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If you do it once...

Posted by Vicki on 02/02/2016

“When I first started therapy, my pain was very frustrating in my back. I have improved a lot from when I first started, my back pain is a lot less! I can tell when I bend over or turn on my side that there is more mobility without pain. Thank you for helping me reach my goals! I have even lost some weight!” - MB

Back pain can be unbearable at times. It is the second most common condition seen by family doctors in this country. Most of the time back pain is treated with rounds of medication followed by referral to a surgeon if the medications fail to improve the pain. Studies show that if you have the first surgery, you are twice as likely to have a second surgery on you back within the first two years as the average person. Many times people bypass other forms of treatment and simply want to opt for the quick fix. One spinal surgeon said, “Spinal Surgery is considered a success if it reduces pain by 50% at least 50% of the time.”

I often tell my patients that they should use surgery as a last resort rather than a first option. NBC News recently reported that for some patients, there is a legitimate need for spine surgery and fusion, says Dr. Charles Burton, medical director for The Center for Restorative Spine Surgery in St. Paul, Minn. “But the concern is that it’s gotten way beyond what is reasonable or necessary. There are some areas of the country where the rate of spine surgery is three or four times the national average.”

NBC interviewed Dr. William Welch, vice chairman of the department of neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center and chief of neurosurgery at Pennsylvania Hospital. Welch stated, “We are very successful at improving leg symptoms. We are less successful at treating back pain.”

The reason, Welch says, is that it’s often hard to pinpoint the exact cause of someone’s back pain. Even MRIs can be misleading because abnormalities, such as degenerating discs, can be seen on scans for virtually everyone over the age of 30 regardless of whether they have pain. Even when the surgery is a success, it rarely dispels 100 percent of back pain, Welch says. (You can read the full article at: http://www.nbcnews.com/ )

Options like physical therapy in combination with medication, modified activities and improved biomechanics can help you get your back pain under control. Once a surgery is done, there are limited treatments that can be done if the surgery fails to significantly improve the situation. There are conditions that require surgery, but it should be done only after exhausting all other forms of treatment.