All About Herniated Disks

You may have heard of or known someone with a herniated disk, but have you ever wondered what exactly the condition means (aside from causing back pain)? We break down all there is to know and what treatment options are available.

Anatomy of the Spine

In order to know what a herniated disk is, it’s important to understand the role of disks in your spine. Your spine is comprised of:

  • Vertebrae – bones stacked upon each other which create a canal to protect the spinal cord.
  • Spinal cord & nerves – part of your nervous system, the spinal cord delivers messages from the brain to the muscles of the body
  • Intervertebral disks – flat and round, these disks are found between the vertebrae. They are flexible and absorb shock from movement like running or walking. They are made of two components: a touch flexible outer ring (annulus fibrosus) and a soft jelly-like center (nucleus pulposus).

Herniated Disk

When the soft center of the disk pushes against or even squeezes past the outer ring, it is herniated. It can put pressure directly on the spinal cord, causing pain that can extend from the lower back down the leg. If a disk is herniated in the neck, pain can be felt through the neck, shoulder or arm.

Wear and tear on the intervertebral discs can cause them to weaken, so age, occupation and weight are risk factors to be aware of.


Most patients are able to find relief through non-surgical treatment options such as:

  • Rest
  • Medication
  • Cold & Heat
  • Physical Therapy
  • Steroid injections

Surgical options include Lumbar miscrodiskectomy, where the portion of the disk that is bulging and applying pressure on the spinal cord is removed, and cervical discectomy with fusion or disk replacement, where the damaged disc is removed and replaced with either bone or an artificial disk.

If you are experiencing unusual pain, don’t ignore it until it gets worse. The specialists of the Spine Center at NEOSM are skilled in all forms of treatment to help ease your symptoms. Contact us for an evaluation.

Source: OrthoInfo

All About “Text Neck”

Smartphones. They’re an incredible invention. They bring us connection to others and to information. They are our alarm clocks, calendars, phone books and more. They definitely make life easier, but with all good things there’s a bit of catch.

Image Credit: Veritas Health

You probably have already experienced it – the need to roll your neck or your shoulders to relieve tightness after looking down at your device for a long time. That gaze down produces undo stress on the spine and neck. In fact, bending your head down 45-60% can put as much as 60 lbs of force on your upper spine. Your neck can not sustain that amount of pressure for long, and that’s when problems can occur – commonly called “text neck syndrome” – which can lead to prolonged spine damage. An evaluation with one of the spine specialists at NEOSM can provide a medical diagnosis and here are symptoms to look out for:

Symptoms of Text Neck Syndrome

  • Pain in the neck, upper back or shoulders
    • This pain can be localized to one specific spot or more broad in the overall area. Pain can also radiate down the spine or arms.
  • Change in posture
    • A shift in your posture with head forward (ears not aligned over the shoulders) or rounded shoulders. This can even lead to balance issues.
  • Pain when Looking Down
    • Increased pain when gazing down to use your device
  • Headache
    • Tension headaches from neck pain are common


First step in treating text neck syndrome is to undo the habits that caused the condition to begin with. Raise the phone up to eye level to relieve the pressure on your spine and take breaks from use. Stretch out your neck, shoulder and upper back to ease the muscles. Be conscious of your posture and straighten out when you feel a forward tilt of your head. In addition, to ease pain try sleeping with a cervical pillow to provide additional support. Add neck, shoulder and upper back strengthening exercises to your workouts.

As mentioned, it is best to consult with a spine specialist for an examination and to diagnosis any causes of pain. The team at Northeast Orthopedics and Sports Medicine is here to ensure you receive the highest level of care and attention.

All About Osteoporosis

Did you know your bones are continually remodeling? Small amounts of bone tissue are absorbed by the body while small amounts are replaced. When more bone is lost than replaced, the density of the bones diminishes, weakening the bone structure. This condition is called osteoporosis and is the reason for over 2 million related fractures each year. There are ways these can be avoided and treated. In this post, we share how.

Healthy Bone v. Osteoporosis

What Causes Osteoporosis?

There are many risk factors that lead to increased bone loss. Family history and age are catalysts for a physician to prescribe a bone density test. Other factors include physical health/strength and excessive smoking or alcohol intake.

Higher risk for women over 35: Generally women are prone to lose more bone mass than men as their age, particularly during menopause, when bone loss is accelerated. It’s important to speak to a primary physician or gynecologist for recommended treatment to preserve bone mass.

How to Prevent Osteoporosis and Related Fractures?

Strong body means strong bones and good balance prevents falls, so engaging in even simple training exercises on a regular basis will reduce your risk of fractures.  Try weight-bearing activities like sit-to-stand exercises, walking or hiking, or stair climbing. Balance drills like standing on one leg (using a chair for support) and bending down then back up. Yoga and Tai-chi are also great activities to include in your routine. Along with adding regular exercise to your week, ceasing smoking and limiting alcohol consumption are key to preventing bone loss. These lifestyle changes allow your body to better support bone building cells.

How is Osteoporosis Treated?

Aside from fracture prevention methods detailed above, medications are available to help decrease the amount of bone being lost. Through testing, a physician can determine your bone strength level and prescribe a treatment accordingly. Medications include different hormone therapies and twice-yearly injections. These methods focus on suppressing ongoing loss, not restoring lost bone – therefore good prevention methods are paramount to curbing osteoporosis.

The strength of our bones, especially as we age, can make all the difference in the quality of life we lead. We hope you incorporate good habits into your everyday life to prevent unnecessary fractures. The specialists at NEOSM are here to support you when you need us.

How to Care for Your Cast

We know it’s not the best news when you or your child need to be placed in a cast. But your orthopedic knows it’s the best course of action for your injury to heal properly. For however long it needs to remain on, we have some tips on how to make sure your time in your cast is successful.

When You First Get Your Cast

When first injured, the swelling that occurs can make the cast feel tight and uncomfortable. It’s important to take measures to treat the swelling to help the healing process by doing the following in the first 24-72 hours.

ELEVATE – Prop the injured arm or leg with support so that it is above the heart to allow fluid and blood to drain.

MOVEMENT – Move uninjured fingers and toes to prevent stiffness.

ICE – Apply ice to the injured area. Be sure to place loose ice in a plastic bag to keep the area dry and loosely wrap around the cast.

Caring for Your Cast

KEEP IT DRY – It’s important to keep the cast, and the injury, dry. When bathing or showering, cover the cast in two layers of plastic and seal with a band or duct tape. Avoid submerging in water, even when covered. Some injuries can be treated with a waterproof cast, so ask your doctor if yours is safe to get wet.

KEEP IT CLEAN – Dirt and sand particles can not only irritate the skin, but can hinder the healing process.

ITCHINESS – It’s common, but don’t try to relive any itches with an object or powders into the cast. If it continues and is unbearable, contact your doctor.

DON’T DIY – Don’t mess around with your cast. No pulling at the padding and no trimming of any rough edges without consulting your orthopedic. Never remove the cast on your own.

SPEAK UPIf you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, be sure to let your physician’s office know.

  • Increased pain or tightness
  • Numbness/tingling in the casted area
  • Burning or red/raw skin around the cast
  • Inability to move toes or fingers
  • Crack or soft spot on the cast

With proper care, you can ensure the time needed in a cast isn’t unnecessarily extended. And, as always, the specialists at Northeast Orthopedics and Sports Medicine are here to answer any questions and guide you through your treatment. We welcome your call any time. 

Backpack Safety Tips

School’s back in session. And we know kids can be weighed down, literally, with school work, leading to back and neck pain. The help minimize the risk of injury, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons shares their guidelines to carry books and school work around safely.

But what can parents do to ensure kids are safe from injury?

  • First, ensure your child is following the guidelines above, and remind them throughout the school year.
  • Pay attention when your child picks up their backpack – are they struggling or look off balance? If so, help them adjust the items in their bag or remove some heavy items.
  • If your child is complaining of back pain, keep in mind that their backpack may be the cause. Should their discomfort continue, ask if keeping a second set of textbooks at home is an option or consider purchasing a rolling backpack.

With these tips, we wish all students a safe and successful school year from all of us at NEOSM!

Preventing Gardening Injuries

For most of us who enjoy gardening, it is a relaxing, safe hobby.  However, every year we see many people who are needlessly injured in their backyards. Nationally more than 400,000 gardening injuries are seen in the ER every year.

By: Dr. Doron Ilan

For most of us who enjoy gardening, it is a relaxing, safe hobby.  However, every year we see many people who are needlessly injured in their backyards. Nationally more than 400,000 gardening injuries are seen in the ER every year. Back injuries, hand lacerations/puncture wounds, infections, overuse tendinitis, bug bites, and heat exhaustion are some of the more common medical conditions seen in recreational gardeners. Here are a few tips to keep you safe this spring and summer.

  • Warm up: One of the most common mistakes is to head straight to the shed and start lifting heavy bags of mulch, soil, and equipment. This can lead to back sprains and muscle strains.  Instead, first, take a 5-10 brisk walk to warm up the muscles, loosen the joints and get the heart rate up a bit.
  • Wear gloves: This will prevent most thorn punctures, blisters, lacerations, and bug bites. It will also protect your skin from pesticides, bacteria, and fungus (often live in soil). A small cut can lead to a major infection. A light long sleeve shirt and long socks or pants can’t hurt either.  Don’t forget the sunscreen and a hat.
  • Hydrate: It is very easy to spend hours gardening without drinking. Bring a bottle of water outside with you and sip regularly
  • Rotate your tasks: Avoid overuse repetitive stress injuries by not spending more than 10-15 minutes in a row doing the same motion. Make sure your gardening activities are varied so that the same muscles are not used repetitively.
  • Use proper equipment
  • Check your skin for ticks after you finish gardening for the day. Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections are very common in our area.

Following these tips can help minimize your risk, but of course, if you do sustain an injury make sure to get medical attention as soon as possible.  Have a great spring and summer — and enjoy your gardening!

If you do encounter an orthopedic injury while gardening, contact us today to find out what’s wrong and how we can help.