spine

Degenerative Disc

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Back pain is the third most common cause for disability in patients 45 to 65 years of age. In fact, at least 30% of people aged 30-50 years old will have some degree of disc space degeneration. Dr. Pablo Pazmiño performs an accurate workup of each patient with discogenic back pain through a logical stepwise progression through the diagnostic process.

The lumbar discs account for approximately 30% of the overall height of the lumbar spine. Lumbar degenerative disc disease often starts with the dehydration of this disc material. Unfortunately, this dehydration can start as early as your twenties.

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The discs work as the shock absorbers of the spine and this dehydration causes a loss of disc height which places more stress on the already weakened disc material, which presents as low back pain. Eventually, this stress can cause an outward bulging of the disc into the spinal canal. Occasionally, the disc material can even rupture through the outer layer of the disc into the spinal canal and impinge on the nearby nerve roots. This impingement on nearby nerve roots can cause severe pain, and may be associated with numbness and tingling throughout the leg and foot, which makes it feel like it is "asleep". Additionally, weakness of the leg and foot muscles may develop.

It is important to recognize that the presence of a disc bulge or protrusion does not necessarily require surgical intervention. Many people who have degenerated or bulging discs may never develop symptoms, and most have only minor symptoms which can be treated with over-the-counter medications. Even those who develop more severe symptoms requiring a visit to Dr. Pablo Pazmiño can be treated successfully with medication, acupuncture, chiropractic management, and physical therapy. Dr. Pablo Pazmiño works with a team of health care practitioners to choose the treatment option that best meets our patient's needs and desires.

In our practice, surgery is always reserved as a last option, but when necessary can have excellent results and often can improve your overall quality of life.

If surgery is necessary, Dr. Pablo Pazmiño is adept in performing a variety of new minimally-invasive techniques as featured here.

Symptoms

Lumbar degenerative discs, herniations, or slipped discs, can lead to chronic pain and stiffness in the lower back and buttocks that may radiate into to the lower legs, calves, feet or even toes. Patients may experience some or all of the following symptoms...

  • Lower Back pain (Which may be worse with upright activity)
  • Buttock painBack stiffness (Which may be worse with certain work activities)
  • Numbness in the thighs, calves, feet and toes
  • Weakness in the legs, thighs, calves, feet and toes
  • Trouble walking because of weakness in the legs or loss of balance
  • Grinding or popping sounds or sensations in the lower back
  • Muscle spasms (Which may originate from the back or lumbar paraspinal muscles)
  • Headaches
  • The condition can cause irritability, fatigue, and sleep disturbances
  • This may impair the ability to work or your daily activities.

Diagnosis

During your consultation, Dr. Pablo Pazmiño will take a complete medical history to rule out other conditions that can cause symptoms similar to lumbar degenerative discs, herniations, or slipped discs. Dr. Pablo Pazmiño will also perform a complete and thorough physical examination. Radiography (X-rays) and other diagnostic imaging tests (MRIs, EMGs, CAT scans) will then be reviewed so that Dr. Pablo Pazmiño can evaluate your bony quality, any neural compression, bone spurs and other abnormalities to reveal the extent of damage to the lumbar spine.

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Education

At Santa Monica Spine / Beverly Spine we pride ourselves in our duty to educate our patients. Dr. Pablo Pazmiño uses his background as a former teacher to ensure that you understand your pathology, imaging (X-rays and MRI) and treatment options completely during each visit. Our patients often comment they are amazed at the amount of time and effort we take to review their studies. Many have never had this experience before and feel like they are a true part of the decision making process. We want our patients to be involved in every step of the process and we feel education is the first step towards achieving that goal together. Medical History

At Santa Monica Spine / Beverly Spine we are very thorough. Dr. Pablo Pazmiño will need a complete history of any medical illnesses, surgeries, or chronic conditions which you may have or for which you have seen other physicians in the past.

More specifically we will require a history of your back and leg pain itself. What is the exact location of the pain? When did the problem begin? What does the pain feel like? Has your back been injured before? Have you previously been treated for back or leg pain?

Nonsurgical Treatment

Nonsurgical treatment is effective in treating the symptoms of neck pain. Symptoms of neck pain may last for days, several months, or become chronic. If symptoms are mild, Dr. Pablo Pazmino may recommend a variety of nonsurgical treatments.

  • Rest. A soft cervical collar or neck brace may be used to limit neck motion and relieve irritation.
  • Medication. Dr. Pablo Pazmino may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) or other non-narcotic pain relievers to relieve your pain and reduce swelling. Muscle relaxers, analgesics, and anti-inflammatory medications are also helpful.
  • Acupuncture. Dr. Pablo Pazmiño works with a team of Acupuncture specialists and may recommend this if indicated for your specific set of symptoms.
  • Chiropractic Management. Dr. Pablo Pazmiño works with a reliable team of Chiropractors and may recommend this if indicated for your symptoms.
  • Physical therapy. A course of therapy guided by Dr. Pablo Pazmiño may include hot and cold therapy, ultrasound or an active exercise program which may help relieve symptoms. Exercises may include core body strengthening, lumbar and lower extremity stretching, and aerobic exercises. Patients may also receive gentle massage and perform activities to improve posture.
  • Injections: A series of selective nerve root blocks or epidural injections of a cortisone-like drug may lessen nerve irritation and allow more effective participation in physical therapy. These injections are given on an outpatient basis over a period of weeks. Dr. Pablo Pazmiño only works with a small group of physicians who he trusts to perform these injections. Click here to see some of the recommendations Dr. Pablo Pazmiño makes in regards to injections and pain management physicians.

 

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Nonsurgical treatment may take away most of the symptoms, but it does not treat the underlying structural cause. Follow-up visits are necessary so Dr. Pablo Pazmiño can check if symptoms have gotten better, worse, or have stayed the same.

Surgical Treatment

For some patients with significant pain and weakness, after failure of conservative management, Dr. Pablo Pazmiño may recommend a surgical treatment option. The surgical treatment options may vary and depend on the individual patient and their pathology. Surgery may be necessary for patients with progressive neurologic symptoms or severe pain that does not improve with other treatments. Surgery may remove bone spurs or disc material (Decompression) and provide lasting pain relief.

For more on surgical treatment options click the following powerpoint talks:

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Lumbar Fusion

When this abnormal motion from an unstable or degenerated vertebral segment causes unnecessary pain, Dr. Pablo Pazmino may recommend a Lumbar Fusion to decrease pain at this area. Immobilizing painful movement in a specific area of the lumbar spine should decrease pain generated from the degenerated discs and arthritic joints. All lumbar spinal fusion surgery involves adding bone graft, or bone graft substitutes which stimulate a biological response that causes the nearby bone to weld or fuse. Upon successful fusion, the two vertebral segments stop all painful motion, and patients can return to their activities of daily living .

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Minimally Invasive Surgical Lumbar Fusion

For patients with certain conditions, abnormal and excessive motion at a vertebral segment may result in pain. When this abnormal motion from an unstable or degenerated vertebral segment causes unnecessary pain, Dr. Pablo Pazmino may recommend a Minimally Invasive Surgical Lumbar Fusion, or MIS Lumbar Fusion to decrease pain at this area. Immobilizing painful movement in a specific area of the lumbar spine should decrease pain generated from the degenerated discs and arthritic joints. All lumbar spinal fusion surgery involves adding bone graft, or bone graft substitutes which stimulate a biological response that causes the nearby bone to weld or fuse. Upon successful fusion, the two vertebral segments stop all painful motion, and patients can return to their activities of daily living.

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Lumbar Artificial Disc Replacement

For patients with purely discogenic pain at a vertebral segment Dr. Pablo Pazmino may recommend a Lumbar Artificial Disc Replacement, or Lumbar Arthroplasty, to decrease pain at this area. Immobilizing painful movement in a specific area of the lumbar spine should decrease pain generated from the degenerated discs and arthritic joints. All lumbar arthroplasty require some bony ongrowth onto the metal endplates so the arthroplasty can become fully incorporated into the native spine. Upon successful incorporation, the vertebral segment can resume near anatomical motion, and patients can return to their activities of daily living.

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Stand Alone Lumbar Intervertebral/Interbody Fusion (STALIF)

For patients with certain conditions, abnormal and excessive motion at a vertebral segment may result in pain. When this abnormal motion from an unstable or degenerated vertebral segment causes unnecessary pain, Dr. Pablo Pazmino may recommend an all Anterior approach to decrease pain at this area. The latest stand-alone anterior lumbar fusion cage implant used in spinal surgery from Surgicraft is manufactured from biocompatible polyetheretherketone (PEEK-OPTIMA, Invibio Ltd, Thornton, UK). The benefits this implant offers include reduced operating times, better bone fusion, restoration of height, and improved spinal alignment. In mechanics, Young's modulus (E) is a measure of the stiffness of a given material. The Young's Modulus of PEEK is similar to that of cortical bone, therefore, it offers more elasticity than metal. It can absorb energy, handle the normal weight of the body and minimize stress on adjacent levels. The material is also radiolucent (unseen on X-rays) and thereby allows an improved view of the fusion mass that is taking place. However, to be able to offer X-ray (computer tomography or magnetic resonance) imaging for optimal positioning and postoperative assessments, titanium trace wires are press fitted into the implant. Recovery for the patient is faster in many cases. Some patients need to be operated on from the back. However, the implant can be inserted through the patient's stomach where reconstructing the spine is much less invasive. Some patients only need a small incision from the front or side, and in these cases recovery can be rapid, requiring only a two- or four-day hospital stay followed by a period of recuperation to allow for fusion to occur. Immobilizing painful movement in a specific area of the lumbar spine should decrease pain generated from the degenerated discs and arthritic joints. All lumbar spinal fusion surgery involves adding bone graft, or bone graft substitutes which stimulate a biological response that causes the nearby bone to weld or fuse. Upon successful fusion, the two vertebral segments stop all painful motion, and patients can return to their activities of daily living.

spinal_fusio

Principles behind Spinal Fusion

This presentation created by Dr. Pablo Pazmino discusses exactly how bones fuse. The theories behind spinal fusion will help you understand why screws, rods, braces, and bone stimulators are needed to obtain a successful fusion and what you can do to help this fusion proceed in the safest manner.

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Stimulators for Bone Fusion

This presentation created by Dr. Pablo Pazmino discusses exactly products can be used during surgery to stimulate bony fusion. There are a group of products, proteins, growth factors and cytokines known for their ability to induce the formation of bone and cartilage. Members of the BMP family are potentially useful as stimulators for spinal fusion. BMP-2 and BMP-7 have been shown in clinical studies to beneficial in the treatment of a variety of bone-related conditions including delayed union and non-union. BMP-2 and BMP-7 have been shown in clinical studies to be beneficial in bony fusion. Both have received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for human clinical uses. The theories behind spinal fusion will help you understand why Dr. Pablo Pazmino may use these factors to obtain a successful fusion and what you can do to help this fusion proceed in the safest manner.

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XLIF Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion

For patients with certain conditions, abnormal and excessive motion at a vertebral segment may result in pain. When this abnormal motion from an unstable or degenerated vertebral segment causes unnecessary pain, Dr. Pablo Pazmino may recommend An XLIF or an Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion to decrease pain at this area. This is a newer method of fusion performed from a lateral approach by means of small minimally invasive incisions on your chest or abdomen. Immobilizing painful movement in a specific area of the lumbar spine should decrease pain generated from the degenerated discs and arthritic joints. All lumbar spinal fusion surgery involves adding bone graft, or bone graft substitutes which stimulate a biological response that causes the nearby bone to weld or fuse. Upon successful fusion, the two vertebral segments stop all painful motion, and patients can return to their activities of daily living.

When Should You Seek Medical Care?

If severe pain occurs following an injury (motor vehicle accident, diving accident, or fall), a trained professional, such as a paramedic, should immobilize you to avoid the risk of further injury and possible paralysis. Emergent medical care should be sought immediately.

Immediate medical care should also be sought when an injury causes pain in the neck that radiates down the arms and legs.

Radiating pain, or numbness in your arms or legs which causes weakness in the arms or legs without significant neck pain should also be evaluated.

If there has not been an injury, you should seek a Spinal Evaluation with Dr. Pablo Pazmino when pain is:

  1. Continuous and persistent
  2. Severe
  3. Accompanied by pain that radiates down the arms or legs
  4. Accompanied by headaches
  5. Accompanied by numbness, or tingling
  6. Accompanied by weakness!

Many patients seek care for Degenerative Disc Disease by Dr. Pablo Pazmiño because as an Orthopaedic surgeon he is specifically trained to diagnose, treat, and help prevent problems involving the muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons. Although Dr. Pablo Pazmiño confines his practices to Spinal pathology he also treats a wide variety of diseases, injuries, and other conditions, including Lumbar Artificial Disc Replacement.

 

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