When Should You Consider Back Surgery?

In my Vineland chiropractic practice, I occasionally see a few people a year who have so many issues with their backs, that unfortunately, surgery is probably their only answer. I had a patient recently who after an lengthy examination, I advised him to speak to a surgeon to look at the option of surgery. There was really nothing I could do for him. Although I prefer seeing patients and treating them as early on as possible with back issues, sometimes they are so far gone that they should really consider back surgery. It’s rare though.

Normally, the patient would show signs of a neurological deficit where they may have constant tingling or numbness that doesn’t go away, or continual pain, or weakness in their hands or legs. These are all signs that the correct signals are not getting to the brain because of an issue with the nervous system being impeded in some way in the back.

However, regular pain in itself shouldn’t be a reason to consider back surgery, because surgery typically means some kind of spinal fusing which may correct the initial problem, but long term it could affect the areas above and below as the spine will not function in the way it has been designed. We have seen many patients with problems in such areas after they have had their spines fused, and this is a big reason to consider carefully and seek out all other forms of treatment first.

So What Should We Do First?

You should firstly consider chiropractic care to decompress joints, remove scar tissue, adhesions, and to get the afflicted area moving and functioning as it should. As you are in pain, it’s also advisable to speak to a pain management doctor, or regular doctor and have pain relieving medication. This will help reduce the pain while chiropractic or physical therapy is applied to the area which will hopefully fix the problem. Medication does not fix it on its own, it only relieves pain, so you need the therapy to actually do the fixing.

Be aware, this could take some time to fix, so you will need to be patient and do all the things your doctors suggest if you are to get better again. It may take a few weeks to a couple of months, depending on the severity of the case.

If this doesn’t work, then the next stage would be to look at Manipulation Under Anesthesia is the next step. This is where the patient is put to sleep for 30 minutes, and a range of chiropractic adjustments are applied while asleep. This has a success rate in excess of 90%, and would certainly be a better route to take than surgery as it is again non invasive.

However, some people are so bad than none of the above works for them and this is the time to consider back surgery. If you are at this point, I would recommend getting more than one opinion from a surgeon. When you do speak with a surgeon at your consultation, there are a few questions you should ask him.

How invasive is the surgery? Will it be simple, or complex?
Am I going to lose range of motion? If so, how much?
What is the likelihood of other problems in the affected area?
These are the basic questions you need to know answers to, and again, get the second opinion. It’s a big decision to make, and you need to know as much as possible.

As I say, I am normally quite hesitant to referring patients out for surgery, and if they are at a point where they haven’t tried everything else first, I will point them in that direction. If the condition is so bad as in my recent patients case, then referral to a surgeon is the only answer.

If you have any questions, please call my office or message me on my Vineland Facebook page.