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Deciding if you really need back surgery

(WJRT)
Published: Jun. 23, 2020 at 9:31 AM EDT
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(06/23/2020) -- Those of us suffering from back problems will do about anything to be pain free … even surgery. But with a 25 percent success rate, the numbers are not encouraging. Ivanhoe explains how more often than not, our back pain is the result of the stressors going on around us.

Sach Egan thought he was prepared for anything. The adventure seeker tackled everything from cliff jumping to rock climbing. However, a back problem at just 22 made him rethink his invincibility.

“I felt a snap in my lower back, and I figured okay back spasms. Pain did never go away,” shared Egan.

Egan tried physical therapy, a chiropractor, and even steroid injections.

Eventually, with no relief, he sought out the advice of top surgeons.

“They were all incredibly pro surgery,” said Egan.

Except for one doctor who gave him a very different diagnosis.

Egan continued, “He just looked at me and said, there’s no way that you should have surgery. End of story.”

“That adrenaline drive that kept him going causes relatively minor back injury to become a big problem. You feel the pain more, and his nervous system was really fired up. For just non-specific back pain, back surgery should never be done,” explained David Hanscom, MD, an orthopedic spine surgeon.

“If someone is not sleeping, they have family issues, job issues, all of these things can play a role in amplifying the signal,” said David Cassius, MD, Physical Medicine, Rehab, and Chronic Pain.

However, for some structural issues, surgery may be needed. Dr. Hanscom wrote a book called, Do You Really Need Spine Surgery?, to help with the decision-making process.

But before you do anything, make sure you understand the true source of your pain, and that your stress is under control. Also be sure to tell your doctor everything.

“The ultimate answer is a good relationship with your physician,” stated Dr. Hanscom.

For Egan, that meant a year of rehab while calming down his nervous system by getting more sleep, not thinking or talking about his pain ...

“I feel really pain free,” smiled Egan.

Dr. Hanscom adds that most surgeons assume you’ve tried every possible treatment before stepping into their office. Surgery is perceived as a last resort.

He suggests finding another doctor if scans are required before the initial visit. He also believes no recommendations should be made during that first appointment.

And finally, give the rehab process at least 12 weeks before making a decision.

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