It Was Unbelievable! The Wyatts on Back Surgery

Don and Betty Lou Wyatt’s experience with Dr. Kamson at Spine Institute Northwest was, in their own words, life-changing. Don had been struggling for more than a decade with back pain from a pinched nerve that caused him tremendous pain which interfered with his walking. Read the transcript of their testimony and how their lives have changed for the better after undergoing minimally invasive treatment. Watch the full testimonial on YouTube here: . Read my latest blog posts here.

testimonial for Dr. Kamson

The Wyatts are extremely thankful for the care they received at Spine Institute Northwest.

Betty-Lou: Our experience at Spine Institute Northwest could not be any better. It’s been a total blessing. We have experienced life-changing surgery here.

The moment we walked in the door we were completely welcomed and everyone was calm and collected – we have had a really hectic morning getting here, we had some trouble at the airport and when we got here, every problem that we had they took care of. It was just super relaxed and comfortable. Dr. Kamson is amazing.

I did tons of homework looking for just the right surgeon for my husband. He’s had back surgery before, he’s got a blood disease that we are dealing with. After much, much, much homework, Spine Institute is where we ended up and what a blessing.

Don: Hi, my name is Don. I’ve been living in this pain. I had back surgery in ’99 and ever since I haven’t been right. I’ve had trouble in my back. About a year ago I slipped at work deicing and caught myself and it twisted. Ever since then I’m in a lot more pain. I went to the doctor and they gave me some injections to try to see if that would help and they helped a little bit but it didn’t take care of it and I was going to go back to the surgeon and he wanted to fuse my back and I did not really want to do that with my blood disease because of the bleeding and the hemorrhaging and so we started researching.

My wife really researched all around just trying to find a laser or anything that would be less invasive and she found Spine Institute Northwest. It’s been just unbelievable. When I came in here, I was in so much pain my right leg.  I had that herniation and it was pinching that nerve and it was shooting pain down my leg all day long, couldn’t sleep nights.

When I cam in here, I couldn’t even hardly stand to fill out the paper work. It was hurting so bad and I was so glad to get in. When they got me in everyone here was just wonderful just like family. Walked in they knew who we were asked us if they could help us went over the procedures with us told us exactly what to expect. I got my blood drawn, came back, had the MRI  the doctor went over everything with me and showed me what he was gonna do and when I went in, I was even awake through the procedure.

It was unbelievable. I thought I’d be out.  I was kinda in and out but I heard him , I felt everything, talked to him and it was unbelievable. When I got out they wheeled me out and I don’t think I was out maybe a half hour talking, drinking water, going over everything, got up and walked out and it’s been just a life changing experience. Unbelievable. I am so thankful for everybody here. I’m so glad I did it and I wish I could have gotten it done back in 1999 because I would’ve lived a life like I wanted to. I really love the outdoors and now I’m getting it back.

Betty Lou: I have my best friend back.

Din: I can walk upright, walk with no  pain. I’m very, very happy. I recommend this to anybody. I just wish that everybody would look at this instead of wanting to get cut open and taking their chance. The recovery time is gonna be so much shorter. I’m expected to be off work next week and relax and get walking around and I’m going back to work the following week.


“He ate half a pizza last night.” “Please don’t tell Dr. Kamson about that!”

Betty Lou: When I saw him stand up out of that wheelchair..he stood up and he stood straight for the first time since I can’t even remember and walked. He used to drag his leg and now he just walks like a regular person. That in itself is just amazing. That’s the day after the surgery. That was hours..not even an hour after the surgery he stood up like that.

So I can, and will tell everyone that I meet that this is where they need to be. If they’re tired of pain, if they’re tired of living in pain, if they’re tired of their quality of life being very minimal, I will tell them this is where they need to be.

Don: I was out for 6 weeks during my first surgery and everyday I was just walking real easy shuffling my feet because it hurt so bad getting up and getting down. And they wanted me to walk and do things I did walk but it was hurting so bad still and this here I can’t believe it – when I walked out last night and went back to the motel room it was unbelievable. Slept good. I got up this morning. Today I got up and it’s what – 1 o’clock in the afternoon and (I’m) walking around – no pain! Thank you again,

Betty: That last thing I want to say is God bless Doctor Kamson and his staff and the Spine Institute Northwest.


Speaking at the World Stem Cell Summit in Florida

Dr. Kamson was recently a guest speaker at the World Stem Cell Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida in December of last year. The World Stem Cell Summit is an important venue for regenerative medicine practitioners and industry insiders where all stakeholders are present from scientists to physicians to investors and regulators.


Dr. Kamson joined a distinguished panel of similar doctors in the field of regenerative medicine including Diego Correa, MD, MSC, PhD and Gaetano Scuderi, MD. Dr. Kamson presented his findings on his clinical research and findings at the event on MatriStem A-Cell injections and platelet-rich plasma therapy, both of which show great promise in accelerating the healing of wounds and the promotion of skin cell growth in patients. These cutting-edge therapies are used to help patients who have undergone spine surgery by helping cartilage grow back, facilitating the healing of surgical cuts, and in alleviating pain during post-operation.

regenerative medicine

Can Back Pain Really Be Genetic?

Back pain being genetic? Unheard of, right? Well, research shows that pain-related issues can be passed down genetically – the most common being a herniated disc. In fact, people with an immediate family member who have experienced pain from a herniated disc are four times more likely to experience a similar problem.low back pain causes

Know your family tree

Knowledge is power! It’s always a good idea to have a general knowledge of any family illnesses or diseases so that you can take preventative measures. You should at least be aware of health problems in your immediate family: Parents and siblings. The further out on the family tree you can get, however, the more forewarned you’ll be — grandparents, your parents’ siblings, and your cousins can also provide telling info. It’s not important to track every cough and cold; you just want to know about major illnesses and chronic conditions.

Know your options

Although an injury or just simply poor posture may cause back pain, take the time to see is your medical condition runs in your family. If you know, for example, that you have a parent and a grandparent who suffer from chronic back pain, it’s important to rule out non-genetic elements that could be the root of the problem. For example, working at a physically demanding job isn’t something that’s hereditary (well, maybe unless you inherit the family farm). Other health issues that can contribute to back pain, like obesity, can be addressed with preventative measures. Learning about health problems that “run in the family” can help you determine whether there are other factors you have that may increase your chances of developing one of these problems.

Be sure to mention your family history when you consult with Dr. Kamson, especially if it relates to back issues. Osteoporosis, arthritis, or even a bum knee are important to bring up as well. Knowing what health issues you may be more likely to face — even if they aren’t causing you trouble now — can help to determine a course of action that will better help you to find relief from pain.

Children’s Health and the New School Year

No parent wants his or her child to experience pain or discomfort, let alone a recurring or chronic pain that is interferes with the child’s happiness. But as the school year starts up, many parents will no doubt soon hear complaints about back, neck, and shoulder pain as kids readjust to the pressure of carrying a backpack (plus armfuls of books, lunches, and more) to and from school.

Dr. Solomon Kamson notes that the problem of an excessively heavy backpack can actually present a very real health risk for kids. According to specialists, a child’s backpack should weigh no more than 20% of their body weight (or to be on the safer side, 10%). But with lots of heavy books and notebooks to carry, it’s easy for a backpack to quickly exceed this cutoff.

What’s a conscientious parent to do? For some, the best option is to switch to a backpack alternative like a rolling backpack. In many schools, rolling backpacks have been banned due to tripping hazards. Another good alternative is to rely on the use of lockers. In fact, in many cases, kids aren’t really meant to be carrying as many books as they do. Sure, for the average middle school or high school kid who takes six or eight classes, the textbooks pile up, but kids are meant to take advantage of their lockers throughout the day to lighten the load. Why aren’t more kids taking advantage of this option to decrease the burden on their backs? In most cases, children feel they can’t take better advantage of their lockers either because they feel their lockers are too far away to reach between classes or they don’t have enough room in their lockers. In fact, many schools have reported a problem of too little locker space and access, which can be directly correlated with these reports from kids.

In some cases, parents are able to get special permission to lighten the load their kids have to carry. For example, you might be able to get special permission for your child to use a rolling backpack or to get two sets of textbooks for your child, one for the classroom and one for home. However, this kind of special permission is often reserved for kids who have a special need like an injury or a physical handicap. Depending on your school district, you may be able to have your child use digital versions of various textbooks, which would get rid of the need to transport books at all. However, if the school is not actively implementing e-readers for all students, these permissions may be limited.

No matter what, keep in mind that you always have the right to advocate for their children’s health! Before your child goes to school everyday, check their backpack to see how heavy it is. If it’s exceeding the recommended amount by a huge margin, it may be time to take matters up with the school. If it exceeds it only by a little, start to look for objects you can remove to lighten the load. For example, send your child to school with an empty, reusable water bottle to refill rather than a full one. Remove unnecessary papers from binders and folders. And make sure to listen up any time your child complains about pain! Preventative measures can literally help to keep a minor inconvenience from becoming a major pain.

Advice on Aging from Dick Van Dyke

In a recent interview with NPR about his new book, Keep Moving, famed comic actor Dick Van Dyke offered some great advice about keeping fit and in good health as you age: “Do not start going down the stairs sideways. It feels good on your knees but it throws the hips out and the back starts to go out, the next thing you know, you’ve fallen down and broken your hip. So even if it hurts a little, go down the stairs front-ways.”

Van Dyke’s tip draws attention to the problems that can be caused by allowing your body to compensate for one issue. In fact, doing something like favoring one knee over the other, or leaning to one side of your hip can actually lead to very serious problems. The reason for this is that favoring one side or part over the other can cause the underused side to weaken. That makes it much easier to get an injury or sprain in that weakened part when putting it under mild stress. In cases of injury, you can actually cause the injury to heal incorrectly — potentially causing more problems down the line — by favoring the other side.

And of course, this is a compounding problem. Once you’ve caused one knee or one side of your hip to weaken, or once you’ve started to allow your posture to go, it becomes much more difficult to break the habit. It also makes it much more difficult to get back into an exercise and activity routine once you’ve let your good habits slide.

What else does Van Dyke recommend? For him, the answer is to keep singing and keep dancing, and he recommends the same for just about everyone. Dr. Kamson points out that, even though you might not be partial to song or dance yourself, this advice highlights the point you’re much more likely to stick with an activity routine if it’s something that they enjoy! When you’re trying to think of ways to stay active, think about what kinds of activities you’ve always liked. This might include activities like swimming, taking walks, playing tennis, or even just playing active games. Not only does this help you stay active and build up a routine that you can easily maintain, it also helps you keep your spirits up.

There is good medical evidence to show that a positive outlook can make a huge difference on the likelihood of a good outcome for a procedure. It also helps you maintain a good quality of life. Participating in fun and silly activities like singing with your spouse (as Van Dyke does) can help keep your mood high, which is more likely to keep you feeling good and maintaining positive habits.

Conservative Back Pain Treatment Options

When it comes to managing something as individualized as back pain, it can take many attempts at different kinds of therapies to find a solution that really gives a patient noticeable pain relief. But what should you do if some of the treatment options that you’d like to explore aren’t covered by your insurance? Spinal health specialist Dr. Solomon Kamson notes that there are many reasons a patient may want to try options outside of the traditional doctor’s office, and that being unable to pursue different treatment options can give patients a feeling of powerlessness about their own health. If you’re in this situation, it’s important to understand the benefits to pursuing these alternative kinds of care and what you can do if your insurance won’t cover it.

A recent article published by NPR drew attention to the problem of using opioids as a first response when dealing with chronic pain problems. Back pain is one of the most common types of chronic pain, so the use of opioids as a treatment option is likewise common. However, especially in situations where patients are dealing with intractable chronic pain, it’s disturbingly easy for patients to become addicted to opioids.

Opioids provide pain relief, but they do not treat the underlying cause of back pain. This means that while a patient may feel some temporary relief, the pain is certain to return. At the same time, the longer a patient uses opioids, the more likely they are to develop a resistance to the drugs. The dose needed to treat the same level of pain will steadily increase until the patient is at risk of needing a dangerously high dose of an opioid just to make their pain manageable. Overdosing on pain medications can be fatal. This drug resistance can also potentially make it more difficult to treat future pain, whether from a new cause or an exacerbation of the original underlying problem.

There are many alternative therapies available to patients, including yoga, dietary management, acupuncture, and massage. While some people will find that one of these therapies does provide them with relief, it will frequently take trying several options before a person finds a good balance. This can get expensive, as most of these therapies are not covered by standard insurance. What are your options? Of course, if you can afford to do so you can at least try one of these therapies. You should start by asking your pain specialist or primary care doctor which therapy they recommend. For example, if your weight is contributing to your health problems, your doctor may think you should start with diet and exercise programs, perhaps by working with a trainer and/or a nutritionist.

However, to prevent patients from feeling frustrated by a lack of access to these services, it’s important to have a reasonable expectation on the benefits of these therapies. In most cases, the benefits of these kinds of alternative therapies are really a result of the general overall health improvement that they help you achieve. For example, yoga can help with strength, weight loss, and better mindfulness, which can lead to an overall health improvement. Patients who are concerned about lack of insurance coverage should consider trying similar at-home treatments to see if these help first.

Could You Be Hurting Your Back in Your Sleep?

If you’ve ever woken up with a stiff neck or a painful back, then you already know how much pain you can cause yourself from just one bad night of sleep. It’s actually possible for your spine to accumulate considerable damage when put through poor sleeping behaviors night after night, over long periods of time. While Dr. Kamson notes that it can be difficult for individuals who are experiencing back pain to get a good night of sleep, periods of restfulness are necessary for your optimal overall health. It’s in your best interest to not only stop any bad sleep habits that might be hurting your back, but also to prevent further problems.
sleeping habits
How Do You Sleep?
One of the most important things to consider if you think your sleeping habits may be causing you back trouble is your sleeping position. While it’s easy to get comfortable in certain positions that aren’t good for you, it’s important that you find a way to break the habit. The most common damaging position is sleeping on your stomach with your head turned to the side. What makes this a problem? Your muscles don’t simply stop working when you out your head on the pillow. In fact, you’re making them work over time supporting your neck all night in an awkward position. This can produce tenseness and discomfort when you wake up in the morning. It can also cause problems for your jaw, which you may experience through jaw pain, ear pain, or tooth pain. If you are inclined to sleep on your stomach, try to break the habit by sleeping with a pillow under your legs and under your stomach. This will help keep you from lying completely on your stomach. You may find it helpful to use a body pillow for this purpose.

How is Your Mattress?
A bad mattress can have a huge impact on your back and neck, as well as on the quality of your sleep. As mattresses age, they become less suitable for good sleep. Trying to save money by hanging onto a mattress that has started to hurt your back is going to cost you more money in the long term as you contend with poor back health. The lifespan of a mattress is generally 10 years. If your mattress isn’t too old but you think it is causing you some discomfort, try flipping it over.

It’s also important to make sure you’ve picked the right mattress for your needs. When trying to select a mattress, make sure you go to a store that provides good customer support to help you choose a mattress that will be suitable. Look at multiple different types and styles of mattress, and ask to try out each one or a comparable one. Make sure they also offer a good warranty policy in case you find that the new mattress proves to be uncomfortable.

How’s Your Sleep Quality?
If you aren’t sleeping through the night or your actual sleeping is very light and fitful, you are more likely to experience chronic pain. This can become a vicious cycle as the more often you feel discomfort; the more likely it is to worsen the quality of your sleep. If your back is hurting, it’s important that you address any underlying medical conditions that might be affecting the way you sleep. You should also consider other factors that might improve your sleep quality: Make sure you have a comfortable pillow and sheets, that your blanket isn’t too heavy, and that there isn’t too much light and noise disturbance. Minor changes like light blocking curtains or an electric fan can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Some people also benefit from mild supplements like melatonin, which can help you fall asleep and are non-habit forming.

Back Pain in Children: Is the Backpack to Blame?

A recent article on Everyday Health suggests that while the evidence is not conclusive, there is reason to believe that children who carry heavy backpacks are at risk of back pain and injury. The idea that an overly heavy pack could be painful makes sense, but it’s not entirely clear the degree to which children are actually at risk of injury. While it’s uncommon for children to experience chronic back pain without some underlying cause like a genetic illness or an acute injury, it’s important to address back pain in children because it can lead to the same long-term problems as in adults. Kids need to bring books, supplies, sports equipment, and more back and forth to school, so what can you do?
1. Make sure your child is using a good quality backpack. It’s important that the backpack provides even weight distribution. Though your child may want to carry a purse, shoulder bag, mail bag, or string backpack to school, none of these are going to be as effective as a classic backpack with a little bit of cushioning at the back.

2. Choose a backpack with wide straps. It’s also important that straps can be comfortably adjusted to fit closely to the back. Backpacks with strings instead of straps can become painful from cutting into the skin when too much weight is carried, while messenger bags and other “one strap” models can be too uneven in weight distribution, worsening pain and discouraging proper posture.

3. Make sure your child is packing their bag correctly. Heavier items should be carried closer to the child’s back, while lighter items can ride furthest from the back or in exterior pockets. Teach them to pack their bag by laying it down flat, then packing textbooks first (against the back of the backpack), then notebooks or binders, then lighter items like pencil bags.

4. Ensure your child’s backpack isn’t too heavy. According to Everyday Health, a backpack shouldn’t exceed 10% to 15% of the child’s body weight. If your child is carrying more than that on a daily basis, you may need to come up with a different solution. If you have good reason to believe that carrying a heavy backpack represents a significant risk for your child, then you may be able to request an alternative. For example, your child may be able to get two copies of each textbook, one to keep at home and the other to keep at school, to avoid transporting heavy texts back and forth.

Though the Spine Institute Northwest team mainly works with adults, Dr. Kamson reminds parents that it’s important to listen and take it seriously when your child complains about pain. Even in younger children, back pain can be a symptom of an underlying problem or injury. If your child is complaining regularly about back pain, especially if the above corrective actions have been taken, it might be time to schedule an appointment with their doctor to ensure there isn’t something you’re missing.

How Back Health Awareness May Change Nursing

In a February story from NPR, nurse Sunny Vespcio recounts how, at just 36 years old, she herniated a disc while trying to lift a patient. The injury led to months away from work and two surgeries in one year. Though Vespcio was correctly following nursing protocol, she sustained a type of injury that has become increasingly common among nurses, as well as many other trained professionals who are forced to lift heavy loads and perform twisting motions on a daily basis. The combination of these types of motions and lifting, notes Dr. Sol Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest, are among those most likely to lead to back injury in the workplace.
Due to the increasing frequency of such injuries, researcher William Marras began a study on the efficacy of requiring nurses to lift patients. His results, which have since been replicated in other studies, have found that there is no completely risk-free way for nurses to manually lift patients. Lifting a person of healthy weight is a reasonably strenuous task for any person of average fitness. However, as the population has become increasingly overweight, the frequency with which nurses have to lift overweight patients has gone up.

This represents an increasing amount of regular strain in what was already a difficult task for the average nurse. Research has found that even when nurses lift a patient together, the risk of injury is not necessarily diminished. Nurses are still subject to injury even when distributing the load, because of the awkward angling and positioning that complicates the task. The bottom line, according to Marras’ research, is that there is simply no way that moving a patient can be performed by a human without a risk to back health.

What’s the alternative? Development is currently ongoing in alternative methods for lifting patients. With others, Marras has worked on developing a gurney-style lifting system similar to that used by factories and mechanics to move automotive parts. Other solutions include devices that can help assist the nurse, though these still ultimately depend on his or her ability to move the patient.

When we think about medical advancements and hospital upgrades, we tend to think about technological advances that improve outcomes for patients. We rarely consider all that can be done to better protect the health and safety of the staff who work there. Failures to consider the safety of healthcare workers can lead to major problems (for example, the nurses and doctors were exposed to Ebola in Texas). Implementing alternative lifting technologies could protect the health and welfare of nurses and doctors nationwide, but few hospitals have these planned for the near future.

Still, back specialists like Dr. Kamson note that this increased research interest bodes well for professions like nursing that are associated with an increased risk of back problems. As new technologies are developed and become more affordable, the health risks faced by workers in many fields could be decreased.

Why Won’t My Insurance Cover My Back Pain?

When it comes to certain medical issues like chronic pain management, you may be unclear on exactly how your insurance helps you get care. In fact, if you have a basic plan that is primarily for covering emergencies, you may feel like you cannot even get access to the care you need. Dr. Solomon Kamson notes that chronic pain can be an especially tricky issue for insurance because, while it can take a significant toll on your quality of life, it generally is not considered life threatening and so your insurance provider may only offer limited coverage. Also, in cases where an immediate injury is not the cause, insurers may be unwilling to pay for procedures they do not see a clear problem and solution.

If you are dealing with back problems and find yourself in the position to change your health insurance coverage, you need to consider the specific nature of your back pain. Generally speaking, you will probably fall into one of the following categories:

• You deal with a mild chronic pain that resulted from a mild injury, certain habits like poor posture, or a genetic condition. The pain presents a real complication in your life, but you do not expect to need any surgery or serious intervention.
• You are contending with a more serious issue, for example a herniated disc in need of surgical correction, and will require at least a limited amount of ongoing treatment and intervention.
• You face a critical issue like an ongoing problem from a very serious injury or illness like cancer affecting the spinal area and expect to need a very high amount of medical treatment and intervention.

The type of back problems you are facing will help to determine which type of insurance you should get. The nature of your back problems will help you get a grip on some of the most significant variables that distinguish different insurers and plans. Here are the questions you should consider in order to assess your health insurance needs:

• How many medications will you need on a regular basis? Even if you simply need medication for pain management, can you get a plan that will ensure that you can get pain medication as frequently as you need it? Certain less intensive plans may place limitations on the frequency with which you can renew medications for pain medicine.

• Are there any drugs that you need that are only available as brand name prescriptions? Many basic plans only cover generic drugs, so you’ll need to read the fine print on prescription policies.

• Have you ever been to the emergency room for your back problems in the past? If you have been to the hospital for your back problems and you feel that there is a risk that you will go back again (for example if you a dealing with pain that is severe to the degree that you need emergency care or if any of your medications have potentially serious side effects for which you are at risk), you will want to make sure that you get a plan that offers robust emergency and hospital care. For example, certain plans require that you call your doctor before going to the ER. Will this present you with any regular complication if you expect you may need to be seen for a non-life threatening issue? Have you been hospitalized for your problem? What is your insurance plan’s policy on hospitalization costs?

• Do you have sufficient access to back specialists in your plan? Before committing to a plan, check that the doctors, specialists, and labs you need will be covered by that plan. Alternatively, if you are preparing to see a new set of doctors because you are switching insurance and you know that your old doctors will not be covered, be sure to check that you will be able to get sufficient access to specialists under your care.

Particularly with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, many doctors have been facing confusion when figuring out insurers’ new marketplace plans. This has meant that until things settle, you may have a hard time under certain plans ensuring that you will be able to get access to the care you need. It is absolutely worth your time to make phone calls to check before switching to find out how many specialists you will have access to, how many are accepting new patients, and how long the average waits are to see new doctors.

If you are experiencing chronic back pain that your current physician has been unable to address or that your insurer will not cover, the Spine Institute Northwest may be able to help. Our patient care specialists have experience navigating the often rocky waters of insurance, and we can make payment plans available that can help put the care you need within reach.