Back Surgery Should Be Last Resort Treatment for Back Pain
About 80 percent of Americans suffer with back pain, and this can range from simply annoying to excruciating and debilitating. However, despite the potential severity of back pain, many patients should consider surgery only after they have exhausted all non-surgical options (I've encountered a number of examples myself where surgical options failed to alleviate pain, and, in a few instances, the opposite effect seemed to have been achieved).
Though many patient's conditions are severe enough that no therapy may be particularly helpful, the majority of those with back pain, about 90 percent, can greatly reduce their discomfort with non-invasive treatments such as lumbar traction, stretching, exercises to help strengthen the back, yoga, etc. Medication and steroid injections can also help to alleviate pain in those with less severe conditions, and regular visits to a chiropractor or acupuncturist are another option to be explored (I haven't tried acupuncture myself, but this seems to be one of the few alternative healing modalities that standard medical practitioners may be warming up to. As to chiropractic, I have not found it personally useful, but know several individuals who claim that it was very useful for their own conditions).
However, in the most severe cases back surgery may present the only real chance of pain relief. Spinal fusion, a type of surgery in which a damaged disc is replaced with bone grafts, metal screws or cages, used to be the only surgical option, but today other types of surgery requiring less recovery time are available.
In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration approved Trans 1 or AxiaLIF surgery, which fuses a specific area of the lumbar spine (L5-S1). The procedure requires only a small half-inch incision near the tailbone because the surgeon uses an X-ray to guide him or her through the surgery. In the same year, the FDA approved Charite artificial disc replacement for those with degenerative disc disease, but again this procedure is only suitable for the lower back (L4-S1). Good candidates for artificial disc replacement must also have strong bones and be free of any serious spinal deformity.
The problem with the new procedures is basically the same as the problem with the original spinal fusion back surgery—there are no guarantees, and the surgery may not even alleviate the pain, or it could leave the patient in worse condition than before. Paralysis is a real risk of any back surgery.
Complications specific to the new artificial disc procedure (apparently the discs don’t always stay put and can move around in the back) have also been reported.
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A few thoughts on Back Pain and Social Security Disability
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