Three Mental Health Tips to Remember while Recovering from an Injury

August 1st, 2018

Photo Courtesy of True Katsande, Unsplash

Mental health has always been a critical aspect to living a healthy life; however, it was not until recent years that we realized how mental health can deeply impact physical well-being. The connection between mental and physical health is especially emphasized when a person faces an injury or a negative mental experience.

At Kuether Brain and Spine, there is often a period of recovery and/or physical therapy training for patients. While physical therapy is typically a mark of progress in the recovery process, it can be difficult to remain positive during a time of slow healing. It can be even more challenging to remain positive when a patient’s day-to-day exercise routine is interrupted due to recovery. Exercise is proven to increase positive mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, negative moods and improve cognitive function, according to the National Institute of Health. Below are three helpful mental health reminders for any person recovering from any kind of injury.

Resting and recovery is productive

It may be difficult to think of the resting phase or early stages of recovery as productive, especially if a patient is used to a highly active lifestyle; however, after injury, the body needs to heal. They only way it will be able to do so is by properly resting it and following the medical advice given by a medical professional. The body is busy repairing itself while it is resting so it is productive to give the body the downtime it needs rather then pushing through and further injurying or prolonging the healing process.

There are things you can’t control like the speed of your healing

There is no way to speed up the healing process, despite the best intention or desperate desires of the patient. Thus, it is better to accept the timeframe of the recovery and try not to stress or worry about the duration. It can be helpful to celebrate small wins such as succeeding in doing one more rep during a physical therapy session or attending a follow-up appointment.

Find the right way to cope for YOU

Some patients find writing in a journal a helpful mental coping mechanism while other patients prefer to confide in a trusted friend or even a support group. There’s no right way to better an individual’s mental health – it should be personal and unique. However, it is important to find the support and healthy coping habits that fits your lifestyle and personality.

Maintaining a positive outlook can be an extremely effective way to improve the recovery process as again, mental and physical well-being are closely linked. If a patient’s mental health begins to suffer due to their physical state, it will only negatively and potentially delay the healing process. Kuether Brain and Spine wants to be a resource for its patients during their experiences. If you would like to learn more about the Kuether Brain and Spine practice, please visit our website.

Entry Filed under: General,Patient Story,Spine Comments

Celebrities with Previous Spinal or Brain Injuries: Tiger Woods

July 18th, 2018

Photo Courtesy Ben Hershey, Unsplash

Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods are some of the most prominent golf players to ever live. Tiger Woods, in particular, captivated the professional golfing world in the late 1990s and early 2000s by breaking nearly every record and winning nearly every tournament.

Tiger Woods started playing golf from an early age and rapidly progressed in his career. Woods entered the PGA in 1996 and within a year, at age 21, Woods won the Masters with a record breaking score of 270 and the highest margin of victory ever to become the youngest Masters champion. His success continued until 2009 before he faced personal scandal, which drove his professional career into a downward spiral. Outside the continuous personal scandals, Tiger Woods’ career has also been marred by injury.

As early as his college days at Stanford, Woods underwent more than one surgery for his knees. Woods also competed with major injuries at some of his most legendary tournament moments including playing with a torn ACL and stress fractures in his tibia; however, his back injuries have been his most prolonged and influential on the state of his career.

Tiger Woods has undergone a total of four major back surgeries. Woods’ first back surgery was in 2014 and then two more followed in 2015. Although, he underwent two discectomies and a pain alleviating surgery, Woods suffered from ongoing back spasms, debilitating pain and sciatica, which is “pain affecting the back, hip, and outer side of the leg, caused by compression of a spinal nerve root in the lower back, often owing to degeneration of an intervertebral disk.”

Finally, in April 2017, Tiger Woods underwent a spinal fusion surgery for his lower back. He had a spinal fusion at the L5-S1 vertebrae. Months prior to this surgery, Woods announced he may never play golf again, but less than year after receiving his spinal fusion surgery, Woods returned to the PGA tour. He even competed in the 2018 Masters tournament.

Spinal fusion back surgeries aim “to stop the motion at a painful vertebral segment, which then ideally decreases pain generated from the joint,” according to Spine Health. There are three common approaches to spinal fusion surgeries including:

  1. “Adding bone graft to the damaged or painful spine segment”
    • Tiger Woods’ spinal surgery adopted this approach of adding bone graft
  2. Inserting a biological response to grow between the two involved vertebra forming a bone fusion
  3. A boney fusion, which causes one fixed bone to replace a mobile joint — meaning it stops the motion at that joint segment”

Spinal fusion back surgeries are for candidates who suffer from prolonged back injuries, pain or severe traumatic back injury. It is typically a last resort after other alternatives such as physical therapy or naturopathic remedies fail to relieve pain.

Dr. Kuether at Kuether Brain and Spine performs spinal fusion surgeries for patients when it is the appropriate course of medical action. Dr. Todd Kuether is always happy to meet with new patients and he strives to find the least invasive option while still attempting to relieve and manage pain. If you have any questions about Kuether Brain and Spine’s surgical offerings or Dr. Kuether’s approach to health, please visit our website:

Entry Filed under: Spine,Surgery Comments

Three Common Neck, Head and Back Injuries seen in Baseball

July 4th, 2018

Photo Courtesy of Christopher Campbell, Unsplash

The NCAA Division One College Baseball World Series just wrapped a few weeks ago with the Oregon State Beavers taking home the national championship. The MLB is in full swing of its very long season and even little leagues across the country are participating in summer baseball fun. However, baseball can be challenging on the body due to the repetition of motions and extended seasons. Kuether Brain and Spine wanted to analyze some of the injuries seen in the popular American sport.

An estimated 13.96 million Americans play baseball and like any sport there is the possibility of injury during training or competition. Three injuries sometimes seen in baseball players outside of the very common elbow and shoulder injuries include neck strains, concussions and back pain.

Neck Strains

Baseball players can suffer from neck strains from improper throwing technique, collision with other players during play or lack of necessary stretching. Another reason some players may experience a neck strain is due to imbalanced neck muscle strength; it is critical to strengthen both sides of the neck to protect it. Players can perform resistance exercises in all motions of the neck such as flexion, extension, rotation and lateral flexion, which can be done manually with the help of a coach or teammate or through a recommended and advised equipment workout routine. It is also important to note the difference between sprains and strains. A sprain is the stretching or tearing of ligaments (commonly seen with ankles) whereas a muscle strain is the stretching or tearing of muscle tendons. If a player strains their neck muscles, he/she must take the healing process seriously by resting and participating in recommended physical therapy to help prevent further or prolonged injury.


Although baseball is categorized as a low contact sport, concussions are still relatively common. Players do take precautions by wearing helmets while batting, but concussions can still occur by being accidentally hit by the bat, player collision or being hit by the ball during play or practice. In order to best protect players, all participants should partake in concussion baseline testing to allow for proper identification if a concussion occurs. Protective headgear and helmets are also helpful in addition to education of proper bat safety and sliding techniques. Coaches and parent volunteers should also be educated in identifying possible concussion symptoms such as confusion, nausea, fatigue, mental fogginess, headache and loss of consciousness among others.

Back Pain

The extreme motions required in pitching, catching and throwing techniques coupled with baseball’s requirement of constant repetition of these motions can put strain on the back and spine. Poor mechanics and improper technique in any of these common actions can increase the likelihood of injury to the back and spine for baseball players. In some cases, for those who are susceptible, adolescent players can develop spondylolysis, which “is a defect in the connection between vertebrae that affects 3 to 7 percent of the population” correlated with the repetition of strenuous motions and/or overuse from playing.

These injuries are something to be aware of as children, teenagers and adults play baseball. Kuether Brain and Spine hopes the thousands of Americans who participate in baseball are able to stay safe during their seasons of play and in their careers. For those local players who experience an injury to their neck, head, back or spines, Kuether Brain and Spine can help. To find out more about Dr. Todd Kuether, please visit our website.

Entry Filed under: Brain,General,Spine,Surgery Comments

5 Things Patients Should Prepare Before Surgery

June 20th, 2018

Every patient story is different. For those whose journeys require surgery, there are many steps to consider and prepare prior to operation day. Kuether Brain and Spine compiled a few items in the list below. During the preparation prior to surgery, the Kuether Brain and Spine team will specifically discuss and educate its patients on all the necessary prep for their more specific medical needs. The list below includes commonly forgotten, but highly important action items.

  1. Prepare Transportation To & From Surgery Facility

A patient should arrange transportation with a family member or trusted friend to arrive and more importantly, depart the surgery facility. Patients are not allowed to call a cab or driving service post-operation; therefore, it is important to arrange transportation and aftercare with a trusted ally well in advance to ensure a safe beginning to post-operation recovery.

  1. Establish a Support System

It is also critical to establish a support system for the post-operation recovery process, especially for the first 48-hours. Again, a family member or trusted friend should stay, monitor and/or check-in with a recovering surgery patient to ensure there are no complications or accidents. Frequent check-ins in the following weeks are also strongly recommended to encourage both physical and mental well-being during recuperation.

  1. Surgery-Proof Your Living Situation

In the weeks before a patient’s scheduled surgery date, it can be helpful to “surgery-proof” the home. Some helpful recommendations include: placing a slip-proof chair in the shower, installing a toilet seat riser, and purchasing non-slip slip-on shoes and/or an “reach and grab” tool to make the little things slightly easier.

  1. Plan Activities

Mental health is equally as significant as physical health during a recovery journey. It can be helpful to have a few activities picked out to keep the brain engaged. Some recommendations include having a handful of movies chosen, curating a list of new books and scheduling both phone calls or in-person visits with family or friends.

  1. Have Food, Fluids and Prescriptions Ready

It seems obvious to have food, water and prescriptions prepared before going into operation; however, it can be easy to forget. Healthy, easy-to-digest food like sautéed vegetables, fresh fruit smoothies and other high-fiber meals should be prepped prior, plenty of drinkable water should be available and prescriptions should be picked up from the pharmacy all before the surgery date.

Again, these are just a few of the many important things to do prior to surgery. Your medical professionals, including the staff at Kuether Brain and Spine, can help educate you on all necessary arrangements and guidelines.

Entry Filed under: Brain,Patient Story,Spine,Surgery Comments

Celebrities with Previous Spinal or Brain Injuries: Sharon Stone

June 6th, 2018

Photo Courtesy of Flickr. Sharon Stone 2007

Sharon Stone is famous for her roles in movies like Basic Instinct (1992) and Casino (1995); however, in 2001, almost 17 years ago, Sharon Stone lost stability in everything: her career, her family and most importantly, her health. After checking into the emergency room for an extremely painful headache, Stone learned she was experiencing a cerebral hemorrhage in her brain. A cerebral hemorrhage, according to Healthline, is “when blood suddenly bursts into brain tissue causing damage to the brain.” Blunt trauma, high blood pressure or a brain aneurysm bursting can cause a cerebral hemorrhage. Any internal bleeding, especially in the brain, needs immediate medical attention.

Like Stone experienced, one of the symptoms of a cerebral hemorrhage is a severe and sudden headache. The other symptoms can include “sudden weakness, numbness or paralysis in an arm, leg or face on one side, trouble swallowing, vision loss, coordination loss/dizziness, trouble with speech, nausea, confusion and/or loss of consciousness.” Some of the factors that increase a person’s risk of a cerebral hemorrhage are “smoking, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and generally, an unhealthy lifestyle.”

If a person experiences a cerebral hemorrhage, immediate emergency medical attention is required. The size of the area impacted and the duration of the bleeding typically determine the lasting implications. Sharon Stone reported both long and short-term memory loss, numbness in her legs and face, hearing loss as well as cognitive function loss with her speech and ability to read. It took her over 2 years to start to see improvements in these areas. Other complications can consist of “impaired language skills, emotional problems, vision loss, fatigue, coordination and movement loss, cognitive dysfunction, seizures and swelling of the brain.

Fortunately, most of us will not experience this extremely dangerous health condition like Sharon Stone and others. Although knowing the symptoms, risk factors and complications can only assist in being more aware of possibly fatal injury. Dr. Todd Kuether is equipped to handle any problem, which may cause cerebral hemorrhaging as well as many other cranial and brain disorders, diseases and injuries. If you are interested in reading more about Sharon Stone’s experience, additional interviews can be found from the Hollywood Reporter and USA Today.

Entry Filed under: Brain Comments

An Inside Look at a Typical Week at Kuether Brain & Spine

May 23rd, 2018

The Portland medical scene is already a tight-knit community; however, as a practice, Kuether Brain and Spine, works together like a family. Dr. Todd Kuether and his team have worked together for many years. Some of the Kuether staff has worked together for over 15 years. They enjoy not only spending time together during the workweek, but also in their personal time. Dr. Kuether and his staff Amanda, Nita and Michele plan trips and retreats together, hike and throw casual dinner parties to maintain and flourish their supportive, family atmosphere. With this positive team environment, the typical week at Kuether Brain & Spine can be fast-paced and highly active.

At Kuether Brain and Spine, each week consists of three kinds of days: surgery days, on-call days and clinic days. Surgery days mean Dr. Kuether and the staff are preparing and conducting both prescheduled and elective surgeries. Dr. Kuether, his physician assistant Amanda, and the rest of the staff assist patients in preparing for their surgery, performing the surgeries and assisting in post-operation recovery. According to the staff, the best patients are those invested in their health throughout the entire medical process—from diagnosis to treatment to recovery. Post-operational recovery can be both physically and mentally taxing; however, patients who are invested in every stage and establish a personal support system, often reach their goals. Surgery days make up for about half of Kuether Brain and Spine’s workdays.

As always, Kuether Brain and Spine’s motto has always been to do the right thing for each individual patient. Dr. Kuether tries to be as minimally invasive as possible by recommending other health alternatives such as naturopathic medicine, physical therapy, acupuncture and injections in addition to appropriate surgical procedures. Dr. Kuether is also on-call for at least 16 days out of every month to assist with trauma injuries and emergency surgeries at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. On-call days remain as the most unpredictable and require the staff to be as flexible as possible.

However, when the team is not on-call or working a surgery day, there are clinic days. Clinic days are just as important because this is when the Kuether team is able to meet and help prospective patients and follow up with existing patients. Clinic days are especially valued by the Kuether team because it is when they are able to develop intimate relationships with their patients and share critical educational information pertaining to patient treatment.  

The Kuether Brain and Spine team works hard every day for its patients and wants to be as helpful as possible to future, prospective patients. The typical week never becomes dull because we truly love helping those suffering from back pain, spinal injury or brain injury. We treat each other like family and enjoy being together, which we believe can be felt and seen in our approach to patient care—friendly, approachable and with the best intention. For more information on our staff or practice, please visit our About the Practice page.  

Entry Filed under: General,Patient Story Comments

Celebrities with Previous Spinal or Brain Injuries: Peyton Manning

May 10th, 2018

Photo Courtesy of Jeffrey Beall, Flickr

Most Americans experience back pain/injury at some point during their lives. However, there are also many examples of celebrities from professional athletes to actors/actresses that have also experienced and recovered from a spinal or brain injury. Peyton Manning, two-time Super Bowl champion and five-time MVP award recipient, suffered a prolonged neck injury, which caused him to miss the entire 2011 NFL season. His neck injury was treated with a number of surgeries including a spinal fusion to help repair the damage.

As a professional quarterback in the NFL for over 18 seasons during his career, Manning’s body experienced significantly more wear and tear and intense physical activity compared to the average Joe. His injury of nerve damage and neck pain occurred from prolonged use of his throwing arm. Manning received a spinal fusion, specifically an anterior cervical discectomy, to address his neck injury. Essentially, an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion “ is a type of neck surgery that removes a herniated or degenerative disc to relive spinal cord or nerve root pressure, which can alleviate corresponding pain, weakness, numbness and tingling,” according to Spine-Health. However, it is important to note that each patient’s experience is different and surgery, such as an anterior cervical discectomy, is not always the answer to treat a neck injury.

The purpose behind an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is to relieve the spinal cord or nerve root pressure caused by either a herniated disc or to treat cervical degenerative disc disease. It can also address bone spurs sometimes caused by arthritis. Peyton Manning’s anterior cervical discectomy and fusion was successful and he was able to return to playing football in the NFL. He missed an entire season to properly heal and strengthen his body for his physically intense profession. Any person receiving this treatment will have to be dedicated to their post-surgery recovery as well as understand and accept the risks that come with surgery for their specific medical situation.

An anterior cervical discectomy or any spinal surgery is always a treatment option to be considered for those suffering from prolonged effects of a back/neck injury or pain. A neurosurgeon, such as Dr. Todd Kuether, can assist in the diagnosis and treatment of neck and back injuries and/or pain. He will guide those suffering through various alternatives like physical therapy, acupuncture and possibly injections before deciding whether or not surgery is the appropriate approach. If you are interested in making an appointment with Kuether Brain & Spine, please visit our website for more information:

Entry Filed under: General,Spine,Surgery Comments

The Benefits for Trying Physical Therapy and Acupuncture for Back Pain Management

April 26th, 2018

Kuether Brain & Spine’s goal is to find the right treatment for patients to help them achieve an active, high-quality life, free of pain. The majority of patients at Kuether Brain & Spine come to Dr. Kuether and his team for the diagnosis and treatment of chronic back pain or back injuries. Back pain and/or back injuries are one of the most common health complaints among Americans.

Fortunately, Dr. Kuether and his team are committed to finding the least invasive treatment option as possible. Part of Dr. Todd Kuether’s mantra is treat each patient’s recovery differently and his practice advocates for the implementation of medical alternatives including physical therapy, acupuncture, injections, and of course, surgery, if necessary. In many cases, physical therapy and acupuncture are commonly explored and used alternatives for those struggling with back pain.

Photo Courtesy of M. Pit, Unsplash

 Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be integrated into a pain management regimen as the solution or part of the pain management process. Physical therapy aims to help patients building or rebuild strength in their backs, core or other body parts’ weak spots. A physical therapist will tailor a specific exercise program for each patient’s condition and pain level using a variety of mechanisms including: stretching, strengthening exercises, aerobic conditioning, manual therapy techniques, and pain management modalities. Physical therapy also often strives to help patients find natural ways to manage or resolve their pain without the use of prescription painkillers. Please find more information on the benefits of physical therapy here.


Acupuncture is a recognized alternative treatment option for pain relief. It is an ancient form of Chinese medicine that has been used for over 2,000 years. Acupuncture can be helpful to those suffering from back or neck pain because its process stimulates the central nervous system by strategically inserting approved needles into the body’s surface. In most instances, correctly administered acupuncture treatments are pain free for patients. It is believe acupuncture can assist the body and brain with its own pain management. Acupuncture is an explored alternative for neck and back pain as well as for other neuromuscular issues such as headaches and fibromyalgia. Please find more information on acupuncture here. 

As mentioned, Dr. Kuether and his team strive to find patients the right and best treatment for their individual recovery journey. We advocate exploring all options including alternative treatments like physical therapy and acupuncture in addition to more traditional options like injections or surgery, if necessary. If you feel like you could benefit from a conversation with Dr. Kuether and his team, visit our website for more information on how to make an appointment.

Entry Filed under: General,Spine,Surgery Comments

Four Ways to Help Protect Your Spine and Back

April 12th, 2018

Photo Courtesy of Jesper Aggergaard, Unsplash

Most Americans suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. In fact, back pain is the most common reason for missed workdays and doctors visits. The human back consists of over 200 muscles; an estimated 120 of those muscles support the spine. There is no denying the connection between a healthy back and our wellbeing, movement and survival. Just like we take care of our brains, there are easy ways to protect the spine and back from injury and prolonged pain.

Watch your Posture

Posture can be the determining factor between placing excess pressure on the back and spine or not. Proper sitting posture should support the back. This can be achieved by sitting up straight with the spine aligned, shoulders back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor and weight evenly distributed. Training the body to sit properly may feel uncomfortable at first; however, your back and body will thank you by not being sore from excess strain.

Get Up and Stand Up

The body is not designed to sit in the same position for extended periods of time. Even with proper sitting posture, it is important to get up and move throughout the day. Ideally, a person should stand up and briefly walk around after 30 minutes of sitting. However, if this is not an option, it can be helpful to set an alarm or a reminder to move around throughout the day.

Exercise, especially your Core

Exercise generally improves all elements of health. A daily exercise routine of walking, running or approved weight or body-weight lifting regime can help improve back strength and spinal support. Besides building back muscles, it is important to also strengthen the core muscles, which help support the spine as well. Click here for a few core exercise ideas.


Exercise and stretching go hand and hand. Muscle strengthening is only beneficial if the body also receives the necessary stretching and recovery it deserves. Stretching benefits the body as well as the mind. Taking 15 minutes to stretch daily when you wake up or before you go to sleep can be a great time to reflect and take a mental break. Please find examples of helpful backstretches here . 

Kuether Brain & Spine wants to be a resource to any person suffering from back pain or those wanting to protect their backs and spines. Dr. Kuether will work to find the right solution for any patient’s back pain by analyzing and diagnosing each patient uniquely. Medically regulated and recommended exercise, physical therapy, medications, alternative medicine and finally, surgery can all be possible solutions for treating back pain. If you suffer from back pain, it might be time to talk to us-reach out here!

Entry Filed under: Spine,Uncategorized Comments

What is Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery (MISS)?

March 29th, 2018

Photo Courtesy of RawPixel, Unsplash

Minimally invasive spinal surgery (MISS) is a relatively new technology to the ever-evolving spinal health industry. MISS capitalizes on the latest and most advanced technology and techniques to treat back and/or neck pain caused by various spinal disorders. There are reasons for and against MISS options as well as limitations to what it can treat. Dr. Kuether of Kuether Brain & Spine specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of spine disorders, which can benefit from MISS technology. However, it is also important to remember surgery is a major medical decision and every case is treated differently based on the patient’s individual medical history.

What is it?

Minimally invasive spinal surgery aims to eliminate unnecessary trauma or tissue injury while attempting to treat back or neck pain caused by a spinal disorder by entering the body through a small incision. It typically uses computer-assisted technology or specialized tools. There are three common techniques: mini-open, tubular and endoscopic. Each technique aims to reduce blood loss, risk of infection and muscle damage by minimizing the size of the surgical incision. These techniques can be used to help accomplish either decompression, “the release of pressure off the spinal cord or nerve roots to relieve pinch nerves and pain”, or stabilization, “the stabilizing of spinal tissues commonly completed through fusion.”

What are the reasons for and against MISS?

Some of the most influential benefits of MISS is the smaller risk to infection during or after surgery due the smaller incision size compared to open back surgery; the decreased blood loss since the incision size is much smaller (can be less than one inch in some cases); typically minimal pain during and after the procedure; and a quicker expected recovery period post-surgery. Despite these great potential benefits, MISS is not suited for all back or neck injuries and cannot treat severe spinal trauma. MISS is commonly used in many spinal surgeries like discectomy, foraminotomy, laminectomy and laminotomy. There is also the challenge of finding a trusted neurosurgeon skilled to perform the procedure—not all practices and surgeons perform MISS.

Fortunately, Dr. Kuether at Kuether Brain & Spine performs both open and minimally invasive surgeries to try to provide the best solutions for his patients. His expertise in brain and spinal disorders with minimally invasive surgical techniques and his experience as the Director of Neurotrauma at Legacy Emanuel Hospital and Chair of Neurosurgery at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital differentiate him from other surgeons in our area. Ultimately, MISS is an incredible advancement to brain and spinal surgery and Kuether Brain & Spine is committed to staying as technologically advanced as possible to provide the highest quality care to our patients.

Entry Filed under: Spine,Surgery Comments

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