Everyone wants the best medical care possible, and the general perspective held by many is that “extreme times call for extreme measures.” Hence, those with chronic pain tend to think that surgery is the best solution. Unfortunately, doctors are often too hasty to recommend surgical procedures as well.
The reason surgery is questionable is that, though it’s incredibly widespread, in the vast majority of cases it’s unnecessary. Plus, although the effort is obviously to relieve pain, surgery can actually cause more of it. Recent studies show that surgery can be ineffective and, in some cases, can do more harm than good.
Damage Arising from Back Surgery
According to Stewart G. Eidelson, MD, less than 5% of those with spine problems ever need surgery (1). In other words, 19 out of 20 people with back difficulties or neck pain could benefit more from non-invasive modalities: medication, physical therapy, massage, injections, chiropractic treatment, etc.
NBC News recently covered the story of Nancy Scatena who had two spine surgeries and still lives in constant pain (2). Though 600,000 Americans undergo these types of medical procedures each year, NBC reports that for many, it amounts to “just an empty promise.” The perspective that surgery is not usually a wise choice is growing among pain management practitioners as well.
What’s more alarming about using surgery to solve back problems is that it can have long-lasting ill effects. A 2011 study from the journal Spine tracked the progress of 1450 Ohio residents with back problems. Half had surgery, and half did not (3). After two years, 26 percent of those who underwent surgery were back at work; that’s compared to 67 percent of those who used noninvasive techniques returning to the workplace. Additionally, the surgery subjects increased their use of pain medications 41 percent on average.
Knee Surgery: Similar Issues
A 2010 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that surgery is a simlarly questionable option for knee pain (4). This study took place in Sweden but used an almost identical approach: 50% of subjects received surgery, and 50% did not. A scoring system was used to rate variables such as pain and flexibility. Though both groups shows improvement, the non-surgery group saw a 39.4-point increase, whereas the surgery group saw slightly less, a 39.2-point increase (and of course, a stronger improvement was expected for the surgery patients).
Be careful when you have a major, chronic pain issue in your back, neck or knees. Surgery is not just “a last-ditch option”: it may even cause further pain and medical problems. Work with experts to curb pain non-invasively through comprehensive, multidisciplinary treatment. For the best pain management Atlanta has to offer, contact Wellness Plus Clinic today for a free consultation: 404-522-5552.