.

Myth: Back pain is normal

Arguably the biggest myth about back pain is that is it normal.

An estimated 80% of adults will experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes. But, considering this accounts for a broad range of time, let’s put it in perspective. Another survey shows that more than 1 in 4 adults has reported experiencing low back pain during the past 3 months.

Due to its prevalence and the wide range of severity, many sufferers often attribute their back pain to normal aches or a normal part of aging and don’t consult a physician until the pain becomes debilitating.

The reality is that back pain should not be part of your daily life, whatever your age.

When to Seek Help

Acute back pain typically comes on suddenly and may last for a few days or up to a few weeks. It typically resolves on its own with rest or with the aid of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, heat, ice and/or stretching.

Chronic back or neck pain, on the other hand, is defined as lasting more than three months and requires treatment from a licensed healthcare professional.

The physicians at Regional Neurological Associates are experienced in treating a variety of common conditions including neck pain, low back pain, herniated or ruptured discs, bulging discs, degenerative disc disease, radiculopathies, nerve injuries and vascular abnormalities of the spine.

Understanding that each back and neck pain patient is unique, we take an individualized approach to care to help alleviate that pain as much as possible. Call Regional Neurological Associates at (718) 515-4347 to schedule an appointment today.

What’s the Difference Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia?

Difference Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

 

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are often confused for one another and frequently used interchangeably. However, it’s important to understand the distinction.

The most significant difference is that the term dementia does not refer to a specific disease. Instead, it is an overall term or “umbrella” term used to describe a decline in cognitive function that always includes memory impairment and impairment in the ability of the individual to function in their usual social and occupational activities.

Alzheimer’s disease, on the other hand, is a degenerative brain disease which, when it progresses, will ultimately cause dementia. With an estimated 5.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, it is the most common form of dementia. But, not everyone with dementia has Alzheimer’s disease.

Other types of dementia include:

  • Parkinson’s Disease Dementia
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
  • Frontotemporal Dementia
  • Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Lewy Body Dementia
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Posterior Cortical Atrophy
  • Mixed Dementia (a combination of the some of the above)

What are the symptoms?

The hallmark of any dementia is a loss of the ability to remember, though the type of memory difficulty varies from one type of dementia to another.

For example, patients with Alzheimer’s disease are able to recall events from his or her distant past but cannot recall what happened just a few minutes or hours ago. This is called short term memory impairment. In Alzheimer’s disease, it’s caused by difficulty in creating new memories–a process called encoding. Picture a tape recorder which is no longer recording sound. You cannot play anything back, because there is nothing recorded to play.

This may be distinguished from the problem that may be encountered in Parkinson’s Disease for example, where the memories are encoded, but the patient has difficulty accessing them. We sometimes call this “forgetting to remember”. This type of memory impairment frequently improves with cueing, whereas a cue will not help someone with Alzheimer’s Disease, because the memory was never formed to begin with and therefore no amount of cueing will allow something that isn’t there to be retrieved.

Other cues that someone might not have Alzheimer’s disease include a step-wise progression of decline. Alzheimer’s patients tend to gradually decline in their cognitive skills, and while they may seem to suffer more severe setbacks in times of illness when they look worse, in general, the progression tends to be smooth.

A more step-wise decline may suggest multiple strokes leading to “vascular dementia,” particularly in someone who has appropriate risk factors such as high blood pressure and/or diabetes, or prior known strokes or heart disease.

Someone who early on in the course of their dementia shows signs of balance or walking difficulty, depression and/or delusions, confusion, and perhaps rigidity, may have Lewy Body disease. While only recently recognized as common, this is likely an underdiagnosed condition. Some famous individuals who have been diagnosed with this were Robin Williams and Casey Kasem.

When to Seek Help

If you or someone you love displays any of the symptoms above, schedule an appointment with your doctor today. Unfortunately, there is no single test to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. Physicians can almost always determine if a person has dementia, but determining the exact cause is often more difficult.

By evaluating your medical history and performing a physical and neurological exam, your doctor can help determine if the symptoms you are experiencing are truly due to dementia, Alzheimer’s or some other condition. These exams may include diagnostic tests, mental status tests and brain imaging.

The most important thing is to seek help promptly. Early diagnosis can have many benefits including:

  • Greater access to treatment options
  • Opportunity to participate in clinical trials
  • The chance to prioritize your health through lifestyle changes
  • Opportunity to maximize your time with family and friends
  • Better ability to plan for the future such as documenting your legal, financial and end-of-life decisions.
  • Time to plan for and address potential safety issues that may occur such as driving or wandering

With five locations in the Bronx and surrounding areas, the team at Regional Neurosurgical Associates is dedicated to providing state-of-the-art individualized care for a variety of neurological conditions including dementia. To schedule an appointment, call (718) 515-4347.