Backache is the most common chronic illness that people suffer from globally. It is also one of the chief factors for declining productivity in the workforce. People suffer from pain for years before it becomes unbearable for the person, both physically and mentally.
However, making a hasty decision and booking an appointment for surgery for quick pain relief is not the answer. You may want to try out other alternatives with favorable outcomes, minus the drawbacks associated with surgery. Here, we talk about some reasons why you should reconsider going for an invasive procedure.
Most Back Pain Doesn’t Require Surgery
Your doctor won’t recommend surgery for your back pain right away. There are multiple methods, including lifestyle changes and medications, that have proven effective in the management of chronic pain.
Surgery is only recommended in severe cases that don’t respond to non-surgical methods or cases which can only be treated through a surgical intervention like spinal cord injury or tumors.
One of the biggest drawbacks of spine surgery is the recovery period. Spine surgery is a major surgery and requires meticulous preparation and post-operative care. You will be required to spend several days in the hospital to be observed for postoperative complications and follow-up, not to mention the several weeks of rehabilitation to retrieve your strength back.
This means you will be out of work for a long period of time which can be a difficult situation if you are the only earning member of the family. Furthermore, the costs of the surgery as well as the rehabilitation sessions can become burdensome for patients with a humble income source.
Additionally, the surgery can render daily activities like sleeping and lying down difficult, thus adding further challenges to the recovery period.
Surgeries in general are expensive procedures. This is even more so for back surgeries, given their complexity. Your payment includes the surgeon’s fees, anesthesiologist’s fees, and facility fees on top of the costs for rehabilitation sessions as well as the hospital stay. Remember that you will be out of work throughout all this time, which will be a serious blow to your savings if you are the only breadwinner of the family.
Despite health insurance, you may end up having to pay a significant portion of the costs given the high deductible health plans. Even if you resort to a co-pay health plan, your productivity loss will outweigh any contributions through your carrier.
“Next Level” Syndrome
The fundamental aspect of spinal surgery is to relieve pain by decreasing movement. This is done so by fusing or screwing together the affected vertebrae. However, this fusion causes the stress to be transferred to the remaining vertebrae, thus speeding up their degeneration. Eventually, these vertebrae will also require fusion, thus trapping you in an endless cycle of spine surgeries.
Spinal surgery is an invasive procedure with a prolonged recovery period in the absence of any complications. However, this period can extend if the surgery entails any complications both during and following the procedure.
Adverse reactions can include things such as bleeding, infection, reaction to anesthesia, and deadly clots that can travel to your heart or brain leading to stroke. You are also at risk of suffering from nerve damage and relying on pain relieving medications during the long recovery period.
Remember that any surgery involves trauma to the tissues, even if it is meant to be beneficial. Therefore, even if the direct source of your pain is identified and resolved, you may be left with other issues that will be just as troublesome.
Keep in mind that the ultimate goal of the surgery is to relieve pain, it doesn’t guarantee a return to the active lifestyle you enjoyed prior to the surgery. For instance, you may have a successful surgery yet never be able to enjoy activities like hiking or playing badminton again.
As a result, it is imperative that if you choose to opt for surgery, you should sit down with your surgeon for a detailed discussion regarding the pros and cons of the procedure.
Lack of Effectiveness
Finally, the biggest reason to avoid surgery is its effectiveness. If your pain doesn’t subside following this extensive surgery, then all the hardships that you endured for recovery in addition to the money spent will all be for naught. Low success rates for back surgery are one of the biggest redactors for patients hoping to seek relief through the procedure.
Even if your pain subsides, complications like the ‘next level syndrome’ will make the relief short-lived. According to the latest research, up to half of the patients who went under the knife don’t experience lasting relief for their ailment, thus casting doubt over the effort spent on the process.
What to Try Instead
Fortunately, there are myriad alternatives out there other than going under the knife. This includes the use of medications as well as lifestyle modifications.
- Physical Therapy – One of the first lines of treatment given for back pain, as well as an effective one. It owes its success to a targeted therapy approach that promotes muscle development and relieves pressure on bulging discs and sciatic pain.
- Exercise – You may think that back pain should be treated with adequate rest and lowered stress activities. Although it is true that you should avoid causing additional trauma to the injured site, complete bed rest isn’t the ideal solution for back pain. A moderate form of exercise will promote blood supply to the affected area as well as help you lose weight. Both these factors will play a significant role in pain reduction.
- Weight loss/Better dietary habits – The underlying mechanism of pain is tied to inflammation. An unhealthy diet high in sugar and fat can further trigger this inflammation. Moreover, the weight gain also adds stress to the spine, which can further worsen the pain.
- Trigger Point Injection – If the cause of pain is due to nerve compression, then you may benefit from the use of these injections. Pain relief is long-lasting as it targets the root cause of pain.
- Spinal Manipulation – Another major reason for your aching back may be misalignment. This can cause nerve compression, which leads to severe pain. This is where an experienced chiropractor can extend a helping hand for effective pain relief. However, keep in mind that this doesn’t resolve pain due to issues like spine fractures or tumors.
In addition to these treatment options, patients can also seek pain relief through hot and cold compressions, and non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Finally, it is best that you first discuss your symptoms with a trained professional like a physical therapist to create a recovery plan for your pain and treat the root cause of it for a favorable outcome.
When To Avoid Back Surgery
A conservative approach is ideal for the treatment of back pain. However, in some cases, the pain may be severe enough to require surgical intervention. For instance, conditions like stenosis, bulging discs, herniation, and sciatica can lead to unnecessary surgery.
Reasons You May Need Back Surgery
Despite the risks associated, there are instances where surgery is the only option, and you may be referred to an orthopedic surgeon.
- Slipped disk unresponsive to other methods.
- Bone spurs that cause nerve compression.
- Spinal stenosis (a degenerative condition).
- Weakness or numbness in limbs.
- Difficulty in using limbs.
- Bladder and bowel control loss.
- Spinal infection.
- Broken or dislocated vertebrae.
- Spinal cord tumor.
Remember that you have the right to know your condition and the treatment options available, so make sure that you talk to your doctor about these matters.
If You Do Need Surgery, Timing Matters
Spine surgeries are usually elective surgeries that don’t need to be performed right away. Most surgeons will check on the progress of the condition for at least six weeks to check whether it can be managed conservatively through spinal injections and physical therapy.
However, if your pain is severe or you have neurological symptoms like foot drop and in cases spinal injury, your surgery cannot be delayed. You can also seek a second opinion if you are conflicted about getting surgery.
Keep in mind that the ultimate decision should be mutually made between you and your surgeon. However, there may be consequences of delaying surgery if you put it off.
Is All Physical Therapy the Same?
Despite the widespread use of physical therapy, not all patients are left with satisfactory results. Not all physical therapy is the same, and the results are also dependent on the individual therapist as well. A one-on-one approach to customize a treatment plan that is most effective for their symptoms brings about the best results.
However, the end results of effective sessions are enough to overturn any skepticism. The goal of physical therapy isn’t just to relieve pain, but to improve your quality of life. So that you can return to doing the activities that you love with increased vigor. You won’t need to worry about pain or injury when playing with your kids or exercising.
If the above-mentioned reasons haven’t convinced you to take a step back from considering surgery, try talking to other patients with similar symptoms regarding their experience with the surgery and postoperative recovery.
Finally, before you make any decision, ensure that you have thoroughly discussed all matters with a health professional to make an informed decision. Nonetheless, it is advisable that whatever your choice, try not to opt for surgery right away.
Who is the author?
Elisabeth Washington has been a freelance writer for years. A pet enthusiast who loves all things animals. Obsessed with dogs, tech, and a coffee addict. She also loves binge-watching TV and movie series on Netflix.