Before you consider undergoing back surgery, read this. Low back pain is the second most common cause of disability in the United States and a very common reason for lost days at work with an estimated 149 million days of work lost per year. The total cost associated with this is astronomical… at between $100-200 billion/year… of which 2/3 are due to decreased wages and productivity.
More than 80% of the population will have an episode of low back pain at some point in their lifetime. The good news is that 95% recover within two to three months of onset. However, some never recover which leads to chronic low back pain… or low back pain greater than 3 months. Also, 20-44% will have a recurrence of low back pain within one year with lifetime recurrences of up to 85%. What this means is that most of us have, have had, or will have low back pain, and we’ll get it again.
So the question is, what are we going to do about it?
Back surgery has traditionally been considered a “last resort” with less invasive approaches recommended first. Chiropractic treatments and management strategies have traditionally faired very well when compared to other non-surgical methods. But, is there evidence that by receiving chiropractic treatment, low back surgery can be avoided? Let’s take a look.
A recent study was designed to determine whether or not we could predict those who would require low back surgery within three years of a job-related back injury. This is a very important study as back injuries are the most common occupational injury in the United States, and few studies have investigated what, if any, early predictors of future spine surgery after work-related injury exist. The study reviewed cases of 1,885 Washington state workers, of which 174 or 9.2% had low back surgery within three years. The initial predictors of surgery included high disability scores on questionnaires, greater injury severity, and seeing a surgeon as the first provider after the injury.
Reduced odds of having surgery included:
1) less than 35 years old
4) those who FIRST saw a chiropractor.
Approximately 43% of workers who first saw a surgeon had back surgery compared to ONLY 1.5% of those who first saw a chiropractor. This study supports that IF a low back injured worker first sees a chiropractor instead of a surgeon, the likelihood of needing surgery in the three years after the injury would be DRAMATICALLY reduced. In fact, the strongest predictor of whether an injured worker would undergo surgery was found to be related to who they saw first after the injury: a surgeon or a chiropractor.
Another recent study by the University of British Columbia of 942 low back pain surgical patients looked at the safety of spine surgery and reported that:
1) 87% had at least one documented complication
2) 39% of the 87% had to stay longer in the hospital as a result
3) 10.5% had a complication during the surgery
4) 73.5% had a post-surgical complication (which included: 8% delirium, 7% pneumonia, 5% nerve pain, 4.5% had difficulty swallowing, 3% nerve deterioration, 13.5% wound complication)
5) 14 people died as a surgical complication. Another study showed lower annual healthcare costs for those receiving chiropractic care versus those who did not. The “take-home” message is: TRY CHIROPRACTIC FIRST.
There are certain emergency and last resort cases where back surgery is the treatment that makes the most sense. One example is when you lose your bladder or bowel control because of your back problem. Some low back pain patients notice that they feel like they have to use the bathroom more frequently than before. This only becomes an emergency situation when you completely lose your bladder or bowel control. For most patients this doesn’t happen, but unfortunately for some, it does. Unless your low back pain condition falls into emergency or last resort categories, you should try non-invasive treatments first.
One of the modern non-invasive treatments you might want to consider is Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression. We’ve had fantastic results with this treatment and many of our patients have avoided back surgery thanks to this breakthrough treatment. Click on the “Low Back Pain Treatment” tab above to discover how this treatment relieves low back pain and sciatica.
If you have Low Back Pain, call our office at (831) 475-8600 and schedule to get treated right away. Don’t ignore your Low Back Pain. There may be an underlying injury or damage in your back that needs to be treated right away. We can guide you on how to fix the problem so that the damage doesn’t get worse. The sooner you get the problem fixed, the less chances of your back problem becoming irreversible or suffering from permanent damage… the less chances of you needing back surgery.
Alternative to Back Surgery?
A large-scale study published in 2008 has results that will make you wonder whether back surgery is always necessary (Bhattacharyya M. Does the risks and benefits of spinal manipulation in patients with low back pain as a nonsurgical approach translate into better outcomes in routine clinical care: a prospective observational cohort study. J Bone Joint Surg 2008;90B:Suppl.492.). In the study, researchers followed 102 patients with disc herniations confirmed by MRI and sciatic/leg pain while they waited to see a spinal surgeon. The patients had also previously tried four weeks of medications (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs), which had provided no benefit.
While they waited to see the spinal surgeon, they were referred for spinal manipulative therapy provided by experienced chiropractors.
A few patients experienced some transient increase in pain and there were three treatment failures (out of 102). Overall, the results were very encouraging with patients moved off of the surgery wait-list.
But how is this possible? The discs are the hard cartilage separating each vertebra in the lower back. When this ligament sprains, it can bulge onto a nearby nerve, causing back pain or pain down the leg. Precise adjustments use the bones as levers to affect the alignment of these vertebrae and the movement of the joints in the lumbar spine. If alignment is improved, then there is better posture and distribution of loads on the spine. Helping spinal mobility become more symmetrical may also prevent unequal loading of the soft tissues. Helping these mechanical aspects to heal can be enough to lessen your pain and help you to regain your quality of life. In some cases, it seems it may even keep you from a potentially unnecessary back operation.
At our clinic, we also use the modern disc decompressor shown below that has helped many of our patients avoid back surgery.
Based on the results of the study, anyone without need of emergency surgery should try chiropractic care before having an elective operation for a disc or sciatica/leg pain disorder. Again, emergency problems would be symptoms like bowel and bladder dysfunction and numbness over the tailbone or hips. Fortunately, most patients with low back pain do not fit into the emergency-surgery camp. To discover what you can do to avoid back surgery, get a FREE copy of Dr. Falkenroth’s book below by clicking on the box below that says “FREE BACK PAIN BOOK.”
Here’s a patient talking about her experience with our treatment.