Back Surgery: The Cold, Hard Truth

Suffering from back pain and wondering if surgery is the way to go? Well here is the cold hard truth. Back surgery is should not be your first or only option. First there are many types of surgery for the back. Here are a few: Spinal Fusion, Laminectomy, Foraminotomy, Discectomy, Disc Replacement and Interlaminar. The type of surgery obviously depends on your specific symptoms. Along with these types of operations advances in surgical techniques has made operations less invasive resulting in less risk, speedier recovery and shorter hospital stays. Also all this means a better chance of a successful operation and elimination of your back / spinal problems.

This is all great news and certainly surgery is a very viable option. But there are also risks involved in any surgical procedure, blood clots, infections, reactions to medications and anesthesia and nerve damage. Many times the surgery is successful, but the pain continues. There is even a term to describe this. It is called “Failed Back Surgery Syndrome”. Some statistics claim that the failure rate is as high as seventy-four percent!

The biggest reason is the fact that back pain is very hard to identify. The back and spine is a very complex system of nerves, muscles, bones and ligaments. Even with the best diagnostic tools is very hard to pin point the problem. Also many times the muscles and nerves have been inflamed for so long that recover is very slow if at all.

I also think that too many patient and for that matter doctors see surgery as the only solution. Back pain sufferers believe that all they have to do is have an operation and presto the pain is gone. While that is true for some, for many the pain is still there.

As a person who had back pain and surgery here are my suggestions. Now I am no expert so take these ideas as based on one person’s experience and research. However many studies have concluded that anyone suffering from back pain should consider the following suggestions before resulting to surgery.

  1. Rest: Many times simply resting for a few day and taking over the counter pain killers will alleviate the problem.
  2. Loss weight: The amount of stress a few extra pounds of weight places on the back is enormous and although this is a long term solution and results will not be felt for some time it is definitely a good course of action.
  3. Exercise: Again like losing weight this will take time, but again the results are worth it. Walking is probably the best single thing you can do for a bad back. There are also specific exercises for your particular back problem.
  4. Avoidance: Learn what types of activities cause the back pain and avoid them. Sounds easy I know, but hard to do in practice. For me shoveling snow sets off my back. So if I have to shovel I use an ergonomic shovel, take smaller scoops and rest frequently. Of course moving further South would solve this problem.

So the cold hard truth is surgery is a viable option. But in my opinion taking an alternative approach and exploring these non- surgical options first is the way to go.