Spinal procedures and weighted blankets

Created date

March 21st, 2019
Brian Tremaine, M.D. Medical Director, Eagle’s Trace Houston, Tex.

Brian Tremaine, M.D.

Medical Director, Eagle’s Trace
Houston, Tex.

Please note: The following questions were submitted by readers. The answers are intended for your general information and should not replace a doctor’s medical advice.

Q: I have a fracture in my spine because of osteoporosis. My orthopedic doctor recommends a procedure in which they will inject bone cement into the area. Should I get a second opinion?

A: Second or even third opinions are practically always a good idea for people who are planning a medical procedure. The two bone cement procedures you are considering—a vertebroplasty or a kyphoplasty—have come under scrutiny lately because of the findings of an expert panel from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. The panel conducted a review of the published research and found that the procedures relieve pain no better than a placebo. (A placebo in this case is called a sham procedure).

In addition, the panel found that spinal fracture pain tends to decrease within six weeks for people who undergo conservative treatment including pain-relieving medicine, physical therapy, and back braces. Regardless of these study findings, you should in fact get that second opinion and also talk to your primary doctor about your osteoporosis treatment options.

Q: Can a weighted blanket help me sleep better?

A: Weighted blankets have been heavily marketed in the past several years. They are essentially a regular blanket stuffed with weighted beads or pellets covered in cotton or microfiber fabric. Some manufacturers claim the blankets can help people sleep better by providing a similar sensation to a hug or a deep massage. Some also suggest they can relieve anxiety and improve circulation. The problem with these blankets and manufacturers’ claims is that there is no scientific evidence to back up benefits or examine the risks of these blankets. The studies so far have been sponsored by the manufacturers themselves. And the research hasn’t been accepted for publication by peer-reviewed scientific journals.

If you want to sleep better, first try to improve your sleep hygiene. That means turning off electronic devices before bedtime, keeping your room dark and cool, not eating large meals close to bedtime, and using a comfortable mattress. If you want to try a weighted blanket, talk to your doctor first. The added weight might not be a good idea for people with certain medical conditions.

Health and wellness experts practice exclusively at Erickson Living communities all over the U.S. Dr. Tremaine received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California in Santa Barbara, Calif., and his medical degree from the University of California in San Diego. He completed both his residency and geriatric fellowships at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Tex. Board-certified in internal medicine and geriatrics, he joined Eagle’s Trace in November 2011.

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