By Kelsey Givens
Nearly 90 percent of all Americans today will suffer from back pain at some point in their lifetime, according to a Las Vegas doctor with experience in treating Pahrump patients.
Whether it’s from injury, aging or simply spending too much time sitting or standing in one position on a continual basis, all can cause severe pain and discomfort.
Dr. Andrew Cash of the Desert Institute of Spine Care in Las Vegas is a world-renowned physician specializing in back pain management who recently performed the first minimally invasive Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion procedure in Southern Nevada.
Cash, one of only three doctors nationwide certified to teach this procedure and the only one in Nevada certified to perform it, has seen patients with back pain of all kinds.
The OLIF procedure is designed to correct severe back pain problems caused by trauma to the spine or age related issues such as deterioration of the disks, which cause severe pain and can’t be fixed by any other means than surgery.
Instead of a large incision made during traditional surgeries to correct these problems, Cash said the new OLIF procedure instead involves a half-inch incision, which avoids going through muscles, and results in a smaller scar and quicker recovery time.
Though he is trained to perform this new procedure for those who need it, Cash spoke with the Pahrump Valley Times Friday to discuss some ways to prevent patients from getting to the point where they need surgery to correct their back pain issues.
What are some of the most common back pain problems patients come to you with?
Well, back pain usually is caused by aging, which we can all relate to, and it gets more and more frequent over time. That back pain often radiates down the leg, which most people understand as sciatica pain, which is a nerve that when it gets pinched in the back it goes down the leg, or it’s just the disk eroding and it’s back pain only.
But a lot of times it’s both and it can affect one leg or the other, or both, and it can alternate back and forth. Anything that affects a nerve can affect pain; numbness, tingling, weakness, heat, cold, all those sensations come from nerve sensations, so back pain has a lot of different variations, but mostly what we treat is back pain accompanied by leg pain.
Q: In treating these common issues, have you seen things that tend to agitate these issues more than normal?
A: Yes. Cold weather precipitates worsening pain. Changing in barometric pressure like rain exacerbates the pain.
Also if patients perform prolonged positioning like sitting too long, sitting at a computer, sitting in front of the TV, or standing for too long, can cause pain as well.
Often times when people bend over and bend towards their toes as opposed to bending at their hips and knees like our moms taught us, they bend over and put more pressure on the disk.
Maybe when they’re laying in their La-Z-Boy recliner and they lean themselves forward and they feel a bit more pain, but they most abuse their backs in their commutes to work or when they’re sitting down in the homes and its just gradually getting worse and they’re stiff getting up.
People also sleep in a prolonged position, and when they wake up they’re stiff too.
Q: What are some easy fixes people can do at home to alleviate some of this pain?
A: Well, health prevention is worth a pound of cure. So if people can do core stabilization exercises, which they either Google or come by the office, or if they can look up Pilates workouts.
Pilates is full of core stabilization exercises. So I always recommend patients, to prevent or treat their back pain as a first line, especially when costs of doing physical therapy can be so high, I say go to some Pilates classes, or go to yoga classes, and that will be the best conditioning to prevent injury.
And once they have an injury more of the same plus an over the counter anti-inflammatory medication like aspirin or Tylenol, will be the first line of minimal cost with a lot of reward.
Q: Are there any other health tips people should be aware of that can help prevent or reduce back pain?
A: That’s a good question. What I always recommend is for patients to lose weight by dieting, and exercise also plays a part in that, but if they can lose weight that’s just a law of physics – if they have less weight on their spine, pushing on their disks every day, they’ll have less pressure on their spine, hopefully eliminating a lot of their pain.
Also smoking is very detrimental to the blood supply. It’s the nicotine in cigarettes that constricts the vessels and prevents blood and prevents oxygen from going to the injured disk, so it has a worse time healing.
So if they can cut down on, prevent and totally eliminate their own smoking and those around them, they have a better chance of healing their disks.
Q: What should we know about the common causes of back pain?
A: Over 90 percent of Americans will have back pain at some point in their lives.
The good news is almost all of it can be fixed without surgical intervention. So if they follow the recommended tips they’ll probably be in that 95 percent that can get better without surgery.
However if they do need surgery, the important things to remember are the three Es.
One is to be educated; know what your condition is, not just back pain, know if it’s a disk and if it’s at the L4 or L5 level. Then you can research it and ask educated questions about your condition.
The second is exhaustion; if you have exhaustion of the conservative measures like the pain management and the exercises and you know tried everything before surgery, because you should try everything before surgery, then you’ll at least never regret trying surgery, having not tried something else that might have gotten better. I would say 25 percent of patients that elect for surgery didn’t know they could have tried physical therapy or injections first.
And the third thing is to make sure you have someone with expertise. You should definitely get a fellowship trained surgeon and a board-certified trained surgeon.
I actually teach internationally how to do minimally invasive techniques, and I think they should get the person with the most experience.
It’s a very specialized world we live in, with so much advanced education, in certain areas they should go with the most expertise in that field. And I can provide that for them.
Cash’s office is located in Las Vegas at 9339 W. Sunset Road, Suite 100. For those interested in learning more about the services he provides they can contact the Desert Institute of Spine Care by calling 702-630-3472.