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Medication isn’t the only way to relieve pain.

After an injury or accident, or while experiencing chronic pain, you might try over-the-counter pain relievers or get a prescription for more powerful drugs. Both kinds of pain relievers, however, can have side effects. If you’re going through rehabilitation and dealing with pain, you might want to consider alternative pain relief methods.

Relaxation Techniques

Methods of relaxing the body can reduce pain, especially chronic pain. Some of the specific techniques for achieving relief include:

  • Mindfulness meditation – This calls for focusing only on the current moment, and not judging any thoughts, feelings, or sensations in the body—such as pain.
  • Breathing exercise – This focused breathing is meant to relieve pain. It requires paying close attention to each inhale and exhale, which should be as deep as possible. During breathing exercises, practitioners are encouraged to keep their shoulders and stomach relaxed.
  • Progressive relaxation – Starting at either the top of the head or the toes, patients tighten and then relax the muscles in each major region of the body.
  • Hypnosis – Done either with a trained practitioner or alone, a sequence of steps leads a patient into deep relaxation.


Acupuncture has been used in China for several thousand years to reduce pain. A doctor places thin metal needles into points on the surface of the skin that correspond to the part of the body experiencing pain. Acupuncture has been to shown to help with:

  • Lower-back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Certain headaches


A number of supplements are thought to help pain, especially the pain of osteoarthritis. Some of these include:

  • Capsaicin, the chemical in hot peppers that gives them their heat
  • SAM-e, an amino acid
  • Fish oil, which helps reduce inflammation
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin, which, when taken together, are especially helpful with severe knee arthritis.

Cognitive Therapy

This form of therapy, initially developed to treat various psychological conditions, has also been shown to help patients cope with chronic pain.

When you need rehabilitation to ease pain and restore mobility, Therapy Services at North Hills Hospital are ready to help. For more information about both inpatient and outpatient services, call (817) 255-1672.

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If you need back surgery, here are some things to consider.

Thanks to minimally invasive techniques, back surgery is easier and less painful than ever before. But surgery still presents patients with challenges as they recover, especially for more involved spinal procedures, such as removing bone spurs or fusing two bones. Here's what to expect if you or a loved one will be undergoing back surgery.

Pain Management

For any back surgery, you can expect pain for several days or more. If your surgery was to relieve pressure on nerves, you might still feel pain, numbness, or weakness along the affected nerves. In the hospital, you’ll most likely receive intravenous pain medication. When you go home, your doctor will give you a prescription for medication you'll take orally.

Wound Care

The site of the surgery will be sutured for up to two weeks. You should check the wound to see if it:

  • Begins to open
  • Feels warm
  • Looks red or swollen

In rare cases, the wound may get infected. Signs of infection include:

  • High temperature
  • Chills
  • Redness or swelling around the wound

Contact your doctor if you have symptoms associated with an infection.

Physical Activity

Depending on the type of surgery, activity might be limited for several weeks to several months. Some considerations include:

  • If you’re given a back brace or support, be sure to use it.
  • Don't ride in a car, even as a passenger, for two weeks.
  • Bend at the knees, not the waist.
  • Don’t lift or carry anything over ten pounds.
  • Limit walks and the use of stairs in the first two weeks after surgery.

Physical Therapy

Your doctor will give you exercises to strengthen your muscles, and in some cases he might recommend seeing a physical therapist.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if you develop an infection. Symptoms might include:

  • A wound oozing green or yellow fluid
  • Losing feeling in your limbs
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Worsening pain

At North Hills Hospital, we’re proud to offer a state-of-the-art Orthopedic Surgery Center with skilled spinal surgery staff. If you’d like a physician referral for any kind of orthopedic care, call 1-855-5NHILLS.

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Hear from Alison Parnell, a physical therapist at North Hills Hospital, about ways to improve your posture.

Good posture means that the three natural curves in our spine are in a neutral position. In other words, your spine should not be too rounded or arched. This is important in our everyday activities because the neutral position places the least amount of stress on the body’s tissues. The neutral position also optimizes breathing, circulation and overall function by reducing strain or overuse. Faulty posture can lead to abnormal wear of joints and pain since muscles and ligaments are not working in their optimal position. Muscles and ligaments tend to fatigue more quickly, too.

What Causes Faulty Posture?
Contributors to a faulty posture include a sedentary lifestyle and osteoporosis. Although osteoporosis causes decreased bone density, supplements, diet and exercise can decrease the impact of this disease. For those with a sedentary lifestyle and those with osteoporosis, posture can be improved by strengthening core muscles and increasing flexibility.

How Can Posture Be Improved?
One of the easiest ways to start working on your posture is to sit tall and straight, as if a string is pulling your head toward the ceiling. However, it is important to ensure that you're not overarching your spine when you do this.

To find your neutral spine in sitting, first slouch as much as you can, bringing your shoulders towards your hips, then arch your back as far as you can. Now find the middle of both positions — that is your neutral spine. To help you maintain this position, it is important that your core muscles are able to hold you there for extended periods of time.

One of the most effective exercises to achieve a neutral spine is an abdominal brace. Think of pulling your belly button in toward your spine, without allowing your chest to move. Also be sure to breathe throughout the exercise, as it is easy to forget when holding your stomach in. Hold this for 5 seconds and do 10 at a time. Repeat 2-3 times a day.

For those of you who must sit most of the day, it is important to get up and move around about every 30 minutes. While sitting, you will need a chair with a good lumbar support. Your feet should be flat on the floor or on a stool if unable to reach the floor. Your weight needs to be distributed evenly between your hips. Be sure to keep your shoulders in a relaxed and back position.

Would you like to learn more about Therapy Services at North Hills Hospital? Be sure to visit us online or call 1-855-5NHILLS for a physician referral.

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Dr. Jeffrey Phelps, the Medical Director for North Hills Hospital’s Spine Program, understands just how common and debilitating back pain can be. In fact, the large majority of most adults will experience some type of back pain in their lifetime. While the causes of this type of pain can vary, Dr. Phelps shares some important insight on our blog today about back pain treatment.

What are the common causes of back pain?
Dr. Phelps explains that the majority of back pain cases are usually due to arthritis or muscle strain and sprain. Both of these causes are typically inoperable but do respond to specialized physical therapy exercises and medication. Back pain that results from a pinched nerve may not be relieved without surgery, however. Be sure to get your back pain evaluated by a specialist to find out the cause and to determine an appropriate treatment plan.

When is back surgery necessary?
If physical therapy and medication do not resolve the condition, more invasive procedures may be considered. Dr. Phelps recommends getting an immediate evaluation for surgery if a patient experiences the following:

  • Pain that does not improve over time
  • Pain that worsens over time
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Numbness in the feet or legs
  • Bowel or bladder difficulties

What is minimally invasive back surgery?
According to Dr. Phelps, there have been significant medical advances in back surgery during the past 5 to 10 years. Minimally invasive procedures offer patients the following benefits:

  • Shorter recovery periods
  • Immediate treatment as opposed to extended treatment periods
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Smaller incision sites and less scarring

For those who can't tolerate traditional surgery or extensive anesthesia, minimally invasive surgery offers these patients a chance at back pain relief, also.

What can patients expect from recovery?
Along with a shorter recovery period, patients who have had surgery to relieve a compressed nerve will feel 90% better within one day. Dr. Phelps explains that nerves do need time to heal from extended compression. But newer surgical techniques now allow patients to resume normal daily activities within days to weeks.

Who are the back pain experts?
Dr. Phelps advises patients with back pain to do their research and seek out medical care from qualified, fellow-trained spine surgeons only. Beware of gimmick offers that promise back pain relief.

North Hills Hospital specializes in non-invasive techniques for back pain relief and minimally invasive spine surgery. Our physicians will review each patient's unique condition and offer conservative treatment options before considering surgery. If you would like to meet with Dr. Phelps, please call 1-855-NHILLS for a physician referral.

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Learn various ways you can manage chronic pain.

Living with pain can change a person's life. Even the simplest, everyday activity can take longer or seem impossible due to the resulting pain and discomfort. Individuals suffering from chronic pain often avoid many favorite activities and social situations since pain can limit most actions. Pain that affects a person's life this way can result in deep depression and a significantly reduced quality of life.

What can a chronic pain sufferer do to manage the condition? Here are some important tips:

1. Seek medical help. You should not have to live with chronic pain. Be sure to seek advice and assistance from medical professionals. Your physician will help find the root cause of your pain. Once the source of the pain is determined, then a plan to reduce or end that pain can be created. A combination of techniques may or may not work best depending on your particular diagnosis.

2. Discuss medications with your physician. While pain medication will not cure the cause of the pain, it can ease pain in your daily routine while you and your physician work to find a way to treat the cause. Over the counter (OTC) medications may be all that you need, or your physician could prescribe a medication. Whether it is an OTC or prescription drug, be sure to follow dosage instructions carefully.

3. Discuss the benefits of physical therapy. You may think that moving more would cause your body more pain. However, many causes of pain can be significantly relieved under the careful guidance of a physical therapist. There are therapies for a number of medical conditions, some of which may surprise you, so be sure to discuss this option with your physician.

4. Consider other non-medicated pain relief options. Relaxation techniques, biofeedback, acupuncture, meditation and other specialized therapies may be very successful ways to manage your pain.

Would you like to read more about our suggestions for pain management? Visit our online Health Library here. If you would like to meet with a North Hills Hospital physician or physical therapist, we recommend that you call us for a referral today at 1-855-5NHILLS. No one should have to live with chronic pain and we are here to help you find immediate relief.

Find out whether therapy or surgery is a better option for your back pain.

Chronic back pain is extraordinarily debilitating and can abruptly put an end to everyday tasks that many of us take for granted. No one should have to live with back pain like this. But can you find relief with less aggressive methods for pain management, such as medication and therapy? Or is surgery your only hope? Here are some points to consider:

Every person's back pain is unique.
It is important to remember that the cause of your back pain and how it physically affects you is unique. Even if it is a common condition, some people experience or cope with pain differently than others. Common causes for back pain include:

  • Bone fracture
  • Herniated disc
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Sciatica
  • Spondylosis
  • Arthritis
  • Strain

Try less aggressive methods first.
Before surgery is ever considered, many physicians aim to treat back pain with less invasive methods. These methods include:

  • Rest. A patient may be encouraged to rest the back for a short period of time so that any muscle damage has time to heal.
  • Medication. A course of treatment may aim to relieve pain or reduce muscle spasms.
  • Physical therapy. Patients are taught to use specific exercises that are designed to build muscle strength around the spine and reduce strain on the problem area.
  • Education. It is important that patients understand which activities or movements may increase back pain or worsen a specific condition.
  • Psychological therapy. Patients are taught ways to relax the body or decrease any causes for anxiety that may affect muscle pain or spasms.

When to consider surgery.
There are many types of surgical treatments used to relieve back pain, and some are more invasive than others. Your physician may recommend some type of back surgery if:

  • Back pain causes incontinence or leg weakness. These are signs of an emergency condition and usually require immediate surgery.
  • Less aggressive methods are not providing any relief.
  • Back pain is worsening, even after trying less aggressive methods for pain relief.
  • Back pain significantly interrupts daily activities over a long period of time.

North Hills Hospital can offer you relief.
Here at North Hills hospital, our spine surgery program carefully diagnoses and treats your specific condition. Our Therapy Services can help reduce your back pain by offering the least invasive methods of treatment first. For patients who do require surgery, we offer a number of microscopic and minimally invasive spine procedures to bring our patients relief.

Would you like to meet with a back specialist to determine the best course of action for you? Call 1-855-5NHILLS for a physician referral.

Pregnancy is often a time spent dreaming about that little bundle of joy that Happy mother with newborn babyyou can’t wait to meet. You eagerly anticipate holding your new baby in your arms, counting all of his wonderful fingers and toes, and gazing at the face you’ve been trying to imagine for nine months. However, if you are like most women, the very thought of labor and delivery fills you with trepidation. “Just how bad will the pain really be?” you may be wondering. Put your mind at ease by learning about the different pain management strategies available to you. Discuss these options with your doctor to decide which one is best for you.


An epidural is a form of regional anesthesia, so called because it blocks pain in a specific region of your body. The epidural is administered through a catheter inserted into the spinal cord by an anesthesiologist. It blocks the nerve impulses from the lower spinal segments, causing the lower part of your body to feel little to no pain. There are two types of epidural.

1. The regular epidural is an epidural in which the anesthesia is continuously administered through a catheter by a pump or by manual injection.

2. A combined spinal-epidural is also sometimes called a walking epidural. With this type of epidural, you receive an initial dose of narcotic and/or anesthesia. Then the needle is withdrawn and the catheter is left in place, so more medication can be administered later. This option provides pain relief but still allows you the use of your muscles and the ability to walk around during labor. The combined spinal-epidural does not last as long as the regular epidural.

Pudendal Block

A pudendal block is a type of local anesthesia or aesthesia injected into a specific area for quick pain relief. In a pudendal block, the anesthesia is injected into your pudendal canal, which houses the pudendal nerve. This provides pain relief to the perineum, vulva, and vagina and is usually administered just before the baby is delivered.


Narcotics can be administered through a combined spinal-epidural or injected into an IV. Narcotics are analgesics given in small doses when labor begins. They do not eliminate pain but lessen it. They help you relax but still allow you to move and walk about.

Natural Pain Management

There are many philosophies and techniques for managing pain during natural childbirth. They include muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, massage therapy, hypnosis, meditation, listening to music, movement, and water birth.

During your pregnancy, you will be given a lot of advice, some solicited and some unsolicited. As you weigh the pain management options for the birth of your child, remember that it is your body and your birth experience. Only you can choose the option that is right for you.

At North Hills Hospital, our Women’s Center has everything you need when it is time to deliver your baby. We offer a quiet, comfortable environment, as well as compassionate and skilled doctors and nurses. Our labor suites are beautifully decorated, and our waiting areas offer food and other conveniences for your family and friends. Throughout the year, we provide tours of the unit, as well as classes about childbirth, breastfeeding, and baby care.

To learn more about labor and delivery, talk to your obstetrician and don’t hesitate to ask questions. And if you need a doctor referral, take advantage of our free Find a Physician service.


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