Do You Really Need Spine Surgery?


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Those of us suffering from back problems will do about anything to be pain free … even surgery. But with a 25 percent success rate, the numbers are not encouraging. Ivanhoe explains how more often than not, our back pain is the result of the stressors going on around us.

Sach Egan thought he was prepared for anything. The adventure seeker tackled everything from cliff jumping to rock climbing. However, a back problem at just 22 made him rethink his invincibility.

“I felt a snap in my lower back, and I figured okay back spasms. Pain did never go away,” shared Egan.

Egan tried physical therapy, a chiropractor, and even steroid injections. Eventually, with no relief, he sought out the advice of top surgeons.

“They were all incredibly pro surgery,” said Egan.

Except for one doctor who gave him a very different diagnosis.

Egan continued, “He just looked at me and said, there’s no way that you should have surgery. End of story.”

“That adrenaline drive that kept him going causes relatively minor back injury to become a big problem. You feel the pain more, and his nervous system was really fired up. For just non-specific back pain, back surgery should never be done,” explained David Hanscom, MD, an orthopedic spine surgeon.

“If someone is not sleeping, they have family issues, job issues, all of these things can play a role in amplifying the signal,” said David Cassius, MD, Physical Medicine, Rehab, and Chronic Pain.

However, for some structural issues, surgery may be needed. Dr. Hanscom wrote a book called, Do You Really Need Spine Surgery?, to help with the decision-making process. But before you do anything, make sure you understand the true source of your pain, and that your stress is under control. Also be sure to tell your doctor everything.

“The ultimate answer is a good relationship with your physician,” stated Dr. Hanscom.

For Egan, that meant a year of rehab while calming down his nervous system by getting more sleep, not thinking or talking about his pain …

“I feel really pain free,” smiled Egan.

Dr. Hanscom adds that most surgeons assume you’ve tried every possible treatment before stepping into their office. Surgery is perceived as a last resort. He suggests finding another doctor if scans are required before the initial visit. He also believes no recommendations should be made during that first appointment. And finally, give the rehab process at least 12 weeks before making a decision.

Contributors to this news report include: Jennifer Winter, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Rusty Reed, Videographer.


REPORT #2757

BACKGROUND: The back is comprised of bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles. One can sprain ligaments, strain muscles, rupture disks, and irritate joints, all of which lead to back pain. Even sports injuries or accidents can cause back pain, as well as arthritis, poor posture, obesity, and psychological stress. Back pain can be a result from disease of the internal organs, such as kidney stones, kidney infections, blood clots, or bone loss. Around 31 million Americans experience low-back pain at any given time, and it is the single leading cause of disability worldwide. It is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, and as much as 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in their lives.


SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT: Some signs and symptoms of back pain are: muscle ache; shooting or stabbing pain; pain that radiates down the leg; pain that worsens with bending, lifting, standing or walking; or pain that improves with reclining. Your doctor might first recommend over-the-counter medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or naproxen sodium (Aleve). If those don’t work, something stronger may be prescribed like a muscle relaxant or even an opioid. There are also creams, salves or ointments you can rub into your skin at the site of pain. A physical therapist can apply a variety of treatments, such as heat, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and muscle-release techniques, to your back muscles and soft tissues to help reduce pain. If you have consistent pain associated with radiating leg pain or progressive muscle weakness caused by nerve compression, you might benefit from surgery. David Hanscom, MD, Orthopedic Spine Surgeon, says, “Surgery should be an option ONLY if there is an identifiable problem. Since most surgeons are not aware of the current state of the research on chronic pain, essentially no patients have undergone adequate care prior to undergoing surgery.”

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SELF-ADMINISTERED ACUPRESSURE FOR BACK PAIN: A recent study out of University of Michigan found that people with chronic lower back pain who performed self-administered acupressure experienced improvement in pain and fatigue symptoms. “Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but instead of needles, pressure is applied with a finger, thumb, or device to specific points on the body,” says Susan Murphy, ScD, OTR, an associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Michigan Medicine. Participants in the acupressure groups were trained to administer acupressure on certain points of the body, and spent between 27 and 30 minutes daily, over the course of six weeks, performing the technique. “Compared to the usual care group, we found that people who performed stimulating acupressure experienced pain and fatigue improvement and those that performed relaxing acupressure felt their pain had improved after six weeks,” Murphy said. This study highlights the benefits of a non-pharmacological treatment option that patients could perform easily on their own and see positive results.


* For More Information, Contact:

 Beth Grossman, Media Relations / (212) 949-4071

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