When Back Surgery Doesn’t Help

Are most patients satisfied with the results of their back surgeries?

It is estimated that nearly 60 million Americans experience chronic back pain. It is also estimated that, out of the more than one million patients who have back surgery each year, perhaps only a percentage may have needed the operation in the first place, and that, for too many, the surgery does not succeed in relieving their pain. There are certainly times when surgical intervention for back pain is necessary, but undoubtedly it should not fuel an industry costing at least 86 billion dollars per year (an amount on a par with the country’s total expenditure on cancer treatment).

When Treatments Fail

If you are suffering from back pain that is severe and ongoing, you have likely explored several possible remedies, such as application of heat, cold, or alternating heat and cold. You may have tried over-the-counter or prescription analgesics, exercise regimens, physical therapy, or dietary supplements. You may have had various tests to diagnose your problems — X-rays, CT or MRI scans. You may even have had unsuccessful surgery, perhaps more than once.

According to Dr. Charles Rosen, a clinical professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, “An enormous number of back surgeries don’t give patients long-term relief.” He notes, with some irony, that there is actually a term for what happens when such an operation doesn’t improve the patient’s condition: “failed back surgery syndrome.”

If you are still suffering with back pain and would like to have your condition diagnosed with precision and treated, if at all possible, with nonsurgical methods, you should consult with an outstanding practice that specializes in spine rehabilitation medicine. Being treated by physicians who are physiatrists will give you options for pain relief that you may not have considered, such as spine specific physical therapy, epidural injections, musculoskeletal ultrasound techniques, acupuncture, yoga, and in some instances, PEMF therapy.

Check Out the Medical Practice You Consult

It is always important to check out the reputation and credentials of the doctors you consult, even as you are desperate to find relief. There are sketchy or even fraudulent practitioners in every field. In some cases, charges have been brought against spine specialists who have had suspiciously close relationships with companies manufacturing the products they use. Recently, the prestigious Institute of Medicine announced that its evaluation of effectiveness in 100 health issues was placing lower-back pain in the “highest priority.” category. Make sure that you follow suit so that you end up with the most effective treatment possible.