What Exactly is Degenerative Disc Disease?

First, let’s understand your spine. Your spine is made up of 24 bones, called vertebrae. Muscles and ligaments connect these bones to the spinal column. The many muscles that connect to the spinal column help support the upright posture of the spine and move the spine. The spinal column is what gives the body form and function. The spinal column holds and protects the spinal cord, which is a bundle of nerves that send signals to other parts of the body.

In between each vertebra is a soft, gel-like cushion called an intervertebral disc. The discs act as shock absorbers from everyday movements by helping to absorb pressure. Pressure on the body comes from anything such as sitting, walking, bending, and normal day-to-day activities. The discs also prevent the bones from rubbing against each other.

Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common causes of low back and neck pain. Degenerative disc disease is not a disease, despite the name, but rather more of a condition in which natural, age-related wear and tear on a disc causes pain, instability, and other symptoms. It is normally the result of aging on your spine, however, younger people can have symptoms as well. Spinal injuries can also start the degenerative process of your discs at an earlier time.

Loss of fluid also contributes to the degenerative process of discs. In a healthy, young adult, the discs consist of up to 90 percent fluid. As a person ages, the fluid content decreases, making the discs thinner and they start to become stiff. Because the discs become thin and stiff, they become less effective as a shock absorber and this can create pain and problems.

Common symptoms of degenerative disc disease include:

  • Pain that is worse when sitting. While seated, the discs of the lower back have three times more load on them than when standing.
  • Pain that gets worse when bending, lifting or twisting.
  • Feeling better while walking or even running than when sitting or standing for long periods of time.
  • Feeling better changing positions or lying down.
  • Periods of severe pain that come and go. These can last a few days to a few months before getting better. They can range from nagging pain to disabling pain. Pain can affect the low back, buttocks, thighs or the neck, depending on where the affected disc is, radiating to the arms and hands.
  • Numbness and tingling in the extremities.
  • Weakness in the leg muscles or foot drop, a possible sign of damage to the nerve root.

Risk Factors:

  • An acute or sudden injury, such as a fall
  • Obesity
  • Strenuous physical work
  • Tobacco smoking

If you are experiencing any sort of back or neck pain it doesn’t hurt to reach out to a professional to get it checked out. Normal wear and tear is bound to happen, but, over time can get worse or lead to other issues if not treated correctly or if risk factors are not addressed.

Employee Spotlight: Pa Ta

Meet Pa Ta, Medical Assistant at Twin Cities Pain Clinic. Pa Ta was nominated by her fellow staff members for her continued willingness to help and always having a great attitude. Pa Ta is always willing to help others to make sure the day runs smoothly. Thank you for all you do Pa Ta!

What is your position / What are your daily responsibilities?

I am a Medical Assistant for Twin Cities Pain Clinic. My responsibilities include rooming patients, completing vitals, and lab work.

How long have you been with TCPC?

I have been with Twin Cities Pain Clinic for three awesome months!

What are some of your hobbies?

In my free time I enjoy playing volleyball, spending time with my dog Nala, and cooking. I am a Packers fan, so I love watching them play as well. You can also find me bullet journaling and obsessing over my stationary!

What is your favorite thing about working at TCPC?

I really enjoy working with the staff at TCPC! They have all been very welcoming and helpful with my transition to TCPC.

 

 

Twin Cities Pain Clinic has been named a Top Workplace by the Star Tribune. This great award wouldn't be possible without our amazing staff members. Your hard work does not go unnoticed.

Tech Neck: How to Avoid Neck Pain

With all that our smartphones and tablets have to offer, we end up spending a lot of time on our devices, whether it's texting, emailing, or researching. Tech neck can begin to take place. Tech neck is a term coined to describe the position of the head and neck when the device is held at the chest or waist level, eyes focused down at the screen. Tech neck is pain, soreness, and stiffness of the neck that over time can lead to a variety of health issues including muscle strains, nerve impingement, and disk injury.

When the head is in a neutral position - when the ears are lined up with the shoulders and the shoulder blades are pulled in. There is relatively little stress on the neck. When the head falls forward, the weight on the spine increases drastically. According to Dr. K Daniel Riew, director of cervical spine surgery and co-director of spine surgery in the department of orthopedic surgery at the Daniel and Jane Och Spine Hospital at New York Presbyterian, “At just 45 degrees, your neck muscles are doing the work of lifting a 50 lb. bag of potatoes.” Over time, that added pressure on your spine can create unnecessary health issues.  

If you are experiencing neck pain, numbness and tension in your fingers, headaches and migraines, or pain between your shoulder blades, you may be experiencing tech neck. What happens is the more you look down at your device, the more your muscles with tighten up and put pressure on the discs. This makes the discs between your vertebrae wear out faster, and they can even bulge or rupture.

If it gets severe enough, surgery may be required. Posture re-education is an important key to decreasing the incidence of shoulder and neck pain from the effects of tech neck.

Some helpful tips to remember to ward off tech neck are:

  • Make sure whatever device you are using it is at eye level.
  • Take several short breaks throughout the day to get up and move around.
  • Pay attention to your posture. When sitting, place a towel or soft material between your low back and the chair to help provide lumbar support.
  • Make sure that your computer screen is at eye level. Even investing in a transitional, sit-stand desk so you can work from your feet a majority of the day.
  • Stretch. Stretching is a great preventative measure that can be done almost anywhere and should be integrated into the day.
  • Exercise. Especially if you have a desk job, taking short walks during the day or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can help add some movement into your day and get oxygen moving within the body.

In today’s world, it’s almost impossible to avoid technological devices. They are useful in many aspects of our day. But, having proper posture while using them and taking frequent breaks will help your back and neck from aches and pains.

 

 

Riew, K. Daniel, Dr. (2018, July 18). How to Prevent 'Tech Neck'. Retrieved from https://healthmatters.nyp.org/how-to-prevent-tech-neck/

Employee Spotlight: Carly

Meet Carly, Administrative Assistant at Twin Cities Pain Clinic. Carly was nominated by her fellow staff members for her continued effort in helping others and always going above and beyond her expected job duties. Carly always has a smile on her face and is always willing to help others out, it definitely makes the day run smoother. Thank you for all you do Carly!

What is your position / What are your daily responsibilities?

I am the Administrative Assistant for Twin Cities Pain Clinic and I mainly take care of templating for the mid-levels and doctors schedules for the clinic and surgery center. I also help with making sure appointments have been scheduled correctly, along with other daily office tasks.

How long have you been with TCPC?

I have been with Twin Cities Pain Clinic for a little over seven months now. I started out as a Patient Service Representative and have recently transitioned into the Administrative Assistant role.

What are some of your hobbies?

While not at work, some of my favorite things to do are checking out the many state parks that MN has to offer. I like to go camping and hiking with my boyfriend and our dog Kona. I love going on adventures discovering new breweries, restaurants, and outdoor activities. I also enjoy spending time with family and friends.

What is your favorite thing about working at TCPC?

My favorite thing about working at TCPC is the great sense of teamwork here. Knowing that myself, as well as my fellow coworkers have each other's back no matter what is a great feeling.

 

 

Twin Cities Pain Clinic has been named a Top Workplace by the Star Tribune. This great award wouldn't be possible without our amazing staff members. Your hard work does not go unnoticed.

The Importance of Stretching

Almost everybody knows that physical activity and exercise are very important. But, what a lot of people don’t know is how important stretching is. There are five components of physical fitness, and flexibility is one of them, with the other four being cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and a healthy body.

A stretching program can help bring alignment to the joints of your shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. When the body is properly aligned mobility is increased and inflammation of the joints is reduced. Stretching consistently can improve range of motion, help relieve stiffness and muscle aches, help prevent injuries, and help improve structural problems.

A stretching routine has many benefits to it. Besides increased flexibility, stretching helps improves circulation and blood flow, align the body, relaxes and relieves stress, increases oxygen flow, enhances coordination, and helps relieve pain.

When stretching or starting a stretching routine its always good to consult with an expect first. But, some general tips to keep in mind while stretching would be:

  • Wear comfortable clothing that won’t constrict movements
  • Don’t force your body info difficult or painful positions – stretching should be pain free
  • Move into a stretch slowly and avoid bouncing
  • Hold stretches between 15 to 30 seconds to adequately lengthen and improve range of motion
  • Stretch on a clean, flat surface that is large enough to move freely
  • Repeat a stretch between 2 and 5 times

Another thing to remember is to get into a routine of stretching after you exercise. Stretching after a workout will assist in your body releasing lactic acid from muscle cells faster. Stretching increases blood flow and improves circulation which helps the muscles heal quicker as well. Stretching after exercise helps with soreness too, as you are less likely to get sore if you stretch.

The most important thing to remember when stretching or doing any form of exercise is to listen to your body. What works for one person may not be the right avenue for the next person. Stretching, like any exercise also takes time to see a difference. Keep working towards your goal one day at a time and seek help when necessary.

Why Persistent Pain Patients Need Quality Sleep

Does pain make the sleep worse or does poor quality sleep make the pain feel worse? It’s actually both. The subjected intensity of pain decreases when a person is well rested. It is estimated that 50-80% of chronic pain patients report sleep disturbances. The worst is when pain and sleep form a downward spiral, leading to quality of life going down as well. Pain makes it hard to sleep, and poor sleep makes the pain subjectively worse.

During a normal night’s sleep, we cycle from light sleep to deep sleep to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep up to five times. When you feel tired in the morning, it’s normally because you didn’t get enough deep sleep and REM sleep.

Sudden severe pain can wake you up from a deep sleep, but milder pain can negatively impact sleep quality as well. Milder pain can cause microarousals. Microarousals are periods of time when you are shifted back into light sleep. Though you’re not likely to be aware of these microarousals happening or remember them the next day, you will probably wake up feeling like you didn’t sleep much at all.

Poor sleep can cause migraines. Getting enough sleep helps protect against migraine attacks.

Poor sleep can make you vulnerable to infections. Sleep helps heal and repair the body, especially your heart and blood vessels. If you don’t give your body time to heal and repair, your immunity system can lower, making you susceptible to other infections.

Poor sleep can make you sick in the long run. Sleep disturbance is associated with a wide array of distress and symptoms spanning from obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease risk.

Poor sleep can negatively affect various aspects of brain function. This can include cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance. Getting good sleep then, can actually help improve problem-solving skills and enhance memory performance.

Poor sleep can wreck your mood. 40% of psychiatric mood disorders are preceded by insomnia, and insomnia sets in at the same time as another 20% of mood disorders.

Lifestyle changes that can help improve sleep

  • Don’t watch TV in the bedroom.
  • Don’t eat a big meal before bed, as digestion can disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Put away your cell phone, tablet, or laptop, and anything else that has a lit screen at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Don’t consume caffeine in the evening.
  • Try relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga to reduce stress.
  • Keep your room dark, cool, and quiet.

Finding a nightly routine can help with getting better sleep. Find what works for you, whether it’s reading before bed, or preparing for the next day. Better sleep is not always going to happen instantaneously, but with practice and consistency, sleep can improve over time.

 

 

How Does Pain Affect Sleep? (2017). Retrieved from https://www.tuck.com/pain-and-sleep/

Leech, J. (2018). 10 Reasons Why Good Sleep Is Important. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-reasons-why-good-sleep-is-important#section3

Chronic Pain and Sleep. Retrieved from https://creakyjoints.org/support/pain-management/sleep/

Get To Know our Radiology Technologists

Radiologic technologists (rad techs) are the health care professionals who perform diagnostic imaging procedures, such as X-ray examinations, magnetic resonance (MRI) scans and computed tomography (CT) scans. Some of them specialize in specific techniques such as cardiovascular-interventional radiography, mammography or sonography.

Radiologic technologists are responsible for accurately positioning patients and ensuring that a quality diagnostic image is produced. They work closely with radiologists, the physicians who interpret medical images to either diagnose or rule out disease or injury. For the images to be interpreted correctly, the imaging examination must be performed properly by a radiologic technologist. Twin Cities Surgery Center has 3 full time rad techs; Liz, Tiffany, and Heather.

Liz

I graduated from St. Kate’s and passed by boards in December of 2016 and have been working as a radiology technologist (rad tech) since. I have been with Twin Cities Surgery Center (TCSC) since August 2018. I started in a casual position and at the beginning of October 2018, I moved into a full-time position.

My favorite part about working at TCSC is the staff here are amazing and great to work with. The pace is busy, but manageable, and it’s a great balance to make the day flow well. One thing that is different about TCSC compared to other places I’ve worked is that we only use C-arm for procedures here. The machine can be very challenging at times to get the correct angle of a picture, but it is very helpful in assisting the doctors during procedures.

  • What is one thing you wish people knew about rad techs?
    We’re not just glorified photographers that push a button. There is a lot of anatomy and physics behind what we do and even the slightest change in positioning can make a huge difference in an image.
  • What is the best career advice you have ever received?
    One patient at a time. Focus on the patient in front of you, not the prior or the next. Also, communication is the key to a successful healthcare employee… communicate with your patients, but, also with your coworkers.
  • What is the most important trait someone needs to be a rad tech?
    Attention to detail.
  • What is your favorite piece of wellness advice?
    Take care of yourself above all others… you can’t be a help to anyone else if you’re not in the right place physically, emotionally, and mentally. 

Tiffany

I have been a rad tech for about four and a half years. I graduated from Argosy University and immediately took my boards and started working as a tech. I started out working for a mobile x-ray company and then for Fairview Health before I made the transition to TCSC in May 2017.

One thing that is different about TCSC is that we use imaging as guidance in procedures, where other facilities can use x-rays for diagnostic purposes. I love working in the pain world and being part of the procedures that we do here. It’s rewarding to help the doctors and support staff as well as the patients. Seeing a patient get pain relief never gets old and I always like to hear their stories and outcomes.

During school and my clinical training, my two least favorite things were c-arm and spine. Now, here I am four years in, strictly working with c-arm and spine, and I wouldn’t 

want to do anything else! I am beyond lucky to be a part of the rad tech team here at TCSC. Liz is new to our team but is a very quick learner and stepped in right away. Heather (our lead) is a fantastic tech and a great role model!

  • What is one thing you wish people knew about rad techs?
    Radiological technologists and x-ray technicians are two very different things. Technicians do not get a degree and in a lot of cases are not able to perform the same type of exams that technologists are able to.
  • What is the most important trait someone needs to be a rad tech?
    Knowledge of anatomy and ALARA.
  • What is your favorite piece of wellness advice?
    Invest in yourself.

Heather

I graduated from Duluth as a rad tech, where I have been in this field for 9 years. I have been working at TCPC/TCSC for over 3 years now. My favorite part about working at TCSC are my amazing co-workers I get to work with every day. The occasional potlucks we have are a nice perk too.

  • How is being a rad tech at TCPC/TCSC different than other places?
    At other places such as hospitals and clinics the radiology department is more confined. Here we are mixed in with nurses and doctors, which I prefer more. It feels more like a team rather than some random phone call/order that beckons you to a department.
  • What is your favorite piece of wellness advice?
    Don’t go to the grocery store hungry.

 

 

Click here to learn more about radiologic technologists

Employee Spotlight: Bre

Meet Bre, Administrative Assistant at Twin Cities Surgery Center. Bre was nominated by her fellow staff members for her consistent dedication and hard work. Bre is an instrumental piece for operations at the surgery center. With her able to get preop physicals several days in advance, she gives the nursing staff plenty of time to review and prepare for the upcoming surgeries and procedures. Bre is always working hard to make sure that everything runs smoothly. Thank you for all you do!

What is your position / What are your daily responsibilities?

I am an administrative assistant for Twin Cities Surgery Center. I am responsible for checking patients in, scheduling injections, and other daily administrative work.

How long have you been with TCPC/TCSC?

I have been with Twin Cities Pain Clinic & Surgery Center for two years now and I really enjoy my work.

What are some of your hobbies?

When I am not at TCSC you will find me spending time with my husband and our two sons; ages 8 and 11. We enjoy going to the park, watching movies, and playing board games. We also have two dogs; a dachshund and a great dane, so there is never a dull moment in our house.

What is your favorite thing about working at TCSC?

My favorite thing about working at TCSC are my coworkers. We truly have a fantastic team! Everyone works so well together, which makes life at TCSC enjoyable and a great place to work.

 

 

Twin Cities Pain Clinic has been named a Top Workplace by the Star Tribune. This great award wouldn't be possible without our amazing staff members. Your hard work does not go unnoticed!

How your Sweet Tooth is Affecting your Persistent Pain

It is widely known that eating too much sugar causes obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, but did you know that it could be contributing to your muscle and joint pain as well? We all know that sugar is a main ingredient in foods such as candy, cakes, ice cream, and other deserts, but there is also a lot of sugar hidden in most processed foods as well. Processed food is any food that has been altered in some way during the preparation of it. That can include things such as freezing and canning, or even some “healthy” items such as granola bars, yogurt, bread, and sports drinks.

When we consume too much sugar our body releases insulin and stress hormones. Those, in turn, trigger the inflammation process. Inflammation can lead to persistent pain. The places where we have the least amount of blood circulation are at greatest risk of inflammation – that is why our joints and back can be so dramatically impacted by sugar consumption.

Naturally occurring sugars, the sweet stuff found in fruits and vegetables, pose minimal harm. Most of the research points to refined sugars as being troublesome. Refined sugar is included in baked goods, candy, and ice cream.

Here are a few simple tips you can try to follow to help regulate blood sugar and keep inflammation down.

  • Choose good carbs and avoid bad carbs. Good carbs contain lots of fiber and are absorbed slowly into our systems. Good carbs are found in foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans. Bad carbs tend to spike blood sugar levels. Bad carbs are found in foods such as white bread, white rice, sugary beverages, and sweets.
  • Drink water. Staying hydrated helps your kidneys flush out excess blood sugar.
  • Stay active. Maintaining a healthy weight helps to ensure that your body can process insulin effectively. Staying active can also help reduce stress and help avoid caving in to cravings.
  • Manage your stress. Stress can actually stimulate the release of hormones that cause blood sugar levels to rise.
  • Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can also impact your hormones which play an important role in controlling blood sugar.

Americans on average consume around 19.5 teaspoons of added sugar every day, which comes out to 66 pounds every year. The recommended daily allowance is about 6 teaspoons per day for women and about 9 teaspoons for men.

Limiting sugar in the diet can help reduce inflammation in the body and sometimes can help ease or limit pain you are feeling. Eliminating all sugar from your diet can be very tough. Instead, try taking small steps. Make sure to read nutrition labels to seek out hidden sugar in some of your favorite foods, choose natural and fresh foods when you can, and limit the amount of sweets you have.

Employee Spotlight: Pamela

Meet Pamela, Medical Assistant, and Medical Assistant Trainer mainly at Twin Cities Pain Clinic in Maple Grove. Pamela was nominated by her fellow employees for always being so flexible with jumping in to help whenever she can to try and keep things on track as well as keeping on top of all her regular tasks. Pamela always has a positive attitude and is always ambitious to help out her team! Thank you for all you do Pamela!

What is your position / What are your daily responsibilities?

I work as a Medical Assistant and Medical Assistant trainer and am generally at the Maple Grove office. Training is a relatively new position for me, one that I really enjoy. I find it so rewarding to watch as new hires go from their first day of training to fully trained. It also helps that the people I have trained are eager, intelligent, and positive.

How long have you been with TCPC?

My first day was January 8, 2015, almost four years.

What are some of your hobbies?

I spend a majority of my time studying. I am now a doctoral candidate for a Ph.D. in Clinical and Forensic Psychology. I enjoy painting, I have recently taken up Diamond Dotz “painting,” (Google it, it’s very interesting). I also enjoy researching true crime topics, listening to true crime podcasts, and reading. I live with my husband Tom and our three cats, Niles, Sammy, and Wally, in Long Lake, Minnesota. I have two stepsons, Trevor and Travis, and as of July, daughter-in-law, Madeline. Long Lake is just outside of Wayzata so anytime I can, I enjoy doing homework or relaxing at Lake Minnetonka.

What is your favorite thing about working at TCPC?

My favorite aspect of working at TCPC is the comradery among teammates. We really have an incredible group with remarkable leadership. I am regularly thanked for doing my job; this is one of the many perks that motivates me to provide quality work to our patients and staff.

 

 

Twin Cities Pain Clinic has been named a Top Workplace by the Star Tribune. This great award wouldn't be possible without our amazing staff members. Your hard work does not go unnoticed!