Have you been recommended for spinal surgery? Perhaps you’ve experienced a failed back surgery?
Our Spinal Consultants share some important information about back pain and spinal surgery.
Millions of people worldwide suffer from bulged or herniated discs. These back conditions put pressure on the spinal nerve causing pain in the lower back and often pain down the legs, known as sciatica.
In Australia alone, back pain affects one in four people and is one of the most common reasons why people consult their local general practitioner (GP).
Far too many people turn to medication or steroid injections that only offers temporary relief from the pain. Some people even seek out spinal surgery as a last resort to manage their condition.
Sadly, The Brisbane Spine Clinic sees this same pathway all too often.
A patient suffers from lower back pain, they visit their GP to walk away with prescription medication. The medication only offers temporary relief – of course, this is no surprise – as we are dealing with a mechanical problem of the spine, not a medication-related issue. A patient returns to their GP and referred on to a specialist. The specialist often performs an MRI to identify the problem, sometimes recommending invasive injections to reduce inflammation and to offer temporary relief. Should the injections fail, people turn to spinal surgery. Sound familiar?
Often this pathway is only recommended due to a lack of awareness by the GP and the patient. The need for invasive techniques is often avoidable.
Our Spinal Consultants, Leo and Justin, explain further.
What you need to know if you’ve been referred for spinal surgery.
Being recommended for spinal surgery is not only scary but a very serious and invasive procedure. It is essential that you are well aware of all your options before committing to changing the anatomy of your spine permanently.
In 2010, a study by JMPT titled “Manipulation or micro-discectomy for sciatica? A prospective randomised clinical study” found that:
“People with herniated discs who received manual therapy treatment had the same results as those who received surgical intervention.”
An interesting part about JMPT’s study is that the patients were required to meet the criteria of having failed at least 3 months of non-operative management of their condition such as medication, steroid injections, lifestyle modification, massage therapy or acupuncture. In other words, the same patients who often think that surgery is their only option to relieve their pain.
The positive outlook for this study is that is shows you have the same opportunity to improve your spinal condition through spinal manual therapy techniques as you go through surgical intervention.
Here’s the catch…
While we can’t dismiss that spinal surgery does have its place, research suggests that only a specific patient group fits the ideal profile for surgery.
With the study showing that you have the same opportunity to improve your condition with spinal manual therapy as you do with surgical intervention, it is imperative to at least try manual therapy as an option before committing to an invasive procedure.
Undergoing surgery will permanently and irreversibly change the anatomy of your back. Should pain continue as a result of Failed Back Surgery Syndrome, any manual therapy performed post-surgery, will be done on a compromised spine.
It makes sense to at least try spinal manual therapy as your first option. Then, should that not improve your condition, you can decide if spinal surgery is right for you.
Is spine surgery necessary?
If you’re still unsure about spinal surgery, to reinforce how un-necessary spinal surgery is in most cases, a marketing campaign, “Choosing Wisely” explains it nicely.
The “Choosing Wisely” campaign was introduced to educate medical professionals and the public about treatments and procedures that offer minimal benefit, or could even lead to harm.
Unsurprisingly, spinal fusion surgery for lower back pain featured in the list of treatments and procedures clinicians and consumers should question.
We’ve pulled this extract from the campaign:
“Do not refer axial lower lumbar back pain for spinal fusion surgery.”
Our final thoughts!
While lower back pain and sciatica can be a very debilitation condition that affects so many Australians every year, here at The Brisbane Spine Clinic, we want to educate our patients that there is an alternative pathway to treating lower back pain. Spinal manual therapy should be considered as an option before entertaining the idea of surgical intervention.
Research shows that spinal manual therapy can be as effective as surgical intervention without the need for invasive techniques. We believe it is important for patients to understand these clinical outcomes as very often you may not be receiving this information from your GP or Spine Surgeon.
If you or a family member may have been guided down the path of considering spine surgery – here at The Brisbane Spine Clinic, we offer second opinions to spinal surgery where we can assess your condition thoroughly to determine what we believe may be the best option to treating your back pain.