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Surgery for Back Pain: Is it the Right Choice?

Jul 10, 2008
Doctors used to almost invariably recommend surgery to remedy chronic back pain. After the procedure, the patient would take a few weeks of bed rest and assuming all had gone well, be healed and back to work in a matter of weeks - unless of course, they weren't.

Experts agree that, historically, doctors have resorted to back surgery too quickly in most cases. Many people did not benefit from this surgery and some cases even became worse post-procedure. Surgery was certainly no silver bullet for back pain, that much was sure.

Studies have shown more recently that most back pain will improve without surgery, even if it is lower back pain. In most cases of back pain, all other treatments should be tried before scheduling a surgical procedure. In fact, less than one percent of people actually will require a surgical remedy for back pain, even though 80% of people have back pain at some point or another.

Who Needs Surgery?

In general, doctors recommend surgery only in cases where other options have been exhausted and failed to remedy the problem, or if the back pain recurs. Surgery may be called for if the person's day to day life is seriously and adversely affected by the back pain.

Non-Surgical Alternatives

An excellent approach to treating the spine and lower back is through physical therapy. A physical therapist can provide specialized exercises along with methods which include:

* Heat or cold therapies - to reduce muscle spasms, inflammation, and pain * Ultrasound - the use of sound waves can promote circulation and provide relief to back muscles * Massage * Spinal traction * Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) - a painless electrical current is used on the nerves in order to reduce pain and increase the mobility of the back *Water therapy

Some patients find relief by using medication to relieve their back pain. There are many kinds, some over the counter and others prescription. They include muscle relaxants, analgesics and NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

Spinal injections can relieve pain and help the doctor determine the reason for the back pain. Two kinds are Facet Joint Injections and Epidural Steroid Injections. Spinal injections are not used alone, but are used along with physical therapy and exercise. They should always be recommended or prescribed by your doctor.

A chiropractor can also be helpful in your quest to ease your back pain. A chiropractor can manipulate, apply pressure, palpate and otherwise adjust vertebral alignment.

Other methods for dealing with back pain are considered alternative medicine. They include acupuncture, certain herbal medicines and biofeedback. If you use one of these therapies, be sure to have a reputable practitioner.
About the Author
Kim Archer knows what it's like to suffer from chronic back pain. She is a regular contributor to Cure Your Back Pain, a great information source on causes and treatments of back pain.
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