Massage and Chronic Back Pain

back massage in chairEighty percent of adults in America will complain of at least one episode of back pain during their lives. Nearly a third of the population, however, suffers from chronic back pain, placing close to 100 million people in pain for long periods of time. Sometimes, the source of this back pain can be difficult to trace, often leaving people in pain with little to no hope for long-term relief.

Major muscle groups and nerves that connect to various parts of your body are located in your spinal area. Stress, strain, and overuse of these other body parts that are connected to the spine can be felt as back pain.

The Promising Treatment of Massage

If you’re seeking a conservative treatment to relieve your back pain, massage is an excellent therapy to try. Scientific studies published in the Journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the International Journal of Neuroscience have shown that massage therapy can give patients lasting relief from their spinal pain. In 2011 the Annals of Internal Medicine reported a study involving 400 patients who were suffering from moderate to severe pain in the lower lumbar region of the back. Three groups of patients were assigned to receive either a weekly full-body massage, a weekly massage targeting specific muscle issues, or no massage at all, with instructions to simply continuing their present pain-management techniques. The results, after ten weeks, showed significant improvements in pain relief for those receiving massage therapy. In fact, a third of the patients in each massage group reported either a complete absence of pain or close to feeling pain-free.

Why Massage Can Help With Back Pain

One of the key benefits of massage therapy is that it increases blood flow and circulation. If your pain is stemming from a strained muscle, for instance, better blood circulation can lessen soreness and help heal soft tissue injuries. Living with chronic back pain can bring on feelings of anxiety and depression that may intensify your pain. Massage therapy relieves muscle tension, and your psychological mood improves, too, through the release of endorphins, chemicals in your brain that lift your spirit.

Some causes of back pain are greatly helped with regular massage treatments, though not all pain can be successfully treated in this way. If you are suffering from pain that is caused by spinal stenosis or sciatica, massage may not be the answer to your pain relief. If your main complaint stems from muscle strain, particularly of the lower back, massage treatments are a good conservative treatment. Dr. Solomon Kamson, MD, PhD, at the Spine Institute Northwest, acknowledges the benefits of massage therapy for those who have spinal osteoarthritis, though Dr. Kamson recommends using a massage therapist with special training in this area.

If you are suffering from chronic back pain, find out if you can achieve relief through non-invasive massage therapy. Dr. Kamson will be able to diagnose your condition and recommend the appropriate treatment. He will help you determine whether massage is worth a try or whether it may worsen your pain. Contact the Spine Institute Northwest in Bothell, WA, today at (208) 496-0630 to schedule your consultation with Dr. Sol Kamson.

Reasons For and Types of Cervical Spine Surgery

The neck is a complicated part of the body. It includes bones, muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments. The neck is the section of the spine that is referred to as the cervical section. This section is extremely delicate and can cause conditions that are crippling. Dr. Solomon Kamson of Spine Institute Northwest will be able to perform testing to diagnose the issue before it affects every aspect of your life.

Before Cervical Spine Surgery
Although there are non-surgical treatments available, at times the non-surgical treatments are ineffective to those who have had a long-lasting neck condition. Typically, pain management programs are set into place for those who need help with debilitating pain.

Once the pain management has been considered unsuccessful, the next option is normally cervical spine surgery. The normal time span for the surgery to be considered is approximately six months. In some cases, if the patient requests a longer period to recover instead, then Dr. Solomon Kamson will help the patient with other options available.

Reasons for Cervical Spine Surgery
There are different situations in which cervical spine surgery may be recommended to the patient by Dr. Kamson. One of the main reasons is a nerve root being pinched due to a bone spur or a herniated disc. This condition is also known as cervical radiculopathy. Nine out of ten patients who have endured this condition have been forced by the pain to undergo cervical surgery.

Another reason for this type of surgery is pressure being placed on the spinal cord by bone spurs; this is called spinal stenosis. This is a more complex surgery process. The success rate for this type of surgery is between 50% and 90%. It will depend on the specific details of the individual’s situation.

Those patients who have vertebrae that grind together due to degenerative disc disease will end up undergoing this type of surgery. Degenerative disc disease will cause pinched nerves and excruciating pain that will lead to repercussions in other aspects of the individual’s life.

Types of Cervical Spine Surgery
Anterior cervical discectomy is one of the more commonly performed surgeries for this section of the spine. The surgeon will expose the spine using an incision, which is made on the front side of the neck next to the windpipe. Once the incision is made, the herniated disc or bone spur will be removed. Laminectomy is performed to relieve addition pressure that has been placed on nerve roots and the spinal cord. Laminae are plates of bone on the vertebrae.

Laminoplasty is performed to relieve suffering for those who have to endure spinal stenosis. This is performed to create more room for the spinal cord. After the spine is exposed using an incision on the back of the neck, the vertebral laminae are reconstructed to enlarge sections of the spinal canal.

In order to come to the proper diagnosis, Dr. Kamson will perform tests and ask questions about family history dealing with health conditions. It is important to be as accurate as possible. He will then offer pain management procedures and speak with you about the next step in your individual situation.

2016 Testimonials for Doctor Kamson, Part 2

Here is part 2 of Dr. Solomon Kamson’s patient testimonials for his patients who underwent minimally invasive procedures at Spine Institute Northwest in the past year. Click here for part 1.


Jeremiah Dawson – Cervical Fusion for 10-year Chronic Back and Neck Problem

Field training officer Jeremiah Dawson had been living with his chronic pain since 2006. Working around the pain for more than a decade, Jeremiah finally realized the severity of his problem during training with younger police officers. Jeremiah felt sharp pains in his leg as he was going through a routine running exercise.

Recognizing that the pain was becoming a hindrance to his job and to his life at home, Jeremiah sought out treatment from Doctor Kamson at Spine Institute Northwest (SINW).

After Jeremiah ‘s successful operation (a cervical fusion), he says, “Doctor Kamson has a way of putting you at ease, you are able to talk to him and he gives you the answers you need.” “I haven’t regretted one moment,” he explains, thankful that he is finally living his life as he wants to again.

Cameron Reyes – Lumbar Decompression for Back Pain

Cameron, a self-described ‘300 pound meat and potatoes guy’ who was struggling with long term chronic back pain had this to say about his experience at Spine Institute Northwest after undergoing lumbar decompression:

“When Doctor Kamson told me that he could make me better, I wept like a kid”, Cameron says. “I got a fresh start. It’s the closing of a horrible, horrible long chapter in my life,” says Cameron after finally being free of his chronic back pain.”

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2016 Patient Testimonials, First Part

Here is part 1 of Spine Institute Northwest patient testimonials for 2016. All these patients underwent minimally invasive treatments from Dr. Kamson


Margo Witters: “Everybody here is so friendly”

Margo knew immediately that she was in the right place when she decided to get treated for back pain at Spine Institute Northwest (SINW). The Spokane, WA resident came in for lumbar fusion to address her bad back. Of Doctor Kamson, Margo says, “He was right on top of my treatment.” She remembers the atmosphere at Spine Institute as “giving her a sense of peace” and the general feeling of “the (staff) just wanting to help you.

Before her procedure at SINW, her back was so bad that she was nearly immobile and had to resort to using a walker, or worse – confined to a wheelchair. Today, more than a year after her surgery, Margo is back to her old self before all her back pain began.

Watch Margo’s story in her own words below:

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What is Spinal Decompression?

Spinal decompression is a non-surgical procedure that is used in certain cases when a patient is experiencing pain, stiffness, or numbness that can be connected to a specific origin in the neck or back. Dr. Solomon Kamson MD, PhD notes that with any back problem, it’s important to have an accurate diagnosis in order to understand your treatment options. If you are curious about spinal decompression, here’s an overview of some of the basics.

What Can Spinal Decompression Treat?
Spinal decompression can be used to treat many sources of back pain, but it is not suitable for all problems. Generally, more conservative treatments are used before performing even a completely nonsurgical spinal decompression. Back pain that stems from a tumor, fracture, or osteoporosis, is not treatable with spinal decompression. It is important that your physician knows about your medical history and any medication you may be on, as some conditions may mean that you are not a good candidate for spinal decompression.

What Happens in a Spinal Decompression Procedure?
For the actual decompression procedure itself, the patient is strapped into a harness while lying on a bed. The harness, which is attached to the lower part of the table, can move about, allowing the doctor to perform stretches and rotations in order to decompress the spine. The procedure takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, and is performed entirely by the doctor through a computer that allows him or her to maneuver the lower end of the table. If compression is being caused by damaged tissue or bone growths (osteophytes), these may need to be surgically removed in order to relieve the pressure on the spine.

In some cases, additional therapeutic treatments are used before or after the procedure. These might include heat and cold therapy, ultrasound therapy, or electrical stimulation. The determination for whether or not you will need one of these other therapies depends on the degree to which your physician thinks that the spinal decompression procedure will provide you with pain relief.

Decompression is also used in some cases as a complement to other kinds of minimally invasive spine surgery. The results that can be obtained from spinal decompression are unique to each patient, so it’s important to work with a physician whom you trust when it comes to treating your back pain.

Regenerative Therapy: Past and Present

Regenerative therapies have been used since the 1950s, but the basic idea behind regenerative medicine has existed for centuries. Today, many physicians are looking to regenerative medicine as an option for treating some forms of back pain. By introducing a concentration of stem cells and tissues to a targeted area a patient can grow new, healthy connective tissues and ligaments to provide long lasting neck and back pain relief.

The History of Regenerative Medicine
The idea that the body could regenerative itself has existed for many years, and in the last few centuries discoveries have shown that regeneration is actually a possibility. These include the discoveries of chemical reaction in cells in the 1800s, antibiotics by Alexander Flemming in 1928, and cell division and DNA shortly after. Each of these discoveries brought science closer to understanding the biological processes behind regeneration.

Regenerative Therapies Today
Today, regenerative procedures are being used to treat chronic and acute neck and back pain. Platelet rich plasma therapy, BioD Regenerative Therapy, and MatriStem A-cell injections are some of the more common treatments. These are among the therapeutic options offered by Dr. Solomon Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest.

The use of different regenerative therapies has been shown to have many benefits. When these therapies target specific areas, the results can include:

  • Minimization of scar tissue formation
  • Relief from painful disc problems
  • Regeneration and repair of torn or worn discs
  • Stimulation of healthy bone growth
  • Promotion of tissue healing
  • Promotion of long-term spine health

regenerative therapy

The Future of Regenerative Medicine
While regeneration is still being studied to understand the exact mechanisms, it is seen as a promising frontier in medicine. Recently, a Phase 2 clinical trial was completed using stem cell injection therapy for patients suffering from intervertebral disc disease. This was performed as a double-blind study with test groups and control groups.

The struggle with the use of stem cells is isolating the best cells for regeneration and combining them with other small molecules or drugs to get the desired effect. In this trial, different concentrations of the stem cell solution were used to compare against the saline injections. After one year of treatment, the regenerative patients experienced a 50% reduction in back pain. This trial is ongoing, so scientists can study the long-term results of the research. Many other research projects are ongoing as well, and the field of regenerative medicine is likely to expand.

Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy FAQ

Over the course of the last decade, much has been written about the regenerative medicine technique of platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy. While it is a relatively new development, notable athletes like Tiger Woods and Rafael Nadal, as well as others who have received PRP treatment for various problems including neck and back pain, have vouched for its success. Despite this publicity, many still have questions about platelet rich plasma therapy. Let’s look at some of the basics of PRP.

What is PRP Therapy?
To understand what PRP therapy is, it is first important to understand the role of platelets in the body. Blood is made up of liquid plasma as well as several small, solid components including red cells, white cells, and platelets. When the body faces soft tissue injury, its first response is to deliver platelets. Platelets are packed with growth and healing factors that initiate the body’s repair processes and attract critical assistance from stem cells. The idea behind PRP therapy is that delivering a more concentrated form of platelets will promote the body’s natural healing process.
plasma derived from blood
Where Do the Platelets Come From?
In PRP therapy, the platelets are harvested from the patient’s own blood. A small sample of blood is taken and placed into a centrifuge. The centrifuge spins the blood at high speeds, which separates the platelets from other components in the blood. This concentrated mixture of platelets and plasma is then used in the therapy. By using the patient’s own blood, there is no risk of transmitted infection and limited risk of an allergic reaction.

What Happens in PRP Therapy?
Once the platelets are removed from the body and the PRP mixture has been made, the procedure can take as little as fifteen to thirty minutes, with the preparation and recovery time taking a couple hours total. The physician will cleanse the area that is being treated. Then, the platelets are sent directly to the area of pain or injury with a simple injection. In most cases, the patient is able to return to work just hours after their procedure.

How Does PRP Therapy Work?
When a concentrated formula of platelets is delivered, it attracts additional stem cells. These stem cells help to repair injuries — for example, degeneration in spinal discs — in a more efficient way than rest and physical therapy, and without the need for surgery. It’s the same way that your body naturally heals itself, it’s just giving it extra help to do so.

How Many Treatments are Needed?
The individual physician will be able to advise the patient in how frequently treatments will be needed. The guideline for PRP therapy is that up to three injections can be performed within a six-month period. However, a full course of three injections is not always necessary. Many previous patients of platelet rich plasma therapy report alleviated pain symptoms in as little as one to two treatments.

What are the Expected Results?
Usually, PRP therapy begins its effectiveness in just a few weeks. It seems to be effective in relieve pain and allowing patients to return to their daily lives. Ultrasound and MRI tests performed on individuals after PRP therapy confirm the presence of definitive tissue repair and the healing process. Clinics specializing in pain treatment, such as the Spine Institute Northwest, have begun to offer PRP and other regenerative therapies to help patients find relief from pain. A consultation with a specialist like Solomon Kamson MD, PhD can help determine if you are a candidate for PRP.

Choosing a Spine Surgeon

When more conservative treatments have failed to ease chronic back pain, surgery is often the best option for improving your quality of life. Choosing the right surgeon will ease the patient in preparation for surgery, the surgery itself, and post-operative procedures. But how can a patient choose the right surgeon? Many times, people will ask relatives or friends for advice on anything from choosing a restaurant to choosing a doctor. However, it is highly unlikely that relatives or friends will have had the same back condition. It is important to follow certain guidelines to match the best spine surgeon to the patient.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Surgeons should be willing to answer questions, particularly when a patient is concerned about potential surgery. Patients should feel free to ask questions both about the surgeon and about the surgery. These questions should ease a patient’s nerves about surgery, and ensure their trust in their chosen surgeon. Additionally, asking questions about the surgery should test the surgeon’s knowledge and expertise in that specific spinal area.

When asking about the surgeon, there are several questions that can be asked.

  • How many times have you performed this specific procedure?
  • What is your personal success rate, in general and with this specific surgery?
  • Were you fellowship trained as a spine surgeon?
  • What steps are necessary to prepare myself for surgery?
  • Do I need to donate my own blood beforehand?
  • What exactly does the surgery entail?
  • What are the potential complications and risks associated with this surgery?
  • What is the next step if this surgery does not work?
  • What is the expected result of this surgery?
  • How much pain will I be in post-surgery?
  • How long should recovery take?
  • If I want a second opinion, is there anyone you would recommend?
  • Why do you think this particular surgery is best?
  • Are you positive about my condition?

Ensure the Surgeon has the Proper Credentials
Spine surgeons such as Dr. Solomon Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest should have qualifications that prove their knowledge of the spine. This is something that is relatively easy to find out. However, asking the surgeon if they are fellowship trained can also increase confidence. Surgeons who have been fellowship trained often have more practice with extensive procedures than those who are not. Dr. Kamson has completed three fellowships, in the U.S. and overseas.

Don’t Be Afraid of a Second Opinion
A good surgeon will be able to refer their patient to another doctor for a second opinion. In fact, some insist on patients receiving a confirmatory opinion before surgery. However, there are several red flags that a patient should look for, to figure out if a second opinion is necessary. It is a good idea to get a second opinion if:

  • The surgeon cannot provide a clear rationale for the surgery.
  • The surgeon states that surgery is the only option.
  • If a second surgery is being proposed because the first does not work.
  • If the initial referral to the surgeon may have been made because of economic interests.
  • If the patient is uncomfortable with the first surgeon.

Surgery can be a life-changing decision, but you can have more peace of mind by doing your homework choosing the right surgeon. While following these guidelines doesn’t guarantee a perfect back surgery, it can help a patient ensure their surgeon is right for them.

Spinal Stenosis: Types and Treatments

Symptoms such as numbness or tingling in your arms and legs or cramping in your legs when you stand or walk could be signs of spinal stenosis. This is a condition that worsens over time and can cause serious issues if left untreated. If you are living with these symptoms, you should visit a pain management facility like the Spine Institute Northwest to get expert advice and develop a treatment plan.

Types of Spinal Stenosis
There are two different types of spinal stenosis, cervical stenosis and lumbar stenosis. Cervical stenosis is the narrowing of the open spaces in your upper spine, causing pressure on the spinal nerves and spinal cord in the neck. This type of stenosis is recognized when the patient begins to suffer from weakness, numbness, or tingling in the arms, hands, feet, or legs. When the condition is at its worst, the nerves to the bowel or bladder may be compressed, causing incontinence.

Lumbar stenosis occurs when there is pressure on the nerves and spinal cord in the lower back. Patients who complain of cramps in their legs after standing or walking for a long time might be suffering from stenosis. One way to diagnose this condition without an x-ray is by finding out if the pain gets better once the patient sits down or leans forward in the standing position.

Causes of Stenosis
The most common cause of stenosis is advanced age. Stenosis is generally caused by the normal wear and tear on the spine due to aging. Some people however will never show any symptoms of stenosis, but it is detected on an x-ray.

However, there are other reasons for the narrowing of the spinal canal. Herniated discs can cause the inner material from the disc to push against nerves around the spine. Tumors may also grow inside the spinal cord, causing it to put pressure on the surrounding nerves. Bone spurs, thickened ligaments, and spine injuries are other common causes of stenosis.

Treating Stenosis
Once the stenosis has been accurately diagnosed using an x-ray, MRI, or CT scan, the first step in the treatment plan will likely include drugs such as NSAIDs, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and opioids to ease the pain. In addition to medication, a spine doctor may have you try physical therapy to build your strength and flexibility. If pain does not lessen, the next step might be steroid injections to relieve pressure and reduce swelling. These can provide relief, but the effects are temporary, and the injections can only be repeated a limited number of times.

When nonsurgical options fail, you may consider surgery to ease the pain and effects of the stenosis. One common surgery for stenosis is a laminectomy, which involves removing the back part of a vertebra to make more room in the spinal canal. A fusion may also be performed to keep the spine stable. These can both be performed as minimally invasive procedures, allowing you to avoid a lengthy hospital stay, a large scar, and extensive stress on muscles.

Suffering from neck or lower back pain due to stenosis can prevent patients from living normal lives, especially if they have to give up activities such as walking or even working because they can no longer sit for long periods of time. Dr. Kamson and the staff at the Spine Institute Northwest can help you decide the best course of treatment for your stenosis and get you back on the road to a healthier you.

Types of Orthopedic Spine Surgery

Orthopedic surgeons are those who specialize in treating any part of your skeletal system, including joints, bones, ligaments, and tendons. In addition to surgery on feet, hips, and limbs, they also perform orthopedic spine surgery. These are the surgeons you call when you fracture or break a bone, so it should be no surprise that they are able to operate on fractures of the extremities, including foot and ankle doctors. Meanwhile, surgeons like Dr. Solomon Kamson, from the Spine Institute Northwest, specialize in treating spinal conditions, including the surgeries necessary to remedy them.

Spine surgeons and orthopedic surgeons are not exactly the same, although they are qualified to perform many of the same procedures. Orthopedic surgeons are trained to perform surgery on several parts of the skeletal system, and some of them specialize in spine surgery. Such surgeons must complete a five-year residency in the surgical treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. In order to specialize in spine surgery however, surgeons must complete a spine fellowship.

Orthopedic spine surgery is usually the last resort after all other treatment options, such as medication, injections, decompression therapy, and physical therapy, have been exhausted. Surgery is not the first course of treatment for most spine conditions, because it is often difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of pain. Back pain can also sometimes be manageable with other treatments.

There are certain types of spine surgery that orthopedic surgeons specialize in. In an arthroscopy, special cameras and equipment are used to see and treat joint problems. In fusion surgery, bones are welded or fused together using metal rods and bone grafts so that they will become one solid bone once they heal. In the internal fixation process, bones are held together with metal rods until they heal.

People might wonder when it is best to choose an orthopedic surgeon rather than a neurosurgeon for spine surgery as they are qualified to perform most of the same procedures. Since orthopedic surgeons are specially trained to deal with the musculoskeletal system, they are typically better prepared to deal with cutting and reshaping bones. Neurosurgeons, meanwhile, are more qualified to deal with tumors on the spine, because they are trained to deal with the spinal cord along with the rest of the central nervous system.

When dealing with a back injury or condition that involves the musculoskeletal system, you may require orthopedic spine surgery. Many types of this surgery are available that can ease your pain and help you live a more active life. Solomon Kamson and the team of physicians at the Spine Institute Northwest can guide you in your journey to a better life by giving you a detailed diagnosis and helping you understand your options.