Nerve Zap Might Ease Pain of Herniated Disk

Nerve Zap Might Ease Pain of Herniated Disk

TUESDAY, Nov. 27, 2018 (HealthDay News) –What if a simple zap to the spine could relieve the debilitating lower back and leg pain brought on by a herniated disk?

Such is the promise of “pulse radiofrequency” therapy (pRF), which sends inflammation-reducing pulses of energy to nerve roots in the spine, a new study claims.

The therapy is not new, having first received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in the 1980s.

But recent advances in CT scan technology now enable clinicians to deploy those energy pulses with much more accuracy, experts said. And the new research suggests the treatment could prove a boon to back pain patients for whom standard therapies have failed to do the trick.

“I was amazed with the results of pRF,” said study author Dr. Alessandro Napoli. “Especially having read, as a radiologist, numerous lumbar MRI scans of patients with recurrent hernia after surgery.”

And as a patient himself, Napoli added that “from personal experience I can tell you that the treatment is not painful, and the results are appreciated within days after a single treatment lasting 10 minutes.”

Napoli is a professor of interventional radiology at Sapienza University of Rome in Italy.

He and his colleagues plan to report their findings Tuesday at the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting, in Chicago. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Lower disk herniation results when the insulating disks that sit between spinal vertebrae tear open, allowing jelly-like material to protrude and exert pressure on surrounding nerve roots. Beyond lower back pain, the condition often triggers sciatica, a pain that radiates down a patient’s leg.

Standard therapies include over-the-counter pain meds, corticosteroid spinal injections, and/or invasive spine surgery that sometimes involves disk removal and vertebrae fusion.

The problem, said Napoli, is that such options entail risks without assured relief.

“Steroid injections are effective only in portion of the patients, and generally require more sessions,” he noted. And though surgery safety has “largely improved,” Napoli pointed to the risk for bleeding and infection, the need for a minimum two- to three-day hospital stay, the high cost, and the fact that some patients ultimately realize little benefit.

By contrast, pRF is scalpel-free, delivering radio signals directly to affected nerves via a CT scan-guided electrode. The process, said Napoli, requires no hospital stay, is noninvasive, far cheaper and less risky.

“The rationale for using pRF on disk herniation is that we eliminate the inflammation process of the compromised nerve root,” he explained. “Without inflammation the pain fades, and the body starts a self-healing process that allows for complete resolution of the disk herniation in a large proportion of patients.”

For the study, the Italian investigators compared 128 lumbar herniation patients who underwent a single 10-minute round of CT-guided pRF with 120 patients who received one to three rounds of steroid injections.

All the patients had already undergone standard interventions, with poor results.

By the one-year mark following either treatment, a full “perceived” recovery was reported by 95 percent of the pRF patients, compared with just 61 percent of the steroid injection patients.

Dr. Daniel Park, director of minimally invasive orthopedic spine surgery at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., offered some caution on the findings.

He noted that because “the majority of people with back pain improve with time and exercise alone,” it remains an open question as to whether the pRF procedure really cured the condition.

Still, Park noted that diagnostic uncertainty can undermine the ability of surgery to get at the true source of a patient’s pain, given that “the problem with low back pain is that there are many causes of it, and physicians have trouble identifying the cause of pain.”

Nevertheless, he remains unsure if pRF is truly ready for prime time.

“Best case, I think [pRF] could be an option for people if they [have already] failed therapy and medication,” said Park. “It may be a similar option for people if they do not or cannot have steroid injections, but they need more treatment. I think this is experimental, and should not be first-line.”

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers more information on herniated disks.

SOURCES: Alessandro Napoli, M.D., Ph.D., interventional radiologist and professor, interventional radiology, department of radiological, oncological and pathological science, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy; Daniel Park, M.D., orthopedic spine surgeon, associate professor, orthopedic spine surgery, and director, Minimally Invasive Orthopedic Spine Surgery, William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Mich.; Nov. 27, 2018, Radiological Society of North America annual meeting, Chicago

Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Healthful Diet = Healthy Bones

Healthful Diet = Healthy Bones

MONDAY, Nov. 19, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Trying to eat a healthier diet? Don’t forget that certain foods can help protect your bones, a nutrition expert says.

“Bone disease is often preventable by getting enough calcium and vitamin D into your diet,” said Kathryn Weatherford, a registered dietitian at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

“By eating the right combination of calcium- and vitamin D-rich foods, we can boost our immune system and protect our bones,” she said. “Many foods are now fortified in calcium and vitamin D, making it easier to meet our daily recommended intake.”

Start your day with a calcium-fortified cereal that is high in fiber (more than 3 grams) and low in sugar. Whole grain cereal with a cup of milk adds up to 600 milligrams (mg) of calcium.

Fatty fish is also an excellent source of vitamin D. A 3-ounce portion of wild salmon provides more than 100 percent of daily value of vitamin D, according to Weatherford.

Eat a variety of dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard and bok choy, she added.

An 8-ounce serving of yogurt provides 400 mg of calcium. Choose non-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt, which provides additional protein.

Another suggestion is milk alternatives. Whether it is almond, soy, cashew or hemp milk, almost all milk alternatives are fortified with both vitamin D and calcium. For example, almond milk provides up to 45 percent of daily value of calcium and 25 percent of daily value of vitamin D, Weatherford said.

Your body also produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Just 10 to 15 minutes of sunshine a day can produce enough vitamin D.

It’s important to monitor how much calcium and vitamin D you consume each day. If you suspect you’re not getting enough, talk to your doctor or dietitian, Weatherford suggested.

“It’s good to know if you’re vitamin D-deficient so you can take steps to fix the problem and keep building strong bones,” Weatherford said.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on vitamin D.

SOURCE: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, news release, Nov. 6, 2018

Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Health Tip: Warning Signs of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Health Tip: Warning Signs of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the nerve that runs from the forearm to the wrist becomes squeezed or compressed.

The condition can be caused by an injury to the wrist, stress to the joint, rheumatoid arthritis, or repetitive motion of the hand and wrist.

Here are some common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, courtesy of the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke:

  • Numbness, burning, or tingling sensations in the fingers and/or palms of the hands.
  • Having these sensations at night, with symptoms increasing in severity and frequency.
  • Fingers feeling weak or swollen, even with no visible swelling.
  • Weak grip.
  • Difficulty perceiving hot and cold.
Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
An Expert’s Guide to Avoiding Back Pain

An Expert’s Guide to Avoiding Back Pain

THURSDAY, Oct. 25, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Back pain is a common problem in the United States, but there are ways to protect yourself, an expert says.

“The back is a complex structure with many delicate parts, but with good judgment and healthy lifestyle habits — including proper lifting, good posture and exercise — it’s possible to avoid common back pain caused by strained muscles,” said Dr. Lawrence Lenke. He is director of spinal deformity surgery at the Spine Hospital at New York-Presbyterian in New York City.

For more complicated spinal problems such as scoliosis, stenosis, fractures or injuries, medical intervention is usually necessary, Lenke said.

“But each person with or without spinal problems can benefit from adopting healthier lifestyle habits to keep your spine as strong as possible,” he said.

Lenke offered this advice:

  • Maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke, do stretching and strengthening exercises that increase back and abdomen flexibility, and get regular cardiovascular exercise. If your job involves a lot of sitting, get up and walk around every 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Maintain good posture even while sitting. Don’t slouch or hold your head too far forward. Be sure your feet are supported, hips are level with or slightly above the knees and your spine is slightly reclined. There should be a small arch in the lower back.
  • When sitting at a computer, your shoulders should be relaxed and away from the ears. Your elbows should be at the sides, bent to about 90 degrees, and your wrists should be neutral — not bent up, down or away from each other. Your head should face ahead without being too far forward.
  • When using a mobile device for non-voice activities, hold it up instead of bending your neck to look down. At just 45 degrees, the work your neck muscles are doing is equal to lifting a 50-pound bag of potatoes.
  • When lifting, make sure objects are properly balanced and packed correctly so weight won’t shift. Keep the weight close to your body. And take your time. Bend at the hips and knees and use your legs to lift. Maintain proper posture with your back straight and head up.

More information

The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has more on preventing back pain.

SOURCE: New York-Presbyterian Hospital, news release, Oct. 16, 2018