When you experience constant or ongoing back pain, it’s easy to reach the point at which any solution sounds like a good idea, if only to provide you with relief. In many cases, a back pain specialist may suggest surgery to bring about the relief sought. However, it’s important to go into any potential surgery with as much knowledge as possible — and that goes double for anything to do with the spine.
The spine and nervous system are complex and deeply connected; anything that affects the spine is likely to have rippling effects throughout the body thanks to the nervous system. This means that spinal surgery can help with more than just back pain. However, because of how complex the paired systems are, surgery may not be the best option. More and more research is being conducted which suggests that back surgery shouldn’t be used as predominantly as it is.
The Basics of Back Surgery
Your spine supports you in all you do — quite literally. Even many of the basic actions that most people do without thought, like standing upright, can become debilitatingly painful with any sort of back issue. The reason for this is that the spinal canal runs down the spine and nerves extend from it. If something happens to the bones or the discs that make up the spinal column, the communication from that nerve or nerve group is affected. When those nerves are compressed, it sends signals from the nerve into the spinal canal and up to the brain. And, since nerves are highly concentrated around the spine, it doesn’t take much to experience sensations of pain when the spine is affected.
Common spinal issues include bone spurs or bone degeneration, as well as compression or rupture of the softer discs that lie in between each vertebrae. Any of these options can press against a spinal nerve and cause ongoing or intermittent pain. Surgery options include removing some or all of the herniated disc, removing a portion of bone around the spinal canal, fusing two vertebrae together, or (less commonly) inserting an artificial disc. However, while these are some of the most common back surgery options, that doesn’t mean they are the only means of treating back pain.
The Struggle With Surgery
Spinal surgeries have become increasingly common as a means of treating back pain. Just as commonly, however, the surgery results in only temporary pain relief before the pain returns. In fact, study results are increasingly suggesting that spinal surgery isn’t the most effective way to provide ongoing back pain relief.
As we mentioned above, it doesn’t take much for spine issues to cause pain given how interconnected the spine and nerves are. For that same reason, back surgery has always been an option that comes with a certain amount of risk. Surgery may be a way to provide back pain relief, but it could just as easily cause a loss of sensation or paralysis. And now, further medical studies are suggesting that even in best-case scenarios, patients who didn’t have back surgery fared better than patients with similar conditions who did. A study published in the journal “Spine” showed that 26 percent of patients with one of a set of back issues was able to return to work within two years. That compares to 67 percent of patients who did not have surgery, despite having similar diagnoses.
There is also a wide discrepancy between diagnosis and solution when it comes to back pain relief. A report from CBS News found that some doctors performed surgeries on only 7 percent of patients they saw, while others performed back surgery on 35 percent. The disparity grows when looking at the number of surgeries performed over a two-year period. The national average was 46 surgeries, but some doctors performed as many as 460 surgeries — and that average excludes any doctor who performed fewer than 10 of the procedures in question over a two-year period.
The overarching takeaway is that there is no single, guaranteed surgery option for alleviating back pain. However, evidence suggests that surgery is just as likely to do little or nothing for pain relief as it is to help. It’s important to learn as much as possible about a proposed surgery and question if that really is the best option for you.
Alternative Back Pain Treatments
If you experience chronic back pain, don’t despair. Just because surgery isn’t necessarily the best option, that doesn’t mean you are without options entirely. There are natural, non-invasive treatment modalities that can provide healing and lasting pain relief. In fact, you likely have a back pain specialist nearby: your local chiropractor. Chiropractic care focuses on spine and nervous system health, so we chiropractors are the prime candidates to understand and treat the underlying cause of your pain, not just the symptoms. Better still, our treatment options are natural and non-invasive, so they can be performed even if you have already had back surgery.
Here at Senara Health and Healing Center & Spa, our chiropractic team works closely with the rest of the Senara staff to provide you with well-rounded care based on your body’s needs. This often means we recommend working with a physical therapist as well as a chiropractor. We may also recommend massage therapy and acupuncture to further enhance your treatment plan. Fortunately, we offer all of these services in-house so you can receive the care you need.
Contact the back pain specialists at Senara Health and Healing Center & Spa in Peoria to schedule your consultation.