Back Pain – what works?
4 out of 5 people will experience back pain.
Chronic lower back pain is becoming a big problem affecting over 18 million people in the UK preventing many from working. So what is the solution?
Lumbar Fusion Surgery?
The Backcare Charity states that;
“Very few people require back surgery. Such surgery is only essential when there are extreme symptoms such as a paralysis of the bladder and bowel or loss of power to a foot. Surgery is considered as a last resort in the treatment of back pain”.
Although there are a number of different methods, all involve joining or fusing together 2 (or more) of the bony discs in the spine so that they no longer move, the theory being that it is the bone movement that causes the pain.
What is success?
When you think of the criteria for successful surgery what are your definitions?
No more pain?
Full range of movement?
Back to work?
Studies show that only 32% of “successful” spinal fusion patients return to work within 2 years.
The Charity also says that for stabilisation or fusion operations, “there is a 10-20% chance of staying the same and 10-20% risk of being worse or needing further surgery”.
They go on to say that you still may not be completely pain-free after this surgery so there is up to a 40% chance that the operation will not improve matters.
A recent lawsuit in the USA deemed that lumbar fusion surgery was successful even though it left the patient paralysed from the waist down.
A group of American spinal surgeons were surveyed about the use of spinal surgery. Although 75% would recommend it for their patients, only 9% would have the surgery themselves.
I guess practice what you preach isn’t an option??
So what are my options?
Stay active – although doctors used to prescribe bed rest for back pain keeping moving stops the muscles stiffening up and causing more pain. So stay as active as you comfortably can. (marathons optional!)
Ibruprofen and anti inflammatories can help in the short term. Try to stay away from cortisone and steroid injections as these actually break down the discs and tissues in the spine causing long term problems. BUPA state that “injections are usually only done if other treatments don’t work.”
Physiotherapy – long term studies show that when it comes to those success criteria I mentioned before, no pain, full range of movement, back to work, that the groups that had only physiotherapy (no surgery) had was a much higher success rate. And that these patients had a greater range of movement, were back to work within 6 months and had reduced pain. With no risk. A win-win.
Personally I believe that it is an individualised approach that works, combining a whole range of techniques from acupuncture to osteopathy and through to physiotherapy as well – it’s about finding the combination for YOU.
Want more detailed information on this issue?
Download our indepth guide based on the latest research below or check out my podcast on the subject.