Back pain is said to affect one in four Australians, It’s one of the most common reasons for a General Practitioner (GP) visit and costs Australia $5 billion each year.
Recently the Australian Initiative, Choosing Wisely, designed to educate medical professionals and the public about invasive procedures and tests with little benefit added spinal fusion for lower lumber back pain to their list.
Choosing Wisely suggest you should be asking your doctors 5 important questions:
- Do I really need this procedure?
- What are the risks?
- Are there simpler, safer options?
- What happens if I don’t do anything?
- What are the costs?
The Spinal Surgery Option
In Australia, between 1997 and 2006 spinal fusion surgery increased by 167 per cent despite the lack of studies to support the surgery for most back related conditions, including spinal stenosis. Spinal surgery can be invasive, expensive, and may lead to further complications. Some research suggests that spinal surgery often fails to deliver the desired results, as one in five patients who have spinal fusion procedures need to undergo revision surgery within ten years of their initial surgery.
Studies have also found that patients who have had spinal fusion surgery can end up unable to return to their regular jobs and need physiotherapy and opioid medication for up to two years after their surgery. Randomised trials have found that spinal surgery offers little advantage over a well-structured physiotherapy-based rehabilitation program.
Types of Spinal Surgery
Back surgery does have it’s place and may relieve some forms of back pain, however the fact remains, it isn’t always necessary.
The different types of spinal surgeries include:
- Discectomy: which involves a full or partial removal of the damaged portion of a herniated disk.
- Laminectomy: the removal of the bone which overlies the spinal canal, for relieving nerve pressure caused by spinal stenosis.
- Spinal fusion: the fusion of two or more bones in the spine (vertebrae) to add stability to spinal fractures or eliminate painful motion between the vertebrae.
- Artificial disks replacement: where bones are replaced with an artificial disk to reduce painful movement between two bones or to replace degenerated disks
Seeking A Second Opinion On Spine Surgery
If your doctor has recommended spinal surgery, there is nothing wrong with getting a second opinion from a spinal consultant.
A 2017 article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggest that patients should first try a well-designed physical therapy program before considering any invasive procedures like surgery.
The article suggested that physiotherapy for one type of lower back pain called Spinal Stenosis had just as many benefits, but patients experienced fewer unwanted complications.
It’s essential to take control of your health; before agreeing to any major surgery you should always seek a second opinion and consider alternative options.
The Brisbane Spine Clinic provides patients with individualised physiotherapy programs in the prevention, management, and treatment of spinal conditions. Our spinal consultants use evidence and results-based techniques to assess, diagnose, and treat most movement and musculoskeletal conditions.
If you are suffering back pain or would like a second opinion on your spinal surgery, we invite you to make an appointment at our clinic in Eight Mile Plains, by phoning (07) 3841 3070.