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Orthopedist examining patients back

Treatment Spotlight: Radiofrequency Nerve Ablation

Persistent pain in the back, neck, or joints is frustrating at best. At worst, it can interfere with your daily routine, making everyday tasks like standing, sitting, bending, and walking painful and exhausting. If you’ve tried home remedies and non-invasive treatments, but they’ve done little to alleviate your discomfort, radiofrequency nerve ablation could be right for you. Here’s everything you need to know before scheduling a consultation.

What Is Radiofrequency Nerve Ablation?

Also called radiofrequency neurotomy, radiofrequency nerve ablation (RFA) is a technique typically performed by pain management specialists with the goal of addressing chronic pain in the back, neck, hip, or knee. RFA is widely recommended by doctors for pain that:

  • Is localized to the back, neck, hip or knee and does not radiate
  • Intensifies while lifting or twisting
  • Feels better while lying down
  • Occurs on one or both sides of the back

In general, RFA helps patients with persistent pain caused by the degeneration of joints, usually from arthritis.

How Does RFA Work?

RFA uses heat generated by radio waves to disrupt the pain signals in the spinal nerves. Typically, the treatment will be performed while the patient is awake but mildly sedated, and will involve the following steps:

  • The injection area is numbed to minimize discomfort when the needle is inserted.
  • Under x-ray guidance, the doctor inserts a needle to the appropriate nerve branch. 
  • After the needle has been placed, an active electrode is inserted through the needle to emit a controlled electrical current. This will stimulate the nerve and may briefly create some discomfort, but allows the physician to confirm that they’ve targeted the proper treatment area.
  • Upon confirming the target nerve, the physician will use an ablation method (pulsed, water-cooled, or traditional radiofrequency) to create a heat lesion, which prevents the nerve from sending pain signals to the brain. If needed, the process will be repeated on other nerves.

The process takes 30 minutes, and patients can typically return home the same day. Common side effects include temporary discomfort at the injection site and numbness of the skin.

Most patients experience relief within one to three weeks after the treatment. During recovery, patients should allow their pain levels to guide their activities. Physical therapy may be advised to help patients regain strength and mobility if their pain has limited their activity range for some time.

Who’s a Good Candidate for Radiofrequency Nerve Ablation?

Although RFA isn’t considered a permanent fix for back or neck pain, it can provide lasting relief for anyone who wants to avoid or delay full back surgery but has had little success with other treatment options, such as physical therapy or lifestyle adjustments. It may be right for you if you’re experiencing chronic back or neck pain, or pain in the sacroiliac joint near the base of the spine and hip bones. Some patients experience pain relief that lasts years, and the treatment is considered a safe, well-tolerated treatment with few complications. Most people find that pain levels are much improved after the treatment.

If previous attempts to alleviate your back pain have done little to bring relief, turn to Alliance Spine & Pain. We understand the frustration of ongoing discomfort and offer state-of-the-art treatments delivered by experienced pain management specialists to help you feel like yourself again. To schedule an appointment, call (770) 929-9033 or reach out to us online.

Five Ways to Prevent Stiff Joints in the Morning

Ever wake up and feel so sore you’re not sure you can get out of bed? Morning joint stiffness is a common complaint among older adults, and several changes contribute to this symptom as we age.

One major cause of this pain is drying cartilage — the spongy cushioning that helps to absorb shock. A decline in production of synovial fluid can also mean joints are less lubricated. Additionally, stiff tendons and weak muscles become even tighter due to lack of activity during sleep. Finally, the symptoms of arthritis, a condition commonly associated with aging, can be more severe in the morning.

No matter what’s causing your morning pain, you don’t have to live with stiff, achy joints every day. Here are a few ways to get your joints going at the same time you do.

1. Stretch in Bed

Pop right out of bed upon waking up and you’re sure to feel like the Tin Man. Instead, try a few gentle stretches while you’re still lying down to gradually wake the joints up. Start by moving your neck from side to side, then stretching the upper body. Rotate hands and wrists in small circles, then activate the shoulders and elbows with similar gestures. Continue this circulation slowly down the body, including hips, knees, ankles, and toes in a way that feels good to you.

2. Take a Hot Shower

Make your way to the shower after climbing from bed. Turn the water temperature up to the highest comfortable setting, then allow your stiff joints to reap the soothing benefits of heat. Stay under the spray for at least 10 minutes to expose your joints to both water and the steam, which can help reduce inflammatory agents that contribute to arthritis.

3. Move Throughout the Day

Vigorous exercise may feel like the last thing you want to do with sore joints, but low-impact physical activity is one of the best treatments for joint pain. It strengthens supporting muscles, boosts bone strength, provides energy, and can help control your weight to reduce the strain on your joints. Regular movement also promotes restful sleep, giving your body the opportunity to repair overnight. Work with your care provider to come up with a plan that incorporates low-impact aerobic exercises, such as swimming or cycling, as well as stretching and strengthening moves.

4. Try an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

According to the Arthritis Foundation, following a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce inflammation that causes joint pain and stiffness. The dietary approach prioritizes inflammation-fighting agents, such as omega-3 fatty acids in fish and monounsaturated fats in nuts and seeds. It incorporates antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, as well as beans and whole grains. It also limits processed foods, which often contribute to inflammation.

5. Assess Your Mattress

While the right mattress can alleviate joint pain, the wrong one can aggravate it. If you’re getting the recommended eight hours of sleep, mattress quality becomes even more compelling, as you’re spending a third of your life there! The Sleep Foundation recommends models that provide both cushioning and support, prevent sinking, and keep the spine in proper position.

At Alliance Spine and Pain, we don’t just mask joint pain or stiffness with medication — we use individualized treatments to prevent or relieve them. To find out how we can ease your joint pain and stiffness, schedule an appointment online or by calling (770) 929-9033.

Woman stretching at desk

Why Your Spine Health Really Matters

Oftentimes, we don’t give much thought to our back health until something goes wrong. Perhaps it’s persistent neck pain, or a twinge in your back, but a sudden ailment can draw attention to the state of your spine. 

Caring for this central part of your body is just as important when you’re not experiencing any issues, however. Here’s why your spine deserves the same careful regard as any other aspect of your health.

The Spine’s Functions

Acting as the body’s main structural support system, the spine holds us upright. It connects all parts of the skeleton — head, chest, pelvis, shoulders, arms, and legs — and bears the weight of your entire upper body. 

In addition to its vertebral bones, the spine is also made up of elastic ligaments and spinal disks, which allow it to bend and twist. This flexibility also provides mobility throughout the whole body. Among its main key functions, the spine also serves as a balance system and shock absorber, thanks to its unique S-shape. 

The bones of the spine also protect a key component of the central nervous system— the spinal cord. The spinal nerve roots located there connect a series of peripheral nerves that branch off and extend to the extremities. To safeguard this critical nerve network, cerebrospinal fluid encases the spinal cord along with layers of protective membranes, all shielded by your vertebrae.

The Importance of Spinal Health

Keeping your spine healthy is one of the most important preventive health measures you can take. Certain spinal conditions can hinder your mobility, resulting in a loss of independence or a reliance on assistive devices. For example, the pain from a sciatica can be caused by degenerative disc disease or narrowing of the spinal column, and it irritates the sciatic nerve. This condition can cause immense pain while walking, standing, or even sitting. 

A stable spine has greater flexibility, meaning it allows you to move naturally and freely without pain. But an injured spine can make it challenging to lift, reach, stretch, or complete other everyday movements.

In fact, back and neck pain are the most common causes of physical pain in the U.S., and are responsible for the greatest number of doctors’ visits, outside the common cold. Back conditions are also the most common reason for disability in the U.S. 

Taking care of your back is therefore not just a matter of preserving long-term health, but of protecting your livelihood, too.

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Spine

While we can’t always control whether we’ll develop spinal conditions such as osteoporosis or arthritis, there are plenty of things we can do to boost spine health. Here are a few to start practicing now.

  • Lift carefully. Keep objects close to your body as you lift them, and use your leg strength to bear the weight instead of your back.
  • Practice good sleep posture. Aim to keep your spine in its neutral alignment while you sleep. You may need to put a pillow between your legs if you’re a side sleeper, under your knees if you’re a back sleeper, or beneath your hips if you sleep on your stomach.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts added stress on your spine. Follow a nutrient-rich diet and exercise regularly. As an added bonus, mixing strength, stretching, and aerobic activities will help keep your back more resilient against injuries.

Our team at Alliance Spine and Pain promotes spine health by addressing the root causes of back issues. We use state-of-the-art therapies to address a wide range of back issues. Schedule an appointment online or by calling (770) 929-9033.

Teenage girl lying on the floor in the living room doing her homework using a laptop computer, low angle, close up, highlighting child habits hurting their spine.

How Your Child’s Habits Could be Hurting Their Spine

As parents, we want to protect children from harm to their young bodies. Yet, it can be challenging to keep track of all they do and how it indirectly impacts their health. Unfortunately, many children’s daily habits have negative impacts on their spine. 

If your child is complaining about back pain, their posture needs improvement, or you’re interested in proactive health tips, keep reading to learn how your child’s habits could be hurting their spine.

SCREEN TIME

With many schools using virtual learning, kids are finding themselves using technology as a daily part of life more than ever. Here are Alliance’s tips to help establish healthy screen time habits with the proper posture.

  • When children are looking at phones, tell them to hold it up in front of their faces. They need to avoid hunching over to look at the screen.
  • Similarly with iPads, instead of slouching on the couch, ask them to sit up straight and use the device at a table. 
  • If your child spends a lot of time sitting at a desk to use a computer, make sure the monitor is set up correctly so that the screen is at eye level and your child’s feet can rest firmly on the floor or a stool.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY 

When your child is physically active, their body is properly developing the muscles that keep their spine, abdomen, lower back, and hips in shape. Staying active can prevent injuries and pain from developing in the future for children.

Make sure your child has at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. It can be going outside to play or participating in a team sport. 

BACKPACK SAFETY  

If your child uses a backpack on a regular basis, you need to be aware of how it’s adjusted. It’s easy to overlook, which later can lead to aches and pains in your child’s shoulders, neck, and spine. 

Here are a few rules to keep in mind when adjusting your child’s backpack:

  • Ensure it sits evenly in the middle of their back. 
  • Children’s backpacks shouldn’t have more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight, meaning they should easily be able to put it on and take it off themselves.
  • No one-strap bags. In the same vein, don’t allow your child to wear a backpack on just one shoulder. 
  • Read more about how backpacks affect children’s spine health.

PAY ATTENTION TO SHOES 

Shoes with strong support are best for everyone, but especially for kids. They spend lots of time on their feet.  Try to select sneakers with support that are lightweight, flexible, and also breathable. Shoes without these characteristics can lead to issues with your child’s feet, hips, and even lower back. 

If you have any additional questions about issues with back pain or posture or how your child’s habits could be hurting their spine, contact Alliance and Spine Health to speak with our specialists or call 770-929-9033. 

Male grabbing neck in pain in front of laptop, due to bad posture.

Watch Your Posture While Quarantining

While many of us are working from home and living a new reality in quarantine, one thing that can slip your mind is practicing good posture. It’s easy to forget about this important habit, especially if you’re spending more time in the comfort of your own home. 

The experts at Alliance Spine and Pain Centers are here to remind you that good posture is important for overall health and happiness. Here are some tips we’ve curated to help you watch your posture while quarantining.

How to Watch Your Posture While Quarantining

  • Get a Comfortable Office Chair: If working from home has become part of your normal routine, now is good time to start focusing about your posture. Our first recommendation is to make sure your home office as a high-quality office chair. Chairs in bad condition are not helpful for posture improvement. Take the time to find one that will be comfortable for you and also maintain your proper posture. 
  • Don’t Forget to Exercise: While it can be tempting not to stay active while you’re working from home, it’s important to keep up an active lifestyle. It improves your well-being and helps with your posture too. Also, remember to stretch! Stretching will improve your muscle flexibility and also help correct any posture issues. If you need tips on how to keep active during quarantine, read this blog from our experts
  • Keep Your Posture at the Forefront of Your Mind: Feeling pain in your back might be a sign you need to improve your posture. However, you might not feel back pain and need to actively try to keep it on the top of mind. Make it a personal goal to try and better your posture. Schedule daily checks to see how you’re sitting and consider putting a mirror nearby to notice your reflection from time to time. 

If you have any questions about improving your posture while quarantining, Alliance Spine and Pain is here to help. Reach out to any of our pain care specialists by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033.

Child with kyphosis being examined.

What is Kyphosis?

Almost three million Americans experience kyphosis in their lifetime. Also known as hunchback syndrome, this common medical issue impacts the upper back and can lead to issues with posture and pain. While it may not be as common of a name as osteoporosis or arthritis, it still can impact anyone’s quality of life.

What is kyphosis? The experts at Alliance Spine and Pain Centers are here to explain this medical condition. 

Explanation of Kyphosis

The best way to describe kyphosis is a severe curve on the upper back. While it’s more common in older women, sometimes children will develop it too. What causes kyphosis? Here are the most common reasons:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Disk degeneration 
  • Birth defects
  • Cancer treatments 
  • Previous fractures in your bones

Main Symptoms of Kyphosis

Unfortunately, symptoms aren’t visible in the early stages of kyphosis. However, a curve in the upper back can be an early sign of kyphosis. Sometimes, back pain and stiffness will also accommodate that symptom.

Treatment Options 

Here are the treatment options that medical professionals recommend for those experiencing kyphosis:

  • Consuming more calcium and vitamin D
  • Avoiding smoking products and alcohol
  • Physical therapy
  • Pain relievers, whether over-the-counter or prescribed
  • Certain medication, such as osteoporosis focused options
  • Surgery

If you have any more questions about kyphosis, Alliance Spine and Pain is here to help. Reach out to any of our back-strengthening specialists by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033.

Closeup of female doctor in labcoat and stethoscope holding digital tablet, reading patient report. Hands holding medical report, discussing Provocative Discography.

Why You Might Need Provocative Discography

When you’re dealing with constant and debilitating back pain, you’ll do anything to find relief as quickly as possible. However, determining the source for your back pain can be difficult if there is a long list of potential causes. It can take time and several doctor visits to discover the reason for your discomfort.

Provocative discography is a diagnostic procedure your physician might suggest to determine the root of the problem. To learn about this process and why you might need it, read more below from the experts at Alliance Spine and Pain Centers.

What is Provocative Discography? 

Lumbar provocative discography, also called discography or discogram, helps your physician discover the source of your back pain. It identifies the disc or discs in the spine that appear abnormal and are painful. Then, your doctor can determine if surgery or another type of pain management is needed to help relieve your back pain.

How Does a Provocative Discography Work?

This procedure requires you to rate your pain during the procedure, so you will not be sleeping during it. Here are the common steps for a provocative discography.

  • Numbing medicine is applied to decrease the amount of pain felt during this procedure. 
  • A discogram needle enters the body and into the center of the disc. 
  • Then, a contrast dye is injected. 
  • The doctor will ask you to rate your pain and whether it corresponds with your normal area of pain.
  • Next, a CT scan or an X-ray is used to see how the dye spreads. 
  • If the dye spreads outside of the disc and it reproduces your pain, it could be the source of your pain. 

Why You Might Need It 

This procedure gives doctors an inside look at the quality of your spinal discs. The ones with the most wear and tear and reproduce your pain indicate the potential source of your back pain.

However, the efficacy of provocative discography in determining the source of back pain is still controversial within the scientific community. Sometimes, dye spreading past the disc doesn’t match your normal pain.

Because of this discussion, it’s best to consult with your pain physician beforehand to determine if provocative discography is the best procedure to identify your pain. 

If you have any more questions about why you might need provocative discography, Alliance Spine and Pain is here to help. Reach out to any of our back-strengthening specialists by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033.   

Older woman holding back in pain due to arthritis, wondering How Arthritis Affects Your Spine..

How Arthritis Affects Your Spine

When thinking about arthritis, many people think about pain and lack of mobility in the hands and fingers. However, since arthritis is a medical condition that impacts the joints of the body, it can happen anywhere there are joints: which means, the spine is fair game.

The common symptoms of arthritis are pain, lack of flexibility, and inflammation. While it can be difficult enough dealing with it in the hands, as it impacts your spine it can be even more difficult to get around and do everyday tasks.

To learn more about how arthritis affects your spine from the experts at Alliance Spine and Pain Specialists, keep reading below.

Types of Spinal Arthritis

Osteoarthritis

As the most common form of spinal arthritis, this impacts the lower back and is usually caused by common wear and tear of everyday life. The cartilage between the spinal facet joints naturally fades through the years, which means those joint surfaces begin to rub against each other. This then leads to the tell-tale signs of spinal arthritis, such as pain and lack of flexibility.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

An autoimmune disorder, this occurs when the immune system attacks the synovium, also known as the lining of the joints. It can happen during any age as, unlike osteoarthritis, it doesn’t naturally develop over time.

It is usually more common in other areas of the body, but it can still happen to the spine.

Spondyloarthritis

Similar to rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis is an inflammatory disease that impacts the joints, ligaments, and tendons of the spine. It can be triggered by other previous diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease or an infection.

Symptoms of Spinal Arthritis

Here are the symptoms of arthritis in the spine:

  • Pain in the back.
  • Fatigue.
  • Loss of flexibility in the back.
  • Headaches.
  • Grinding sensation in the spine when moving.
  • Swelling in the back.
  • Tenderness in the back.

Treatment of Spinal Arthritis

Osteoarthritis

As with many other medical conditions, the type of treatment that works best for spinal arthritis will depend on many factors, such as type of spinal arthritis, age, and pain level.

Keeping that in mind, here are several of the most common treatment options:

  • Medications.
  • Lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking or losing weight.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Radiofrequency ablation of the nerves to the facet joints.
  • Surgery is rarely an option for spinal arthritis symptoms alone.

If you have any more questions about how arthritis affects your spine, Alliance Spine and Pain is here to help. Reach out to any of our back-strengthening specialists by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033.

Young African American woman wearing an orange sweater experiencing back pain

Signs Your Back Pain Might Be More Serious

Back pain can, of course, cause back pain. That’s a given. But, if you are experiencing other physical symptoms in addition to your back pain, then something more serious may be going on.

When your symptoms first appear, it is vital to head over to your doctor’s office to discover what may be at the root of your back issues. If other medical symptoms begin to appear, it means you’ve either waited too long so that your back pain has begun to cause other side effects, or that a bigger medical issue is causing your pain.

That’s why it’s best to stay aware of any physical symptoms you’re experiencing. Keep reading below to understand signs your back pain might be more serious. 

Symptoms That Point to Your Back Pain Being More Serious

  • Fever.
  • Pain that travels down the legs. 
  • Pain in both legs. 
  • Legs that are weaker. 
  • Pain worsened by coughing and sneezing. 
  • Unable to hold the bladder. 
  • More bowel movements. 
  • Fewer bowel movements. 
  • Difficulty and pain getting out of bed in the morning. 
  • Stiff back when first waking up. 
  • Feeling unwell on top of the back pain.
  • Weight loss. 
  • Extreme pain, as in lightly touching the back hurts horribly. 

If you’re experiencing any of the above physical symptoms in addition to your back pain, then it’s time to visit your doctor. Don’t let a serious medical problem go undetected. 

If you have any more questions about signs your back pain might be more serious, Alliance Spine and Pain is here to help. Reach out to any of our pain-alleviating specialists by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033.  

Lower back pain. Man holding his back in pain. Medical concept. Close up hands touching back pain. A man problem chronic low back pain, wondering do I have lower back pain.

Do You Have Lower Back Pain?

The lower back, or lumbar spine, is the area of the back between the bottom of the rib cage and the top of the hips. Pain in this region, sometimes also referred to as lumbar or low back pain develops at some point in life for most people. When properly treated, the pain can be alleviated and the symptoms reversed. On-going low back pain, however, can become a chronic and even debilitating condition if it is left unchecked.

Understanding Low Back Pain

While the start of this pain can often be attributed to a particular moment of injury, twisting, or improper lifting; it can also develop over time or even have no apparent cause. People who sit a lot or carry excess abdominal weight can become particularly prone to pain in the lumbar spine. In some cases, a problem with the spine present at birth can lead to lower back pain.

Whatever the reason, the sensation of pain in the lumbar spine depends on alterations of the spinal alignment causing pressure or impingement on nerves. If left untreated, this pain can include permanent damage to the reception and interpretation of pain signals from these effected nerves.

Symptoms 

The experience of lumbar pain can vary substantially from person to person. For some, low back pain is a dull ache over a broad area while for others; the pain is sharp and localized. Sometimes, pain in the lumbar spine is associated with episodic often-debilitating muscle spasms. It can also involve pain, tingling, or numbness in the legs.

Fortunately, the symptoms for most cases are reversible. In some severe conditions, however, the nerves involved cause weakness of the legs or loss of bladder and bowel control. Any low back pain involving these symptoms requires immediate medical attention.

Proper diagnosis of lower back pain is a crucial therapeutic step. Most clinical assessments involve a simple office visit and discussion with a physician. In some cases, particularly if the pain in the lumbar spine has lasted longer than six weeks, the physician may recommend some imaging exams such as X-rays or MRIs.

Treating Low Back Pain

A number of therapy options are available to effectively treat the symptoms and underlying causes. While non-prescription analgesic drugs may help provide short-term pain relief, they should not be used without consultation with a specialist who can provide a complete assessment of the condition and recommend the best therapeutic options.

The specialists at the Alliance Spine and Pain Centers have the expertise to diagnose and treat even the toughest cases of lower back pain. While early treatment is the best option, it’s never too late to improve symptoms and find relief from this pain. Conveniently situated across 15 locations across northern Georgia and the Atlanta Metro Area, the team at the Alliance Spine and Pain Centers are available to make full clinical assessments and explore a range of treatment options. Stop by to stop the pain with Alliance Spine and Pain Centers, where top-quality specialist pain interventions are the standard of care.