22 Apr When is Spine Surgery the Next Right Step?
Back pain at some point will affect up to 80% of the adult population. Often times people consider surgery for their chronic back pain. Chronic back pain, technically speaking, is any back pain that has lasted for 3 months or longer. There are many different “options” out there for treatments from pain medications, chiropractic and physical therapy to home exercises and gadgets you can buy on the internet there are a plethora of options that confuse many people into doing nothing. All of these methods will work around the most common cause of chronic lower back pain the muscles and tissues surrounding the spine itself.
As a chiropractor, and Clinic Director at Exclusive Nerve and Disc Centers® of Chicago, my responsibility to my patients is to help them achieve long lasting results from their chronic pain that will allow them to live a long and healthy life. Many of our patients come in varying stages of their back pain whether it be from a previous injury, motor vehicle accident or just plain poor lifting habits or posture. The first thing that I often explore with a patient is what they can and cannot do and how it impacts their life. I also explore with the patient what a positive outcome with a therapy program will entail.
For one reason or another, the public has been conditioned (most likely through the media and the pharmaceutical companies) that medication and surgery are the quick fixes to any chronic lower back pain. I’m here to tell you that nothing can be further from the truth. We have all come to see the media coverage of the difficulties and problems that can arise from opioid pain medication. Unfortunately, spine surgery is neither easy nor without risk and sometimes it fails to eliminate the pain. Over the course of my career, I’ve seen many patients come to our clinic having previously had spinal surgery that did not resolve their pain or condition. There is a number of factors that go into whether or not someone has spine surgery and all of them need to be evaluated. Is spine surgery for everyone? The very simple answer is no.
In cases that don’t involve a traumatic spine injury (surgical consideration for some of these types of injuries is evaluated differently), back surgery is and should be considered the last resort after a concerted attempt at more conservative treatment options have failed to provide adequate relief from the pain. Conservative treatment options may include physical therapy, epidural steroid injections, chiropractic treatments and medication therapy, to name a few. No matter the cause, persistent (chronic) pain is the most common denominator in whether spine surgery should be considered. Other factors include disability (perhaps the condition has become so severe that the patient is wheelchair-bound) and disfigurement (in cases of scoliosis or kyphosis, for example).
One option that is not written about or explored by many patients is Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression Therapy an unique approach that was developed by the medical profession in the 1990s. It was first invented by Dr. Alan Dyer, who at the time was the Health Minister of Canada. It has been studied and researched by many prominent universities and neurosurgeons, who decided that surgery was not the best option. As we grow into the future the technology has only gotten better. The use of a logo rhythmic index in our treatment protocol allows the vertebral disc to achieve -160 mm Hg (mm Hg is the measurement of pressure). This negative pressure literally acts like a vacuum to suck the disc materials back into its normal position. The disc itself has incredible healing capabilities when given the proper nutrients, oxygen and blood it can properly heal.
I’ve written in many articles before, but it bears repeating—not all spine surgery types are considered equal, nor are the surgeons who perform them. Spine surgery has a lasting effect. Once they cut into your spine, they can never UNCUT you. If you do decide to go the route of spinal surgery, it’s important to find a spine surgeon who is willing to openly discuss treatment options with you (including honest disclosure about their risks) as well as one who has the skill and expertise necessary in treating your specific condition.
Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression therapy is an option that should be explored prior to surgery. According to the research of Dr. Dennis McClure, renowned neurosurgeon, he took 500 surgical candidates and performed non-surgical spinal decompression therapy. Dr. McClure published his results which had an 86% success rate of not needing surgery at a 4 year follow up. Those results are extremely impressive. So before you speak with a surgical team regarding your chronic back pain, consider a course of non-surgical spinal decompression first.