DANBURY, CT - Rare is the person who goes through life without some sort of back or neck pain. It’s no wonder, considering that the spine is a feat of biological engineering: More than 33 vertebrae form the flexible column that runs from skull to tailbone; between each is a cushiony disc, and holding everything together is a web of ligaments and muscles. With all those moving parts, there’s plenty that can go wrong, and it’s not always easy to identify the cause of the back trouble.
Bringing together both neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine specialists, spine care at Western Connecticut Health Network involves multi-disciplinary teams to address back and neck conditions with some of the most technologically advanced diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitation services available in Connecticut and nearby New York. The network offers state-of-the-art imaging services in five locations in Danbury, New Milford and Ridgefield.
S. Javed Shahid, MD, Chief of Neurosurgery, said, “The spine program takes a unique approach that combines all areas of expertise with community physicians in these specialties having established a partnership with the hospital that is rarely seen at other medical institutions. Whether you are experiencing muscle weakness, pain, or numbness as a result of a back or neck condition, our team is ready to help you return to better health.”
The team of spine specialists meets regularly to review cases and explore all possible treatment options for each patient, both surgical and non-surgical, to recommend the most optimal ways to address back or neck conditions. “We prioritize treatment options before assembling the best team to meet the patient’s unique needs,” said Spine Program Director David Kramer, MD. “Patients benefit by having access to multiple opinions from experts in spine surgery, pain management, physical medicine and rehabilitation, radiology, physical therapy and chiropractic care. In the operating room, new sophisticated devices for monitoring spinal cord function and the use of intra-operative x-rays are helping to make surgery even quicker and safer. Our comprehensive team is committed to bringing the highest level of spine care to our community.”
According to Mitchell Garden, MD, an orthopedic spine specialist at New Milford Hospital, advanced diagnostic capabilities such as New Milford’s open-bore MRI and low-dose CT scanner, have improved care with more timely and accurate diagnoses. “New technologies, including imaging and surgical devices, are making this an exciting time in the field of spine surgery. We are now performing artificial disc replacements, particularly in the cervical spine. New materials are making these surgical options very suitable for patients under 55, while still having spinal fusion as a viable choice for older patients with arthritis,” he explained.
“Though conservative treatment is typically the first-line approach, it is not always sufficient for every patient’s needs,” Dr. Garden added. “Posture, lifestyle habits, a long commute and work that stresses the neck and spine can all be factors making a condition severe enough to interfere with your ability to participate in the activities of daily life.”
No matter what the situation is with a back and neck problem, spine surgeons throughout the network agree that the smartest approach to pain is prevention. If you’ve had trouble before, incorporating back- and neck-sparing techniques into your everyday routine will help you avoid a recurrence.
Back and Neck Basics
Posture-perfect. Proper posture is one of the first lines of defense against back pain. To stand up straight, keep this image in mind: Keep your ears above your shoulders, your shoulders above your hips, and your hips above your knees and feet. When sitting, preserve the curve in your lower back by tucking a rolled towel behind you. Get up at least once an hour to stretch.
Move a muscle. Strengthening the muscles that support your legs, back and abdomen is a sound way to prevent back pain. Swimming is a good choice, especially if you’ve hurt your back before. Walking and cycling also are recommended.
Lift it right. Use your legs, not your back, to lift heavy objects. Place one foot slightly ahead of the other, bend your knees, tighten your stomach muscles, pick up the load and lift, keeping your back straight and the object close to your body.
Take a load off. Lugging a heavy shoulder bag (more than 5 pounds)? Unload unnecessary items and switch the bag from shoulder to shoulder.
Don’t sleep on it. The best way to spend the night is lying on your side, a pillow tucked between your knees. Avoid sleeping on your stomach, and if you must sleep on your back, put a pillow under your knees.
Lose excess weight. A bad back and extra pounds are a bad combination. Slim down and your back will benefit.
Wear sensible shoes. Alternate between flats and 2-inch heels. Wear well-fitting athletic shoes during your leisure time.
Keep your neck in line. Hold your ears over your shoulders—not in front of them—whenever possible. Don’t lock your head in place while watching TV or reading. Move it from side to side or rotate it every once in a while to keep fluids moving and joints lubricated. If you constantly favor one side, remember to look the other way every so often and hold the position for about 30 seconds.
For more information on spine care at Western Connecticut Health Network or to Find-a-Doctor, visit online at DanburyHospoital.org and New Milford Hospital.org, or call 1-800-516-4743.