Spine pain management: What you need to know

COVID-19 has affected almost every aspect of life, and for many people, it meant that their surgery was delayed. On May 1, HonorHealth resumed elective surgeries after the governor lifted the temporary ban on these procedures. As we begin to do these procedures again, rest assured that HonorHealth is taking every measure to ensure your safety so you can get the care you need.

We understand the inconvenience and impact the delayed care has had on you personally, and we thank you for ongoing patience. To help you prepare for surgery and manage your pain, HonorHealth-affiliated spine care providers, Harvinder Deogun, MD; Frederick Marciano, MD; and Robert Waldrop, MD, share answers to the most common questions they are hearing from patients.

Q. Is it better to bed rest or to stay active while waiting for my surgery?

A: For spine pain, strict bed rest is generally not recommended since it can make the muscles even weaker. We recommended that you stay as active as you can and use your pain tolerance as a good indicator for length and type of activity. If any specific activity causes severe pain, stop immediately. You should not push yourself to the point of pain. For example, if walking more than ¼ of a mile is painful, then plan ahead and make sure your walk does not exceed that distance. Avoid bending, lifting, twisting and any activity that has a high risk of falls, such as climbing stairs too quickly.

Q. What type of over-the-counter medication may help with pain?

A: To manage pain, acetaminophen is recommended as long as you don’t have liver disease. In addition, ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory medication that can ease pain as long as you don’t have any history of kidney disease, blood clots, heart disease and/or stroke. Talk to your primary care physician before starting any new medications to understand what is safe for you.

According to the World Health Organization, there is no evidence that NSAIDs worsen COVID-19 symptoms.

Q. Is it better to use ice packs or heating pads for my spine pain? Do you have any other pain management tips?

A: In general, icing is usually the preferred method due to its anti-inflammatory effect. However, some patients find relief using both ice and heat or alternating between the two. Find what works best for you through trial and error.

For non-traditional treatments, turmeric, arnica and other anti-inflammatory foods and herbs may provide some people with temporary relief. In addition, TENS units, a muscle stimulator that may relieve pain, can be purchased online and sent directly to your home. Finally, acupuncture may help people experiencing severe pain.

Q. What stretches and exercises, if any, may relieve stiffness or pain in my back?

A: Stretches and exercises should be done only in the direction of less pain. For example, if bending backwards produces more pain, then you should bend forward (flexion). Avoid doing exercises to your full range of motion since they may cause pain. In general, consider doing gentle range of motion stretches for the neck and gentle stretching of the back with flexion (bending forward), extension (bending backward), and left/right side bending. Again, avoid anything that causes pain.

To keep your muscles from stiffening, we recommend that you adjust your position when sitting, standing or lying for too long. Mornings may bring the most stiffness and pain because of lying for an extended period of time. Start your day with some movement if possible.

Q. What should patients do to ensure they will be ready for surgery?

A: In the case of most elective procedures, please read any materials from your surgeon’s office prior to the procedure. In addition, out of abundance of caution and to put your safety first, HonorHealth requires that all surgical patients are tested for COVID-19 two days prior to surgery. As of now, to prevent spread and infection, there are no visitors permitted in inpatient hospital rooms.

Talk to your surgeon about specific medication requirements before your surgery. Finally, do not hesitate to reach out to your surgeon if you have any questions leading up to your surgery. If there are any changes in your pain or symptoms, call your surgeon’s office right away.

Q. Why should people feel safe getting spine surgery at HonorHealth?

A: HonorHealth is taking every measure for your health and safety. You can learn more about our safety precautions and protocols here. We are working closely with our physicians to provide exceptional care for all patients. HonorHealth is following the mandates from the Arizona governor’s orders and meeting all requirements to safely perform elective surgeries.

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Our top priority is the health and safety of our patients, employees and visitors. HonorHealth is working closely with public health officials to stay up-to-date with the most current information and guidelines related to the Coronavirus. Visit our dedicated Coronavirus page for the latest information.

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