Dr. Marshall and Dr. Elkon on Weekly Check-up Atlanta

On Sunday, June 9, 2019, Dr. Zwade Marshall, Director of Medical Outcomes, and Dr. Andrea Elkon, Director of Behavioral Health, appeared on the Weekly Check-up. Hosted by Dr. Bruce Feinberg, Weekly Check-up Atlanta airs every Sunday at 3 PM on News/Talk WSB radio.

During the two-hour segment, they discussed treating the sources of chronic pain, the ongoing opioid crisis, and different types of common pain syndromes.

Says Dr. Elkon, “The vast majority of physicians in the practice are interventionalists… what that definitely does not mean is a practice of physicians who are just handing out pills to put band-aids on problems. That is not what we do at Alliance.”

If you missed the show or want to learn more about the fascinating topics covered on the segment, it is available to listen to online here.

Senior couple doing exercise at home with physiotherapist, wondering how does the spine age.

How Does Your Spine Age?

As we grow older, it’s common for many parts of our body to begin to ache and stiffen. Unfortunately, the spine is also more likely to have severe medical issues arise throughout the years. Spine conditions such as degenerative disk disease and spinal stenosis increase in risk for older adults.

The truth of the matter is that while some movement and functionality might be limited when you’re older, more serious symptoms could be pointing towards a medical condition. To learn what those are, keep reading below!

Common Spine Age Issues

  • Degenerative Discs: Your spine consists of bones called vertebrae that are stacked on top of each other with discs in between each bone. Over time, those discs begin to get worn down, which causes your vertebrae to rub against each other. When this happens, you may experience back pain and stiffness.
  • Spinal Stenosis: When the above happens, it can cause your spinal canal, otherwise known as the open spaces within your spine, to narrow. You’ll experience pressure on your spinal cord and pinching on your nerves, two very uncomfortable experiences. On top of that, lower back pain, numbness, and weakness in your legs are also common.
  • Facet Joint Osteoarthritis: Otherwise known as spinal arthritis, this occurs when the cartilage that separates the facet joints in your spine breaks down. This happens naturally over time, but symptoms include lower back pain and stiffness. Usually, these peak in the morning and at the end of the day.
  • Frail Vertebrae: This condition is more common for women and is also called osteoporosis. It causes the bones in your back to lose bone density and then become more fragile over time, which allows fractures to happen more easily.
  • Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: This condition is the narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back. This also causes lower back pain and leg pain, usually most often while standing or walking.
  • Compression Fractures: More common for those experiencing osteoporosis, this happens when fractures cause the vertebral bone to partially collapse. On top of losing height, it will also cause sudden and severe back pain, spinal deformity, and inability to do physical exercise.
  • Changing Posture: From age 30 and up, small changes happen when it comes to our posture. In fact, the average person will lose about half an inch of height every 10 years after reaching their peak height. This is even more true for people over 70, and our gaits may change during that time. If your posture suddenly begins to change drastically, it could be due to any of the above issues.

How to Help Your Spine as Your Age

Like most medical conditions, there are several actions you can take before things start to spiral downhill. To be proactive, consider adding any of these routines to your schedule:

  • Exercise to not only keep off excess weight but also to strengthen your back and abdominal muscles.
  • Already experiencing chronic back pain and issues? Reach out to any of Alliance Spine and Pain’s expert care team here.
  • Work on your posture. While the fact of the matter is that our back begins to stoop more as we age, it could become so severe that it impacts our ability to walk. Make sure you’re sitting up straight and tall, especially if you work at an office all day.
  • Up your intake of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Make sure to eat a balanced diet of veggies, fruit, and avoid red meat.
  • If you’re often stressed, spend time relaxing and ensuring your back muscles have loosened.
  • If you notice back pain issues often in the morning, consider investing in a more supportive mattress.

If you have any more questions about how your spine ages, feel free to reach out to the expert physicians at Alliance Spine and Pain by clicking here. We’ll be happy to help!

Older woman stretching over onto her feet, performing the best exercises for strengthening her back and spine.

Best Exercises for Strengthening your Back

Just like any muscle or part of your body, it’s important to strengthen your spine and back. Especially if you have issues with chronic low back pain or a recent injury in that area, exercising your spine increases stability, promotes flexibility, decreases chances of a future injury, and maintains proper alignment.

However, every back is different! With that in mind, it’s important to speak with your physician before doing any of these exercises for Strengthening your back if you have chronic back pain or an existing issue with this area of the body. If you do not already have a medical professional helping you with a pre-existing back problem, feel free to make an appointment with any of our skilled physicians who specialize in pain management and spine issues.

Here are the best exercises for strengthening your back!

Exercise #1: Hip Crossover Stretch

This stretch releases tightness around your hips and buttocks, muscles that are known to contribute to back pain. Here’s how to do this exercise:

  • Lie on your back on the floor
  • Bend your knees
  • Cross your right ankle over your left knee
  • Lace your hands around your right knee and pull it closer to your body
  • Do the same on the other side

Exercise #2: Back Flexion

This is a great stretch to flow into if you tried the above exercise.

Instead of pulling one knee at a time to your chest, pull both of your knees up to your chest at the same time. Also, push your head forward until you feel this gentle stretch on your lower back and neck.

Exercise #3: Lumbar Extension in Prone Prop

The following two stretches are fantastic for loosening up your back and relieving any pain you might be feeling.

For this particular pose, do the following:

  • Lie on your stomach
  • Prop up on your forearms
  • Make sure your elbows are right below your shoulders
  • Sink your stomach towards the ground

Exercise #4: Lumbar Extension in Prone Press Up

To take the above stretch a bit further, simply press up with your hands until your elbows are straight. The will intensify the stretch and bring in even stronger benefits.

Exercise #5: Abdominal Bracing

Contracting your abdominal muscles will stabilize your spine. To do just that, follow these steps:

  • Lie on your back
  • Bend your knees
  • Lift your left knee up to meet your left hand
  • Push while giving resistance with your hand
  • Hold
  • Repeat on the other side

Make it an exercise and get your heart pumping. You’ll be reaping in the benefits in no time.

Exercise #6: Chin to Chest Stretch

Whether you’re sitting or standing, this stretch will loosen up your neck and help ease any neck strain you’re feeling. This is a great one to practice if you sit at a computer all day.

All you have to do is move your head forward until your chin touches your chest.

Exercise #7: Bridge

Not only does this exercise strengthens the muscles in your back, but it also benefits your buttocks and hamstrings.

Here are the steps for doing it correctly:

  • Lie on your back
  • Press your feet to the ground with your knees bent and shoulder width apart.
  • Raise your hips while keeping your shoulders on the floor
  • Hold

If you’re hoping to stretch out or strengthen your spine, use the above poses to increase comfort and release back pain. If you have any more questions about the best exercises for strengthening your back or would like a more customized recommendation, click here to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians.

Professional nurse, a pain specialist, at the hospital bandaging the hand with a medical bandage for a woman patient.

What is a Pain Specialist?

There is often confusion about the role and definition of a pain management specialist in the media, the general population, and even amongst other medical professionals.  First, a pain management specialist physician is NOT a physician who chooses to prescribe opiates for chronic pain when other physicians no longer wish to prescribe them nor is a pain specialist a physician who has taken a few continuing medical education hours in pain management.  In the current state of the opioid crisis in the United States, the media and the masses often confuse a physician who writes narcotics as their primary mode of practice with a well-trained, board-certified specialist in the field of pain management.

A pain specialist IS a physician who has obtained a medical degree, successfully completed all requirements for medical licensure, completed a primary residency (usually in anesthesiology, physical medicine and rehab, and occasionally neurology) and then completed additional training in the form of a fellowship in pain management.   Complete training in pain management takes approximately 13 years including undergraduate education.  Finally, a fully trained pain management physician will generally take the time and effort to show their competency in the field by obtaining board certification in both their primary field of specialization (ie anesthesiology) and secondary certification in their subspecialty of pain management by an ABMS recognized board.  With internet access, it is very easy to verify the training and certification of any physician.

A pain management physician is trained in the management of medications, including opioids for the management of chronic painful conditions, however most well trained pain management physicians use interventional procedures (injections), physical therapy, psychotherapy, chiropractics and other treatment modalities to reduce or illuminate the need for narcotic medications.  In more severe cases, implantable devices such as spinal cord stimulators and intrathecal pain pumps can be used to treat those who suffer with chronic pain.  If you are not being treated by a board certified pain specialist you are likely not being offered all of the latest procedures and technological advances available to those suffering from chronic pain.  A well-trained pain management physician aids in fighting the opioid epidemic.

The physicians of Alliance Spine and Pain, that have chosen to devote all or part of their practice to the South Fulton and South Atlanta Metro Area, Dr. Pickens A. Patterson, III and Dr. Zwade Marshall are both double-board certified in anesthesiology and pain medicine by the American Board of Anesthesiology.  Dr. Marshall completed his training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Harvard University) and I, Dr. Pickens A. Patterson, III completed my training at Vanderbilt University.  We invite you to make an appointment and experience the relief you have been seeking from your chronic pain using the most up to date methods and technology.