Back Surgery? – Don’t

I was reminded this week of the pitiful quality of back treatments in standard Western Medicine. They truly create more problems than they help. They should be used only as a last resort – after you have tried everything else.

There have been two recent studies where healthy backs are imaged (x-ray or MRI) and the images are then submitted to back surgeons. Half of these people have surgery recommended. Yes – if it were up to back surgeons, half the population would have back surgery. So, when you go in to a surgeon with back or sciatic pain it is very likely that surgery will be recommended – even if what they see has nothing to do with your pain.

I am always seeing back surgery scars. People tell me that the surgery didn’t help. Often the surgery is in a location unrelated to the pain. For example, sciatica (pain that radiates down the leg) is usually related to buttock and sacroiliac problems. These problems cannot be addressed by surgery. If they find anything wrong in the lumbar area, they assume that that is the problem and perform surgery. If the surgery helps, it is usually only because of the post-surgery interventions – rest (time is a great healer) or physical therapy (one of the best parts of Western Medicine).

A good surgeon:

He/she will suggest a conservative approach – physical therapy, rest, etc. He/she won’t know about alternatives, but he realizes that his tools aren’t the best.

A bad surgeon:

He/she will show you the x-ray and tell you if you don’t get surgery immediately, you could become paralyzed. He/she knows there is half a chance you will get better on your own and wants to get his fee before that happens. This is why I am reluctant to end a patient in for a x-ray. Imaging is a wonderful tool, but it is used too often as a tool for driving a patient into unnecessary surgery.

What to do:

There are plenty of conservative, alternative treatments out there for back pain:

  • Chiropractic – for moving vertebrae and relieving pain.
  • Acupuncture – for relaxing muscles and rejuvenating ligaments and tendons.
  • Massage – many kinds – relaxing muscles (More often than not it is muscle spasms that cause the vertebrae to pinch together and cause disc bulges, etc. – you can’t see muscle spasms in x-rays.).
  • NST (Neurostructural Integration Technique) –an amazing therapy for reeducating the connective tissue (muscles, ligaments and tendons).