What stage is surgery performed on bulging spinal discs?
Had an injection, no improvement, great pain. Low back pain is very common in the whole population, and everybody at a certain age will have a bulging disc. Some discs are bigger, and some are smaller. Is this what they call a prolapsed disc?
Yes, a prolapsed disc or a herniated disc. Yeah, because I have one, and I was told to get walking, get yourself upright, and it might even put itself back. Well, again, initially talking to the GP or the physio, most of the treatment for this is non-operative; it’s the education of the patient, it’s low-intensity exercise, weight loss and time as well the disc will look after itself. If the disc is particularly big, it will put pressure on a nerve route, and that’s when people get sciatica and pain down their legs or electric shocks down their legs going into their foot and ankle, when that is very debilitating it doesn’t respond to treatment then you may need to see an orthopaedic or a neurosurgeon to decompress that nerve route.
I have one here about shoulder impingement. Can a shoulder impingement be dealt with in anything other than surgery? That’s from Dolores, and I don’t really understand what impingement means. I’ve heard of hip impingement, but what are these impingements?
Shoulder impingement is a restriction in the movement of a shoulder, and during the arc of movement, one will experience pain. That’s usually due to irritation or tendonitis of a combination of muscles called the rotator cuff muscles. They are a group of four small muscles around the top of the humerus bone, which stabilise that ball in the socket of the shoulder and allow the bigger muscles to work. When we get older, that rotator cuff gets degenerative, and it can become very irritable; therefore, when we move the shoulder, it can impinge. Usually, physiotherapy, non-steroid anti-inflammatory or steroid injections will help. If it doesn’t, then you are looking to see a shoulder surgeon who performs arthroscopic shoulder surgery and rotator cuff repair.
Yeah, I’m due to have minor surgery on a frozen shoulder which has lasted ten months now. Is it wise to have surgery for that?
Frozen shoulder is a very difficult condition for everybody, particularly the patient, but also for the doctor because we don’t know a huge amount about it. The capsule of the joint becomes very inflamed and sticky, and it causes pain initially. Intense pain for the first six months, and along with that, it causes stiffness. Whereby you have very little movement in your shoulder joint again is very debilitating for day-to-day activities, and then if you leave it for long enough, over the course of 18 months, it tends to resolve itself. Now, sometimes the pain and the stiffness are so severe that a surgeon will either opt for an injection. A steroid injection, hydrodistension of the joint, or they will do arthroscopic surgery to debride the capsule and try to release the adhesions.
Another one, I’m 64, and I’m told I should have a hip replacement, but afterwards, I have to give up running and football. Is there an alternative other than painkillers to allow me to continue sports for a few more years?
It’s debatable whether he would have to give up football or other activities that they want, like running. There are plenty of people who still run and play football after hip replacements, whether or not their doctor advises that or not. I suppose if you get it fixed now, you might have a career after your rehab. Whereas, if you leave it. Correct, I think the main thing is to get a hip replacement if you have pain and dehabilitation that affects your day-to-day life and then if it goes very well and you are able to play football, and you are able to run afterwards well, then that’s the patient’s decision and certainly, I wouldn’t object strongly to that.
I have a problem with my toes, the middle right toe is overlapping and squeezing the next outside toe, and it’s getting worse. I’ve tried toe dividers, too, but that doesn’t help. What can I do to stop it?
Again, surgery often is the answer to that problem. It often is associated with bunions of the big toe. The big toe cuts across and then compresses all the lesser toes, and they rise upwards. In that case, I think make a visit to a foot and ankle surgeon who can then assess the toes. They can realign the first toe and hopefully straighten all the other toes as well.
Someone else is asking about heel pain. What is it, what causes it and how to fix it?
Heel pain can happen in children and in adults. In children, it’s called severe disease, and it’s just a growth phenomenon. It’s traction on the growing point on the back of the heel. In adults, people talk about calcaneal spurs or plantar fasciitis. Again, a very difficult problem to deal with. Certainly, orthopaedic surgeons don’t operate on it; sometimes, they are injected, but the main treatment is physiotherapy and stretching. Unfortunately, it takes months and months for it to settle.
My husband is getting terrible pain in both the muscles in his arms and his wrist. None of the painkillers he has been prescribed are working for him. It started in one arm about three months ago, and now it has started in the second arm. Okay, that person certainly needs to see his GP. Does that sound like arthritis?
It could be arthritis; it could be bilateral shoulder rotator cuff problems or frozen shoulders. Sometimes when multiple joints cause trouble at the same time, then it might be a rheumatologist that this patient needs to see in case they have any evidence of inflammatory arthritis, which affects a number of joints at the same time.
Advice, please, on treating arthritis in feet, particularly on toes on the inside of the foot. Very painful. The GP mentioned metal plates.
Correct, the two major problems with the big toe we mentioned already, bunions or this one sounds like it is hallux rigidus so arthritis in that first metatarsal phalangeal joint, and if that is arthritic and sore, then that joint probably needs to be fused and a surgeon will either do that with screws or a combination of screws and maybe a metal plate.
Final general question, what is an injection of steroids useful for, and how long do they last?
Corticosteroids are very helpful for the treatment of arthritis, usually in a degenerative joint. It’s reasonable to perform a steroid injection every six months or so. After about 2 or 3 injections, its effectiveness wears off, and the patient then wants to move to the next step of treatment. Yeah, but it is a useful interim. Yeah, very much so. If it can buy time and kick the problem down the road, then it’s useful.