News for Dynamic Disc Designs which includes updated research and a synthesis of the most updated studies to help efficiently engage with patients and their back and neck pain.

We take an approach that an evidence-based practitioner would take. Carefully dissecting the history of a patients complaints, weaving the mechanical and psychosocial factors and then deliver a rational and tangible approach to relieving the back pain to the patient. Our news helps keep the practitioner abreast of the latest publications related to musculoskeletal health.

At our headquarters, we dedicate weekly hours to comb through the research for those who treat back pain and neck pain and deliver it.

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Patients with LBP Should be Screened for Cervical IVD Degeneration, Study Finds

cervical hydraulic recovery with recumbancy

A retrospective study 1. [Clinical Relationship of Degenerative Changes between the Cervical and Lumbar Spine] reviewing MRIs of 152 back patients showed a positive correlation between cervical and lumbar intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD) in patients presenting with lumbar spondylosis. The results suggest the necessity of screening LBP patients for evidence of cervical IDD.

Introduction

The diagnosis of IDD may be complicated by the patient’s pain patterns and the tendency of practitioners to focus only on the area of discomfort. Studies have demonstrated the interrelatedness of spinal kinematics, reflexes, and complex neurogenic responses in IVD degeneration, but few studies have examined the connection between degenerative changes in the lumbar and cervical spine, as it relates to diagnosis. This study’s aim was to quantify the possible correlation, which could lead to better diagnostic and treatment outcomes for future IDD patients.

 

Method

Positional MRIs of 152 patients presenting with cervical or lumbar spondylosis were reviewed and assessed and graded on a scale of 1 to 5 for every spinal segment. A degenerative disc score (DDS) was achieved by summing the grades across all segments, after which, the subjects were divided into two groups based upon their IDD for each spinal segment. The “normal” group received a grade of 1 to 2; the “degenerative” group had grades of between 3 and 5. The groups were then compared for evidence of a positive correlation.

Results

A review of the two groups showed a positive correlation between DDS of the cervical and lumbar spine, with higher cervical DDSs at the upper lumber segments than at the lower degenerative segments. This indicates that patients demonstrating degenerations in the upper lumbar spinal segments are likely to suffer from some cervical spondylosis on further examination, regardless of whether they are currently symptomatic.

Conclusion

Patients with lumbar degeneration should also be screened for cervical spondylosis, particularly if their lumbar degeneration is present in the L1 to L3, to reduce the likelihood of a missed cervical degeneration diagnosis. Click To Tweet

KEYWORDS: positive correlation between cervical and lumbar intervertebral disc degeneration, better diagnostic and treatment outcomes for future IDD patients, the interrelatedness of spinal kinematics, reflexes, and complex neurogenic responses, patients demonstrating degenerations in the upper lumbar spinal segments are likely to suffer from some cervical spondylosis

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Importance of Physician-to-Patient Communication in Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Consultations

Physician-to-Patient Communication, Patient Education, Communication, Musculoskeletal

A qualitative phenomenological study of 15 musculoskeletal patients and their physiotherapists found that patients were better able to express their concerns and outcome expectations when their practitioners utilized a patient-centric, communicative approach during their initial healthcare consultation. When practitioners were well-versed in contemporary pain and pathology theories, they were better able to anticipate and elicit feedback about their patients’ concerns, leading to a more positive dialogue and better patient satisfaction. Practitioners who have developed systems and approaches to encourage proactive communication from their patients about their health concerns were more likely to have positive patient outcomes than those who relied only upon their prior medical expertise in diagnosing and treating their patients.

Purpose of the Study

Recent healthcare approaches have trended away from the strictly traditional biomedical paradigm to include the biopsychosocial approach to patient consultation and treatment. The newer model recognizes the importance of communication in empowering patients to take an active role in their own treatment and encourages them to consider and express their own health agendas, allowing their clinicians to more fully understand and attend to their specific healthcare needs. To develop a true partnership with their patients, healthcare practitioners must be willing to abandon the “doctor knows best” attitude and develop better communication skills that will allow for a patient-clinician treatment collaboration. This study proposed to investigate the relationship between a clinician’s communication technique and skills and how well the patient was able to express healthcare concerns during an initial consultation.

Methods

15 musculoskeletal patients and their physiotherapists were interviewed after an initial consultation encounter of between 15 and 20 minutes, which was recorded and later analyzed, utilizing predetermined topic guides, including: presenting problems and symptoms; understanding diagnosis theories, how the patients reacted to referrals, the behavior of the clinician during the consultation, desirable and undesirable treatment activities, fears, concerns, and emotional or social issues related to the patient’s treatment or diagnosis.

Findings

Each of the patients involved in the study presented with a range of two to five topics they wanted to discuss with their clinician. The data determined three main themes when it came to important topics of patient-clinician communication during consultations:

Clarity of the patient’s agenda

The first theme identified was how clear or unstructured a patient’s agenda was during their consultation. Some patients had very clear health agendas and were able to communicate their expectations and needs effectively to their clinician. Others were more passive and had more difficulty in communicating their expectations. These patients would have likely benefitted from a practitioner who was better able to create an atmosphere of trust and confidence, which would encourage the patient to discuss their needs.

The need for information and understanding

Patients who had more information about and better understood their health concerns were better at identifying and expressing their expectations and needs during their consultation. The subjects reported being more satisfied with and reassured by their consultation when their clinician took the time to explain and discuss the healthcare issue with them, rather than simply offering a diagnosis and treatment plan. When the clinicians offered evidence-based information regarding their diagnosis and reassurance that their health problem was not due to a serious underlying condition or likely to create too much disruption in their lives, they felt more satisfied with their experience. They were also happier about their consultation when their clinician was able to illicit further information regarding their symptoms and concerns, especially when the patients had neglected to mention these concerns, either through forgetfulness or reluctance to communicate their fears.

Developing Collaboration

Patients in the study reported feeling more supported and engaged when their healthcare provider used a person-centered approach during the interview at their initial consultation. They were better able to trust and have confidence in providers that projected a sense of partnership and were concerned with the social, emotional and physical condition of their patients, rather than treating their dysfunction as a stand-alone concern.

The results of this study emphasize the need for clinicians to create an atmosphere of trust, collaboration, and communication in their patient consultations, rather than relying exclusively on their medical expertise during diagnosis and treatment. By encouraging their patients to more effectively communicate their healthcare concerns, and by creating an atmosphere of collaboration between themselves and their patients, healthcare providers can empower and reassure their patients, which may improve diagnosis, treatment, and healthcare outcomes.

 

KEYWORDS: Importance of Physician-to-Patient Communication, patient-centric, communicative approach, clinician’s communication technique and skills, desirable and undesirable treatment activities, fears, concerns, emotional or social issues related to the patient’s treatment or diagnosis

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Cyclic Mechanical Tension and Intervertebral Disc Degeneration

intervertebral disc degeneration, model

Mechanobiology Research

Low back pain is a huge burden on our limited resources with limited knowledge of its pathophysiology. It is widely known that intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD) is intimately related, with the degree of degeneration associated with the severity of low back pain. The characteristics of intervertebral disc degeneration include disc height loss, proteoglycan loss, loss of water, annular fissures, and end plate calcification.

The degenerative process of the intervertebral disc has been seen as a phenotype change within the cells. This anabolic to catabolic shift seems to occur to the cells deep within the disc. One branch of research that studies the influence of mechanical forces on the biology is called Mechanobiology. In other words, can physical stressors on discs influence the process of degeneration? Can moving the disc is a certain way change the outcome of degeneration?



The Study

In this open access study, researchers were the first to investigate this kind of cyclical mechanical tension on the nucleus pulposus cell’s changing behaviour.  They extracted disc cells from caudal spines of (3-month-old) male Sprague-Dawley rats and conducted the mechanical testing using a device after the cells were cultured and prepared. They used this device to apply mechanical force on the cells of the nucleus pulposus (the centre of the disc) to see how the cells behaved under specific loading conditions.

Disc cell senescence involves telomere shortening,  free radical stress, DNA breakdown and cytokine proliferation. Mechanical loading conditions in the upright posture have been found to promote disc cell changes towards intervertebral disc degeneration in rats.  Studying the role of mechanical stress and the influence on disc health will benefit our understanding of disc pathogenesis. 

The results of this study showed a direct relationship of prolonged mechanical cyclic stress towards the catabolic shift of the cells in the nucleus pulposus. They concluded that unphysiological mechanical stress could push a disc into the degenerative cascade. They believe that eventually, too much mechanical stress can influence a cell’s behaviour and suggested that research continue searching the optimal mechanical environment for intervertebral disc cells.

At Dynamic Disc Designs, we work to bring dynamic models to the practitioner to help in the discussions related to motion and the spine.

 



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Study of Human Lumbar Foramen Dimensions During Activity Show Changes are Segment-Dependent

Lumbar Foramen

 An in vivo study of cross-sectional lumbar foramen dimensions during a weight-lifting activity showed that all levels of the lumbar intervertebral foramen (LIVF) area decreased, except for the L5-S1 segment during lumbar extension, which had consistent measurements of the foramen, height, and width throughout the activity. The results of the study could provide insight into ways to improve the diagnosis or treatment of lumbar foramen stenosis.

Purpose of the Study

Radiculopathy caused by nerve root compression is a common symptom of LIVF stenosis and is often treated surgically, through the implantation of an interspinous device or decompression. Because the LIVF is surrounded by mobile facet joints, its shape undergoes changes during typical daily movement. As it changes shape, it may put pressure on nerve roots or other structures that may cause pain. Complications arising from the changing dynamic anatomy of the LIVF during activity can lead to failed back surgery syndrome, so understanding how movement and weight-bearing affects the LIVF is important to effective treatment and maintenance of back pain.

The Study

An MRI study of 10 healthy subjects (five male, five female) in supine, relaxed positions was conducted, and 3D spine models were constructed based upon the results of the scans. The lumbar spines of the subjects were then imaged during lumbar extension postures of 45 degrees to a maximally-extended position, while the subjects were holding an 8-pound dumbbell in both hands. These scans were also used to create 3D vertebral models of the in-vivo dimensions during activity, and a data analytic design was created to determine the area, height, and width of the L2-S1 vertebral levels during the activity for 45-degree flexion, upright position, and maximal extension.

Results

Researchers found that the LIVF area in L2-L3, L3-L4, and L4-L5 decreased during weight-lifting activity. The LIVF widths also showed a similar decrease, but the heights remained throughout the extension activity. However, the foramen area, height, and width at L5-S1 did not change during the weight-lifting. Overall, the data for all other areas demonstrated a change of approximately 10 percent from 45 degrees flexion to an upright standing posture, and again from upright standing to maximal extension. This information underscores how patients with LIVF stenosis may experience nerve root impingement pain during extension postures and feel relief from that pain during flexion. Understanding the in vivo dynamics of the functioning lumbar spine may help practitioners in the treatment and diagnosis of lumbar foramen stenosis.

 

lumbar spinal stenosis, spinal canal narrowing

A superior view of our Lumbar spinal stenosis model with a dynamic disc bulge and dynamic ligamentum flavum.

KEYWORDS: Lumbar Foramen Dimensions During Activity, in vivo study of cross-sectional lumbar foramen dimensions during a weight-lifting activity, insight into ways to improve the diagnosis or treatment of lumbar foramen stenosis, Radiculopathy caused by nerve root compression, Complications arising from the changing dynamic anatomy of the LIVF during activity, nerve root impingement pain during extension postures

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Diurnal Disc Shape and Height Changes – Basic Science and Natural Variations to Understand Back Pain

Diurnal Disc Shape

The spine undergoes natural shape and fluid changes over the course of 24 hours. Often, back pain symptoms vary as well over the day and night cycle.  But the small changes and the links to pain have not been researched thoroughly. Here, a group of researchers from Duke University looked at the reliability of measuring intervertebral disc shape with recumbent MRI. This large avascular structure is linked to back pain and has significant diurnal variation in the human body. It would seem wise to further understand its diurnal disc shape changes.

Some people feel pain in the mornings and others feel things more so at the end of the day. Yet others feel pain more so when they lie down.

The intervertebral disc hydraulically keeps vertebrae separated. Water is squeezed out throughout the day as the human frame is vertical, and this water gets resorbed when an individual lays down. During the process, the disc changes shape and height. And when pain is involved, these shape and height changes can bear increased ( or decreased ) physical stress on structures that may be inflammatory. These can include annular fissures, disc bulges, disc herniations, disc protrusions, encroaching nerve or rootlets of nerves and the shingling of facet joints, just to name a few.

The purpose of this study was to determine intra and inter-rater reliability using MRI to measure diurnal changes of the intervertebral discs.

They did find excellent reliability, and interestingly they saw the most significant change in the posterior annulus region of L5-1. The diurnal variations were in line with what others had seen in previous work. Boos at al. in 1996 saw a 1-2mm change over the course of an 8h workday while Hutton et al. in 2003 saw a volume change of 1-2 cm3.

This research is essential if we are to fully understand back pain origins. Often pain syndromes related to the lower back present with symptoms that are diurnal. At Dynamic Disc Designs, we have models to help explain these subtle but significant changes to the discs, assisting patients to understand the onset of their pains and the diurnal disc shape and the natural variations.

 

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Study Finds Annulus Fibrosus GAG Content Alters the Mechanics of Disc Torsion

Facet Joints, GAG, Annulus Fibrosus, Torsion

A recent study evaluated the role of facet joints in torsion using four different compressive preload conditions in healthy and degenerated lumbar discs—with, and without facet joints. The study also sought to develop a quantitative relationship between structure and function in tissue and torsion mechanics. The study found that annulus fibrosis GAG content substantially affects the mechanics of disc torsion.

Purpose of the Study

Because there is a large population of lower back pain (LBP) sufferers whose jobs involve excessive loading and rotating the lumbar spine, the authors of this study sought to quantify and understand how the facet joints in healthy and degenerated discs would behave under axial rotation scenarios. They did this by observing in vivo changes in spinal segments during torsional behavior. The intervertebral disc (IVD) is capable of stability and flexibility during most movement, receiving stresses and sharing them with the nearby facet joints and other surrounding structures. The facet joints should protect the disc from overload and degeneration by restricting motions that would cause damage to the spine, but some complex motions that involve axial rotation and bending during heavy loading can increase the chance of micro-damage and disc failure. How well the IVD and facet joints share loads is determined by the mode of loading and posture. Previous studies have demonstrated that up to 25 percent of axial compressive forces may be supported by the facet joints. Between 40 to 65 percent of healthy disc joint rotational and shear forces are also supported by the facet joints. Therefore, it is important to understand how the facet joints in healthy and degenerated discs react during torsion.

Study Design

Researchers obtained and imaged seven human cadaveric lumbar spine segments aged 43 to 80 years-old. The musculature and ligaments were then removed, and the intact facet joints near the discs were subdivided mid-vertebrae prior to the samples being potted in bone cement. The segments were then wrapped in gauze and stored in a phosphate solution until brought to room temperature just before testing. They were then mounted onto a testing machine and secured with screws.

The segments underwent a moderate-to-low preloaded axial compression, followed by axial rotation through the center of the disc. The cycles of compression and rotation were performed for two hours to allow the formation of creep. Ten cycles of cyclic rotation, and the samples were tested under four axial compressive preloads and allowed to recover between each test. The facet joints were then removed, and the samples were tested again, using the same loading configuration. For each round of testing, the researchers recorded the levels of force, rotation angle, displacement, and torque.

Isolating and Imaging Each Disc

Each disc was isolated and imaged after mechanical testing. Researchers measured the disc area, anterior-posterior and lateral width using a custom algorithm. Disc height was measured from the posterior, anterior, left, and right lateral sides, as well as the center. A mathematic formula determined the applied axial stress, and the images were graded and compared with radiographic-based grades.

Conclusion

The results of the tests indicated a strong correlation between creep and axial compressive preload and the loss of disc height. Removing the facet joint had no effect on this phenomenon. The presence of facet joints and an axial compressive preload did have a strong effect on torsional mechanical properties, with torsional stiffness and range decreased 50 to 60 percent for compressive loads after removing the facet joints. Energy absorption decreased about 70 percent during rotation after facetectomy, and disc-joint strain increased 74 percent, compared to only 62 percent in disc strain energy using the same axial compression.

Annulus Fibrosis GAG content in degenerated discs greatly reduced torsion mechanics, while the facet joints are integral in keeping the spine from rotating too far and helping to reduce shear stress and damage to the disc. The relationship between the biochemical-mechanical and compression-torsion levels noted in this study may help to provide for more effective and targeted biological repair methods for degenerating discs of various levels.

 

KEYWORDS: AF GAG Content Alters the Mechanics of Disc Torsion, role of facet joints in torsion, axial rotation scenarios, correlation between creep and axial compressive preload and the loss of disc height, targeted biological repair methods for degenerating discs

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Study Finds Strong Correlation Between LBP, Age-related Degeneration, and Spinal Instability

Instability

A study examined the relationship between lumbar disc degeneration and instability in spinal segments of three groups of volunteers and found that factors of spinal instability were closely related to disc height and the age of the study subjects and that disc height was intimately associated with age and spinal instability and was the most consistently affiliated parameter of those examined.

Patients with lower back pain (LBP) and/or sciatica often have evident disc degeneration in MRI their images, especially elderly patients. Because these patients may demonstrate no other neurological symptoms, it is commonly assumed specific evidence of LBP –aside from degeneration and the age of the patient—may not exist. Excessive motion surrounding the affected disc segment can cause LBP and spinal instability, and previous studies on the relationship between instability and LBP have been inconsistent in their findings—in part, because imaging of the subjects was performed while the patients were in the static supine position.

Study Design Utilized Flexion-Extension Standing Postured Imaging Reviews

The authors of the current study were building upon their previous research utilizing images that had been performed on patients during flexion-extension standing postures to examine the relationship between spinal instability and disc degeneration of the L4/L5 motion segment. Because disc degeneration may not be associated with LBP at all stages, the authors of the study devised a method of measurement to examine different types of segmental degeneration and any relationship it may have with spinal instability.

The subjects of the study were LBP or leg pain outpatients who had received radiologic and MRI imaging within a two-month interval during the past three years. Of the 447 patients included in the study, 268 were men, and 179 were women. Their ages ranged from 10 to 86 years, with an average age of roughly 54 years-old.

Instability was measured at the L4/L5 spinal segments during neutral, extension, and flexion postured images and was then analyzed and categorized into three variable types: Anterior slip at L4 onto L5 while in neutral position (SN), sagittal translation (ST), and segmental angulation (SA). Measurements were taken of each slip, and the results were evaluated and noted to determine the degree of apparent instability.

The disc segments were evaluated radiologically for degeneration by looking at and comparing disc height, spur formation of the anterior vertebral edges, endplate sclerosis, and evidence of vacuum phenomenon in the films taken during flexion-extension. Sixty-eight of the subjects had high disc height (HDH), 212 patients were considered to have medium disc height (MDH), and 67 patients were categorized as having low disc height (LDH). Bony spur measurements were taken, and the presence of endplate sclerosis and vacuum phenomenon were noted as either being present or not. The level of disc degeneration was evaluated by MRI and graded from 1 to 5, as “normal,” to “severe” degeneration. The patients were divided into eight groups based upon the severity of their spinal instability, and the relationship between disc height, spur size, endplate sclerosis, vacuum phenomenon, and degeneration in the MRI’s was noted in relation to the types of instability present.

The compared data indicated a link between instability, age, and a reduction in disc height. Though increased age and a loss of disc height have long been suspected to be linked to degeneration and instability of the spine, this study uses MRI to evaluate that relationship more closely, demonstrating that a lower disc height was associated at least a 3mm slippage and a higher disc height was associated with subjects who were younger in age, with larger angulation in the spinal segments. Instability was prevalent in older patients with prominent anterior spur formation and/or vacuum phenomenon.

Age and relative spinal stability were intimately related to disc height, and this instability was progressive in nature and occurred over decades.

 

KEYWORDS: Correlation Between LBP, Age-related Degeneration, and Spinal Instability, relationship between lumbar disc degeneration and instability, comparing disc height, spur formation of the anterior vertebral edges, endplate sclerosis, and evidence of vacuum phenomenon, link between instability, age, and a reduction in disc height, degeneration and instability of the spine