Technology Leading to Rise in Carpal Tunnel Cases?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a very common condition seen in our practice when patients start to experience tingling and numbness of the hands. While we used to see this condition mostly in people operating heavy machinery and working with highly repetitive motions on assembly lines,the increased usage of technology such as computers, tablets, and smartphones has led to increasing cases of carpal tunnel from a wider variety of sources. 

What is Carpal Tunnel? 
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by an overgrown ligament at the base of the thumb-side of the hand, which compresses the nerve and results in a sore thumb joint (among other symptoms). People with carpal tunnel will experience tingling and numbing sensations, but only in the first three digits of their hands (thumb, forefinger and middle finger). These carpal tunnel symptoms can even cause restless sleep. We often see patients describing themselves waking up at night due to these sensations and shaking their hand out to regain feeling that does not fully return. 

Can Technology Use Really Cause Carpal Tunnel? 
While there are many causes of carpal tunnel, constant and repetitive hand movements are most often the culprit. The swiping, typing, and gaming movements used with phones and computers require our fingers to stretch and flex to unnatural positions. With heavy repetition over time, these actions can lead to swollen tendons in the carpal tunnel, resulting in median nerve pressure. Continued pressure on the median nerve can lead to carpal tunnel down the line. 

The technology era has seen more and more children growing up using computers, playing video games and walking around with phones glued to their hands. As a result, we are seeing more carpal tunnel cases come through the doors as these children grow up and the ligament damage begins to show signs of its effects. 

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be treated in many ways. Simple splinting at night can go a long way to give the median nerve the rest that it needs to recover from the swelling and inflammation. If you can catch it early, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome may resolve without surgery or other medical attention beyond a splint. 

If surgery is needed, the operation is minimally invasive and recovery time is relatively quick. Even some surgeons who have had the condition themselves have returned to practice after only 12 days post-surgery. Carpal tunnel is treatable, and the surgery is not something to be afraid of. 


  1. Since technology isn’t going anywhere, there are several ways you can be proactive against Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that are directly related to technology usage.

  2. When using a computer, sit properly with your elbows by your sides, and your wrists straight and at the same height as the keyboard (not raised up or bent).

  3. Take breaks. If you are playing a game on your phone or computer, make sure to give your hands a break from the repetitive motions required to play.

  4. Stretch and strengthen. Flex and extend your wrist and fingers to reduce stress and strain on this area.

  5. Knowing what can potentially lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and taking actions to prevent it can help you avoid this peripheral nerve injury that appears to be on the rise.

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

During the holidays, it’s hard to maintain healthy eating habits. With all the delicious temptations, it’s easy to get off track. We have found a few holiday recipes that look and taste delicious, but are healthier versions. Everyone should be able to enjoy their holiday favorites. Enjoy your holiday guilt-free with these recipes. 

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Healthy Green Bean Casserole- Green Bean Casserole is one of the most popular sides at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Did you know that most green bean casserole recipes contain canned soup and fried onions which are very high in fat and sodium. With the version below, you are eliminating those processed, high sodium and fat components, but still incorporating ingredients that give it amazing flavor. 


  • 2½ pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces (about 8 cups)

  • 2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • ¾ teaspoon salt

  • ¼ teaspoon white or black pepper

  • 2½ cups low-fat milk

  • 1½ cups fresh whole-wheat breadcrumbs (see Tips) or ½ cup shredded or crumbled cheese


  1. Position racks in upper and lower third of oven; preheat to 425°F.

  2. Toss green beans in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon oil until well coated. Divide between 2 baking sheets and spread in an even layer. Roast, stirring once and rotating the pans top to bottom about halfway through, until tender and beginning to brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft and golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add flour, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Add milk and continue to stir, scraping up any browned bits. Cook, stirring, until the sauce bubbles and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat. (See Tips)

  4. When the green beans are done, remove from the oven. Preheat the broiler.

  5. Transfer half the green beans to a 2-quart, broiler-safe baking dish. Spread half the sauce over the green beans. Add the remaining green beans and top with the remaining sauce.

  6. Combine breadcrumbs and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl (skip this step if you are topping with cheese).

  7. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture (or cheese) over the gratin. Place under the broiler and broil, watching closely, until the gratin is bubbling and beginning to brown on top, 1 to 5 minutes, depending on your broiler. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

  • Make Ahead Tip: Roast green beans (Step 2) up to 30 minutes ahead. Prepare the sauce (Step 3), cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day; gently reheat until steaming before combining with the green beans.

  • Tips: To make your own fresh breadcrumbs, trim crusts from whole-wheat bread. Tear bread into pieces and process in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. One slice of bread makes about ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs.

  • To add extra flavor to the cream sauce, at the end of Step 3 stir in 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, sage or parsley. Or make it cheesy by stirring in ½ cup shredded or crumbled cheese, such as Gruyère, Swiss, Cheddar or blue cheese.

  • Keep food fresh: If you're storing food in your fridge for a few hours or more, it's best to keep it in an airtight container or in a container covered tightly with foil. Foil is best at creating a barrier that doesn't let unwanted flavors in (or out) while you store your food.

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Light Pumpkin Pie- The holidays are never complete if you don’t indulge in pumpkin pie. While pumpkin pie is generally healthier than other pies, it still isn’t a great option. The pumpkin component in the pie is pretty healthy itself, but when you add in all the cream, butter, and sugar, the healthy component is definitely outnumbered. The recipe below reduces the amount of fat and sugar in the pie. Top it off with some frozen light whipped topping to decrease the amount of sugar and fat as well. 


  • Oil Pastry

    • 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour

    • ¼ teaspoon salt

    • ⅓ cup cooking oil

    • 3 tablespoons fat-free milk

  • Pumpkin Filling

    • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin

    • ⅓ cup sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to ⅓ cup sugar

    • 2 tablespoons honey

    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger

    • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

    • ½ cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed, or 2 eggs, slightly beaten

    • 1 teaspoon vanilla

    • ¾ cup evaporated fat-free milk

    • Frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed (optional)


  1. To prepare pastry: Stir together flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add oil and milk all at once to the flour mixture. Stir lightly with a fork. Form into a ball.

  2. Preheat oven to 450°F. On a well-floured surface, use your hands to slightly flatten the dough; roll from center to edge into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. To transfer the pastry, wrap it around the rolling pin. Unroll the pastry into a 9-inch pie plate. Ease the pastry into the pie plate, being careful not to stretch. Trim the pastry to ½ inch beyond the edge of the pie plate. Fold under the extra pastry; flute or crimp edge as desired. Do not prick. Line the pastry with a double thickness of heavy foil. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the foil. Bake for 5 minutes more. Cool on a wire rack while preparing the filling. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F.

  3. To prepare filling: Combine pumpkin, sugar, honey, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Add egg and vanilla. Beat lightly with a fork just until combined. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

  4. Pour the filling into the baked pastry shell. To prevent overbrowning, cover the edge of the pie with foil. Bake until the filling appears set, 40 to 45 minutes (the edges of the filling may crack slightly).

  5. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and refrigerate within 2 hours. If desired, serve with dessert topping.

  • Tips: If using a sugar substitute, we recommend Splenda® Granular or Sweet 'N Low® bulk or packets. Be sure to use package directions to determine product amount equivalent to ⅓ cup sugar. Nutrition Facts per serving with sugar substitute: 171 cal., 8 g total fat (1 g sat. fat), 1 mg chol., 108 mg sodium, 22 g carbo., 2 g fiber, 5 g pro.

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Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes- Sweet potatoes are much better than regular potatoes in itself. What makes sweet potatoes go down hill is the amount of sugar, butter, and marshmallow that covers the popular holiday dish. The recipe below is a lower-calorie and low-sodium option with amazing flavor. It’s also an easy dish to throw together if you don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen. 


  • 2½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½-inch pieces (about 8 cups)

  • ⅓ cup pure maple syrup

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

  2. Arrange sweet potatoes in an even layer in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper in small bowl. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes; toss to coat.

  3. Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender and starting to brown, 45 to 50 minutes more.

  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Just before serving, reheat at 350°F until hot, about 15 minutes.
    Part of the holiday fun is eating all the delicious foods. Substituting ingredients in your favorite dishes still makes them enjoyable. Plus, it makes it a guilt-free indulgence. Be mindful of all the foods you’re eating during those holiday get-togethers and always remember that things are okay in moderation and portion control. Happy Holidays from your family at Athens Brain and Spine! 

*Recipes from

Learn to Love Your Core


Coreblend Training and Wellness

Location: 1260 Greensboro Hwy, Watkinsville, GA

Date: October 13, 2018

Time: 10AM-12PM

Registration required: Email, call (706) 475-1870, or stop by the office for forms.

Work Out With Your Neurosurgery Team!

Have you ever wondered what we mean when we say "a strong core?" The ultimate tool to a good spine health and an active lifestyle at every age.

Join Drs. Walpert and Patil and their staff to learn some new exercises, brush up on old ones, and adapt them to our current needs. Enjoy a fun group setting with individual attention from Coreblend's expert training staff. Round out the morning with hints for nutritional snacks and meals, with recipes and tips from Coreblend's wellness staff. 

All fitness levels welcome- we are all in the same boat here!

All participates will recieve a free t-shirt, first 20 registrants will recieve a special gift.


See what others are saying about the Learn to Love Your Core Exercise Program:






Dr. Patil Helps Woman Stand Up Straight Again And Get Her Life Back

Mary Ann Rivers has struggled for years to sit up straight. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and going through chemo and radiation, the bones and muscles in her back became too weak to hold up her neck straight.

Dr. Patil stepped in to help. After examining and meeting with her, he learned that she was experiencing dangerous effects from the weakened bone and muscles in her back. She was struggling to swallow and breathe. Dr. Patil knew that something had to be done or she might lose her life.

The surgery took about nine hours. Dr. Patil was able to release the muscles pulling Rivers’ head downward. He was also able to remove calcifications and straighten her spine, fusing 11 vertebrae. On top of the complicated surgery, Rivers also has Parkinson’s disease which makes it harder for the spine to heal correctly.

Rivers said when she found out that Dr. Patil was going to be able to operate on her, she got emotional. She was excited that the misery could potentially be over.

After a few months of recovery, Rivers is sitting up straight and is wearing a brace. Dr. Patil is very proud of her progress and is happy that he could help save her life.

Pool and Diving Safety for Kids

The return of summer weather means it’s time for family pool days. However, it’s important to be thinking of pool safety.

Nothing can replace supervision when kids are in the water. Young children should always be under adult supervision, and older children should swim with a partner. Enrolling children in beginner swimming lessons is a great way to make them more comfortable in the water.

Children should be able to tread water for one minute, find a safe exit, swim 25 yards, and be able to exit without using a ladder before they are considered a proficient swimmer. Emergency skills like basic water rescue skills and CPR are crucial to help a drowning child.

When considering pool safety for kids, one of the biggest risks for children and adolescents is diving. Diving can result in serious, life-threatening injuries. Divers who hit the side or bottom of a swimming pool can suffer from quadriplegia, otherwise known as being paralyzed below the neck. More than 40 percent of spinal injuries caused by diving occur in backyard pools so it’s important to know the proper pool safety precautions.

Before diving, make sure that the water’s depth is more than twice your height. It’s a simple task, and you’ll be glad you took the time to check instead of risking a diving board injury. Follow these diving tips and stay safe this summer.

Diving Safety Tips:

1. Wait until other swimmers leave the diving area
2. Only one person should be on a diving board at a time
3. Never dive into the shallow end of a pool
4. Keep the diving area clear of pool equipment and toys
5. Only dive off of the end of the diving board, don’t dive off of the side.
6. Do not try running dives, bounce only once on the board.
7. Don’t hang off of the board
8. Enroll in a diving class to learn how to safely dive
9. Don’t try to dive through toys
10. Never dive head-first down a slide

Summertime Grilling Recipes


1. BBQ Grilled Chicken


2 c. bbq sauce

2 tbsp. honey

Juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp. Hot sauce

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts and drumsticks

extra-virgin olive oil

kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper


  • Make Sauce: In a large bowl, whisk together BBQ sauce, honey, lime juice and hot sauce. Reserve 1/2 cup for serving.

  • In a large bowl, toss chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

  • When ready to grill, heat grill to high. Add chicken, then baste with marinade and grill until charred, 8 minutes per side for breasts, and 10 to 12 minutes per side for legs.

Recipe via: Delish


2. Lemony Grilled Chicken


4 6-oz. skin-on salmon fillets

Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing

kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 lemons, sliced

2 tbsp. butter


  • Heat grill to high. Brush salmon with oil and season with salt and pepper. Add salmon and lemon slices and grill until salmon is cooked through and lemons are charred, 5 minutes per side.

  • Add a pat of butter to salmon right when it’s off the grill and top with grilled lemons. Serve. 

Recipe Via: Delish


3. Honey Lime Tilapia


4 fillets tilapia

2 tbsp. honey

4 limes, thinly sliced

2 ears corn, shucked

2 tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves

1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper


  • Heat grill to high. Cut 4 sheets of foil about 12" long.

  • Top each piece of foil with a piece of tilapia. Brush tilapia with honey and top with lime, corn and cilantro. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

  • Grill until tilapia is cooked through and corn tender, about 15 minutes.

 Recipe Via: Delish


4. Pesto Shrimp Skewers


1 lb. medium or large frozen shrimp, deveined, thawed

3 lemons, thinly sliced

8 skewers, soaked in water 20 minutes

Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 c. pesto


  • Preheat grill to medium-high. Skewer shrimp and lemon slice. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning occasionally, until shrimp is opaque and lemons slightly charred, 4 to 5 minutes.

  • Brush with pesto and serve.

Recipe Via: Delish

10 Steps to Follow for Bike Safety

Biking is a prominent hobby, mode of transportation and exercise in the Athens area. On any given day, the streets are peppered with students pedaling to class, professionals biking to the office and cycling enthusiasts training for their next big race. Hopping on your bike for a leisurely ride sounds great, but there are several safety factors to consider before you head out for the day. More children ages 5 to 14 go to the emergency room after a biking accident than with any other sport. Whether you are mountain biking with friends, or out for a few hours of fun with the family, we have compiled 10 steps to follow for bike safety.

  1. Wear a helmet!- Wearing a properly fitted helmet is the best way to prevent head injuries. Helmets can reduce the risk of head injuries by almost 45 percent and reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88 percent. Make sure your helmet has a sticker declaring that it meets the standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

  2. Adjust your bike to fit- Make sure the bike fits each rider well. It should be comfortable and your feet should be able to touch the ground when sitting on the seat.

  3. Ride ready- Check working parts of bike regularly or before each ride. Check brakes and wheels; make sure that “quick release” wheels are secure. Oil the chain, check tire air pressure, and make sure that the seat and handlebars are tight.

  4. Go with the flow- Go with the flow and follow bike rules. Mountain bike paths usually have a one-way pattern to follow for bikers safety. Most park bike paths follow the “stay to the right” rule on the pathway. Make sure to be considerate of other bikers.

  5. Act like a car- When street biking, act like a car and follow all traffic laws and lights. It is important to know and use hand signals to notify drivers of your intentions.

  6. Be alert- Stay alert and don’t get distracted. Keeping an eye out for obstacles can help prevent bike accidents. Listening to music or talking on the phone will distract even the best cyclist.

  7. Ensure your visibility- Make sure you are visible to all car drivers and other bikers. Wear bright colors and use lights and reflectors on your clothes and/or bike. Take extra precautions when riding at night or early in the morning. Be cognizant that sunlight in driver’s eyes may prevent them from seeing you.

  8. Don’t hurry- Travel at safe speeds, and yield to faster riders. Move off the road or pathway when you’re stopped.

  9. Use the buddy system- Ride with a buddy and stick together. Not only is safety in numbers smart, but it could be the difference-maker in a driver seeing you on not. Having a riding partner also ensures quick help in the event of an accident.

  10. Dress to impress- And finally, wear appropriate clothing. Make sure that nothing will get caught in the bike chain-like loose pant legs or shoelaces. Proper shoes are important to grip the pedals and protect the feet.

We hope that these steps have enlightened you and help you enjoy your next ride. Biking should enhance your well-being, not endanger it. Be safe, and ride on!

Gales Family Update

On September 26, 2015, I met the Gales family in terrible circumstances--after Devon's devastating spinal cord injury while playing football at Sanford Stadium. What began as a tragedy has brought so much to so many. Devon and his family have been a gift to me personally and to the Athens and UGA community at large. We have learned what courage and grace truly are, how a family's love for one another triumphs again and again. And we have all experienced the truth that in giving, we receive so much more than we could ever have imagined. We were all strangers before that day, and now we are privileged to know this incredible young man and his family, who are working harder than most of will ever understand to make a new way in this world after a moment that changed everything. They have chosen determination, love and purpose over defeat. What an example for all of us.

Be part of building that better way. Join me in supporting the Gales in their journey. Let's build a home....

The University of Georgia Athletic Association has begun fundraising to help build a handicapped-accessible home for the family of Devon Gales, the former Southern University football wide receiver who suffered a career-ending spinal injury at Sanford Stadium in 2015.

With a goal of $500,000, The University of Georgia Athletic Association strives to build a home that includes all the necessary medical equipment required for Devon's care.

You can make donations in your chosen amount by texting “Devon” to the following number: (706) 204-1707. If you prefer to write a check, please make it payable to “Devon Gales House Construction Fund” and send to:


1 Selig Circle

Butts-Mehre Hall Rm. 402

Athens, GA 30603

Attn: Bryant Gantt

Start Your Morning Right

Our mornings are special and unique to each of us. Whether you love them or struggle getting out of your bed every morning, we all have a morning routine that brings us some sort of joy. Starting your morning off right with something you enjoy sets the tone for the rest of your day. Here at Athens Brain and Spine, we all really value our bright and early mornings. Here is a peek into our daily routines before you see us at the office!

Dr. Walpert:

I was headed back to my house from the gym a few mornings ago, looking at the stars and breathing in the nice cool air when it struck me how good it feels to start my days like this. An hour of hard strength training with weights, cardio on a rowing machine or a good solid run outside makes me feel strong and ready for the day. I am sure not 20 anymore, and my exercise routine has changed over the years in many ways, but getting up and beginning my work or weekend day like that gives me focus and energy....and makes me proud of myself for making time and climbing out of that bed to do something just good for myself! Whether it is just me alone, me with a friend or one of my boys, it is always worth pushing through that urge to stay under the blankets. Worth loving ourselves....

Donna Martin:

I like to start my day out by getting up before anyone else does. I take my sweet dog out for a morning walk at 5. Sometimes we walk with my neighbor and get some girl talk in or sometimes it is just the two of us enjoying being outside and getting some exercise. I then come back home and enjoy the first cup of coffee for the morning. Next it is time to get ready and wake up my two daughters. I fix them breakfast and pack their lunches all the while chatting about the events of the upcoming day with the kids and my husband. It is a great time to focus on the people I love as we all are about to head our different ways for the day!

Stephanie Smith:

The morning time is my favorite time. I am a morning person! I start my day with coffee and quiet time. I like to have quiet time in the mornings to pray, reflect, and prepare for the day before my children and husband wake up. But, loving on my children and husband in the mornings is what keeps me smiling through the day and starting each day positive. I realize just how blessed I am by seeing their smiling faces each day and it makes my heart full! My husband and I tell our children each morning to make good choices and be a leader. I think that is something we should each try and do! The one thing I tell myself is, if I can help one person each day or help someone to smile each day, then I feel like I have accomplished something!

Kara Whyte:

I will admit that I am not a "morning person", but the time I get in the morning with my family is something I treasure. Sitting down at the table to eat breakfast and talk about the activities for the day is something I will miss as my children start to "fly the coop.” I also enjoy the few minutes I get with my husband getting breakfast and lunches ready, he is incredible about being able to focus on tasks and watch sports center...amazing. Can't forget how great it is that the dogs are always there with an energetic "good morning greeting" with tails wagging.

Melinda Watson:

I try to start the morning at 5:00 am with a run, unless my sweet rescue pup, Clovis, is lying on my feet. In that case, I treat us both to an extra hour of sleep. I give my husband a goodbye kiss and I must admit that I give my two dogs a goodbye kiss as well. I have a 30-minute commute so I use that time to listen to NPR and plan my day. When the weather is nice I walk into work from our offsite parking lot and that gets me energized for a day of taking care of our patients.

Wes Anderson:

I wake up to music and keep it going throughout my morning routine. Music gets me moving and in a good mood to keep my going throughout the day. Also, instead of coffee, I enjoy a Coke Zero to get my morning caffeine to get me energized.

Victoria Fincher:

I start my morning by kissing my daughter on the head as she is still sleeping. I get in the car and talk to my Lord, listen to some music to get myself ready for the day. I always remind myself that what happens that day the Lord will help me through.

What’s your morning routine look like? What brings you joy? Start your morning off right and seize the day!

Our Education Doesn't Stop After Medical School

The medical field is fast-paced and ever-changing. Becoming a physician or nurse requires many years of initial education, but the learning doesn’t stop after medical school. Medical students are lifelong learners. After they take their boards, pass, and become licensed, these professionals continue their education. 

Continuing Education helps healthcare professionals: refine their skills, keep up to date on their specialty’s advances, meet licensing/certification requirements, and so much more. Continuing Education also ensures that patients are receiving the best and most up-to-date treatments. 

To keep up with all the modern medical issues and advances, healthcare professionals must be like a sponge absorbing new information. We highly value Continuing Education here at Athens Brain & Spine. By staying current with medical advances, our doctors and physician’s assistants are equipped to treat you with the utmost knowledge and care.

Is Cracking Your Neck Bad? A Neurosurgeon’s Answer

Think that it’s dangerous for the girl sitting next to you in class to crack her neck? Does your neck crack occasionally? Many people ask the question, “Is cracking your neck bad?” Don’t fret - it’s not something to lose sleep over. Unless it is associated with other symptoms such as weakness in the arms or bad neck pain, you don’t need to make a trip to the doctor. The sound is often caused by fluid moving around in the joints of our necks, which is normal.

So take a deep breath and let your mind be at ease! For the most part, cracking your neck isn’t as bad as it sounds!

Contact Sports and Concussions

Don't let fear of contact sports and concussions deter participation in sports

It’s that time of the year again… Stadiums are filled with ecstatic fans, tailgate parties sprinkle our nation and players put on their gear ready to play! It’s an exciting season and you might have a child of your own taking the field this year. Have you found yourself worried for their safety in football and other contact sports? Do you hear about concussions and instantly panic?

Dr. Walpert discusses how a concussion should be handled. Physical exercise is crucial to the health of our kids today, which makes contact sports a great option. However, there are several factors to keep in mind when your child takes the field. Make sure they know to listen to their body and never push an injury too far. Many people are able to recover from a concussion in less than two weeks with the proper treatment and recovery. Fear of concussion shouldn’t deter participation in sports, but safety must remain the top priority!

Emergency Care in Athletics Course Media Advisory

Last month, the medical and sports communities of the southeast joined together at an Emergency Preparation for Athletics Course hosted by Louisiana State University. Our very own Dr. Walpert was one of a handful of invited speakers at the conference, and our friends at Athens Regional Medical Center were among the event’s sponsors.

The course holds a special significance to the staff at Athens Brain & Spine and ARMC because it was created following the cervical spine injury of Southern University football player Devon Gales. The Gales family and Southern University saw an opportunity to bring together national experts and the athletic community to raise the bar on emergency care for athletes with a focused continuing education conference aimed at teaching physicians, EMTs and sports medicine personnel. We are fortunate enough to be a part of Devon’s care team, and his positivity throughout this trying time has been a light for all of us. We hope that by contributing to the Emergency Care Course we can continue to make a difference in the lives of athletes who have experienced similar situations as Devon’s, while educating others in the hope of preventing future athletics-related emergencies.

We were privileged to be among so many others from the medical community. Among the attendees invited there were 150 medical personnel from the Southwestern Athletic Conference schools and Southeastern Conference schools, as well as representatives and doctors from local emergency medical services and hospitals. The course covered a wide range of emergency conditions common in athletics and the proper responses to take if one arises. We were able to learn from each other about best practices in these situations and practice scenario-based athletic emergency techniques.

This course is so important for all medical professionals because of its ability to educate and train us to respond quickly in situations of crisis. At Athens Brain & Spine we continually strive for excellence in medicine and patient care, and if we can make a difference in an athlete’s quality of life following an injury, then it will be well worth it.

For more on this story:

Diving Has Serious Risks In Water That’s Too Shallow

Diving Risks

A nice dip in the pool or the lake is extremely refreshing this time of year! However, the risk factors that come with a quick jump or dive can be dangerous if you don’t practice diving safety. Before you dive into any body of water, make sure that the water’s depth is more than twice your height. Diving safety is extremely crucial and you’ll be thankful you took the time to check the depth instead of risking injury.

Your summer fun doesn’t have to come to a halt. When it’s hot and humid outside, a swim is very refreshing. Simply check your surroundings before making a splash! If you aren’t sure of the water’s depth, keep it safe and wade into the water. You’ll still have the chance to enjoy a swim!

We think this infographic released by The Shepherd Center is on-point in regard to diving safety. Check out the statistics associated with unsafe diving. It is eye-opening to know that most injured divers are adults! This goes to show that no matter your age or experience in swimming, a diving injury can happen to anyone.


Back pain and Golf--not the end of your favorite pastime!!

Back pain can threaten our hobbies, but it doesn't have to.

Most back pain associated with golf is musculoskeletal. At the beginning of the season, everyone is eager to get back out in the sunshine, walk those beautiful courses with friends and recoup some of last year’s losses. Unfortunately, the winter months can lead to less exercise overall, and this increases the chances of pulling a muscle or aggravating a joint when returning to any sport. A couple of things may help you get back to the links with a lower chance of having back pain. Be sure to do gentle stretches for your back, starting after a hot shower when your muscles are loose. Make this a daily routine. Stick with an exercise program that keeps your core muscles strong all year long, such as gentle yoga, pilates or mat work in the gym. Walking and swimming are great programs to keep your back and abdominal muscles working at their best. Make those an enjoyable part of your regular health maintenance, grabbing friends or spouse, or your favorite canine companion. If you develop back pain after a round or two, take a break. Hot showers, ice and/or heat, gentle walking should help. If you can tolerate anti inflammatories such as ibuprofen or naproxen, using an over-the-counter medication can reduce some of the pain. Ease back into your game as the pain improves. Most of the time, the pain is related to a vigorous swing, carrying a bag when you haven’t for a while, or pulling clubs out of the trunk. Take a look at how you are doing even the most routine things and be sure you are smart about your body mechanics! If your back pain lasts or is too severe to be managed with the strategies above, or if it is associated with weakness in the legs, bowel or bladder dysfunction or lasting numbness, see your doctor. You may have another problem that needs different treatment, such as a disc problem, stenosis or a compression fracture.

Neurologist or Neurosurgeon?

What is the difference? We are really two halves of the same orange! Both neurologists and neurosurgeons manage problems in the nervous system, but each of us has areas of expertise and tools at hand that the other does not! Neurology is a medical specialty. These doctors (neurologists) have special training in the evaluation of conditions not managed with surgery. Common conditions seen in a neurology practice include headaches, peripheral neuropathy, seizures or epilepsy. Chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and dementia are often diagnosed and managed by neurologists as well. Research in the neurology world has led to great strides in the medical management of these diseases. Emergencies such as stroke are also managed by neurologists. Neurosurgery addresses problems in the brainspine and peripheral nervesthat could require surgical intervention. Most of what neurosurgeons do is not surgical, but we are continually evaluating the best treatment option that might include an operation. Conditions seen in a neurosurgery office include disc problems in the neck or back, compression fractures, brain or spine trauma (including concussion), brain or spine tumors, brain hemorrhages, carpal tunnel syndrome or ulnar neuropathy. Hydrocephalus is a common diagnosis seen in a neurosurgeon’s office, and we perform CSF shunting operations to treat this problem. Pituitary tumors are managed here, and we also treat certain conditions with a specialized form of radiation called stereotactic radiosurgery. How do you decide where to start? Often your medical doctor can help guide you, but if you wonder whether or not to start with a neurosurgeon, feel free to contact us and we will do our best to set you in the right direction.

What’s springing at Athens Brain & Spine?

The first 3 months of 2016 have been a whirlwind of activity, and we are so thankful you’ve taken the ride with us! ABS has brought a breath of fresh air to brain and spine care in Athens, raising the bar for our specialty as our community leaps to the next level in medical education and new partnerships. We are so proud to be a part of Athens at this exciting time in medicine. Here’s a little taste of what we’ve been up to…. We revel in building individual relationships with our fantastic patients. How privileged we are to get to know such a great group of men and women! They are teaching us on a daily basis how to improve their care. Individualized perioperative counseling on a one-on-one basis, a robust and growing education library on our website, and a commitment to keep our referring doctors informed about their patients’ progress are a few of our most important initiatives. We’ve teamed up to continue to spread the word about projects to support the Gales Family as Devon graduated from Shepherd and went home. We are launching our WELL WORTH THE WAIT program this month, offering our patients and their families the opportunity to use their wait times to build their health, walking on the Medical Services Building’s indoor path or exploring the nearby community park, completing various educational activities, or writing their own healthy living contract to engage them in their own treatment. Our staff is trying to walk the walk, too….literally! The ABS team will participate in ARMC’s Dogwood Dash in April. We hope you will join us in this fabulous fundraiser for cancer research in our community. Much more to come in 2016!!

Devon Gales

On September 26, 2015, I saw Devon fall to the ground on the football field and knew that the call would be coming shortly, knew that in an instant, a young man’s life had been forever changed. I had no idea how much my life would change.

Neurosurgery is a field full of terrible injuries, life-altering disease. As doctors in this field, we are responsible for caring for many patients in the most horrible of circumstances. We operate, repairing what physical injuries we can, depending on the body to heal as it can. We teach, we guide. We bear witness to moments of fear, despair, pain. We also, however, see miraculous moments of triumph and joy.

Devon Gales brought a community together after his spinal cord injury. He and his family displayed a sense of grace and determination from the moment he hit the doors of ARMC emergency room. Not once did I hear him say “I can’t” or “I won’t.” He simply smiled and worked, occasionally grimaced and moved on. People from all walks of life were inspired by his smile, by his family’s quiet presence, and they rallied around Devon and his family so far from home. The healthcare providers who took care of him, the UGA fans who cheered him on, the many young athletes who reached out to shake his hand and knelt to hug him seemed to come from everywhere. Community businesses shared resources to lift his family up and allow him to continue to move forward with his rehabilitation. I have never been so proud and so honored to be a part of our Athens community as during this time.

His athletic work ethic, his steadfast spirit have brought a stepwise healing to his body. He is a miracle of youth, medical technology and community in progress.

I must say that in a time when I find myself ashamed for my boys to watch the news, to see how even our leaders treat one another with blatant disregard and disrespect, I am proud for them to watch stories like Devon’s. We have talked about family and community, about healing and miracles, about hope. Devon’s family has made mine better. Their son has made my sons’ universe bigger and brighter.

Our lives will never be the same having had the Gales in our world!


The School of Hard Knocks: Concussions

Let’s talk about the most common head injury, the concussion. Though the term has been much talked about lately, many people are still not fully aware of what a concussion is. In simple terms, it is a brain injury caused by a blow to the head or to the body resulting in a force being applied to the brain as it moves around inside the skull. Concussions can occur with either mild or severe blows to the head. Some head injuries may appear to be mild but recent research is revealing that concussions can have serious, long-term effects, especially repeat concussions. The brain is injured when the brain moves around within the skull. The brain cells all fire at once, much like a seizure. What does this do to your brain? In the immediate aftermath of a concussion, there may be some structural damage at the microscopic level with some cell death. However, the primary problem is often related to chemicals in the cells that have survived the incident. When there is a sufficient blow to the brain, the membranes of the affected nerve cells in the brain are stretched or twisted, which changes the way those cells send signals to one another, thus the phenomenon of seeing stars if the affected area is involved with sight or ringing in the ears if the affected area is involved with hearing. Until the chemical balance is restored, those neurons are unable to fire again. In a protective reflex of sorts, surrounding cells begin to shut down. If enough cells become depressed, confusion, amnesia, and even loss of consciousness result. Meanwhile, in an attempt to recover, the brain starts using up massive amounts of blood sugar and will continue to do so for as long as 30 minutes. This overuse of this glucose results in the production of lactic acid which, in excess amounts, inhibits brain function. A demand for glucose by the brain, such as when one is studying, causes an increase in blood flow to the brain. When the brain is injured, it can no longer regulate blood flow. This process continues unabated for 3-4 days but fully normal blood flow may not resume until 10 or more days have passed. Consequently, at precisely the time the brain needs extra fuel to repair itself, it ends up getting less. While the immediate chemical reaction of the brain to the concussion is brief and generally completed in 30 minutes, it takes days for the individual cell and the brain as a whole to restore that chemical balance which was lost so quickly. Until that balance is restored, the brain doesn’t work as well and is particularly vulnerable to re-injury.

If you or someone you know has suffered a concussion, get it checked out immediately.

The next few minutes, hours, and days are crucial, so don’t risk further injury to your brain. Athens Brain & Spine specializes in concussion management. Our team has extensive experience with these injuries and stays in the forefront of concussion research and treatment. We will help you recover quickly and get back to work and play sooner by working to develop a personalized recovery plan. Contact us today if you need concussion management in Athens, GA.

Why You Should Choose a Neurosurgeon for Your Spinal Surgery: What makes us different from orthopedic spine surgeons?

A neurosurgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system. Our training encompasses caring for the brain, the spinal cord and the nerves, including their support structure--the spine. Why settle for a surgeon whose expertise allows him to manage only one part of the problem? What if you problem isn’t limited simply to the bony scaffold but to the system as a whole? Neurosurgical education begins at day one with intense training in function and disease of the brain, spinal cord and nervous system. This approach to care of spinal disorders views the spine as a system, with bones, discs and nerves all working together to make your body work. Because we see all of these parts as interrelated, we approach the evaluation and treatment of spinal problems without isolating the discs or bones in the spine. Spinal surgery training is part of every day, week and month of a 7-9 year residency training program for neurosurgeons. Orthopedic surgeons get very little spine training during a residency focused on the joint and bone disorders that are the core of orthopedic education, completing their spine training largely during a single 12 month post-residency fellowship. Much of spine surgery is similar in technique whether performed by a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon. We remove and reshape bones, trim back discs, fuse portions of the spine with titanium instrumentation and grafts. Orthopedic surgeons, however, do not perform brain surgery or surgery on the spinal cord, exacting microsurgical techniques left to neurosurgeons. Any spine surgery is millimeters from these structures at all times. Why wouldn’t you choose a surgeon who is qualified to manage any problems that exist or may arise in the area of your surgical procedure? One who is extensively trained in microsurgical technique to manage issues in these delicate areas? Only neurosurgeons are trained during their residency to perform procedures inside the lining of the spinal canal called the dura. Spinal cord tumors, arachnoid cysts, syringomyelia, Chiari malformation, spinal cord vascular malformations, tethered spinal cord, spina bifida, nerve tumors, and a few other diagnoses fall under the domain of the neurosurgeon. Choose only the best team to care for your spine--it is the center of your body, the foundation for all you do!