Back surgery is always the last resort of anyone suffering with back pain

We tell our patients all the time, “Back surgery is always the last resort”. in fact, if you’re experiencing back pain, it is very unlikely you’ll ever need surgery.

Yet, back surgery is always the greatest fear of anyone suffering with back or neck pain. And even if you’re told you need back surgery, it’s good to know that, short of a medical emergency, there are alternatives that may work.

Francine Hardaway, writing for the Huffington Post, describes how she was told she would live the rest of her life in a wheelchair if she didn’t have back surgery. Acting on the advice of a friend, she tried a different route and avoided back surgery altogether.

Back Surgery Avoided

Every time I walk into a yoga class, I realize I’m the oldest person in the room. By a lot. And even when I walk into a business meeting, it’s not unusual for me to be the oldest person in the room. Among my geek friends, also by a lot.

And yet, I have yet to experience what many laid-off workers complain of — unexpressed ageism. People a decade or more younger than I tell me they are ignored or passed over because they are considered to be “too old,” even though that’s never told to them.

Why does that happen to some people, and never to others? I’m going to illustrate by an example from my own experience.

About 15 years ago, after more than 25 years as a runner, I awoke one morning to incredible back pain — as in, I couldn’t get out of bed. Because I was in the habit of running, it never occurred to me to stop. As soon as I could get myself dressed and out of the house, I joined my running buddies on the trail, and by the end of the run, I felt better.

But the back pain never truly went away, and eventually I had enough trouble sitting in a chair that it began to affect my ability to work. So I went to my doctor, who sent me to one of the most prominent neurosurgeons in Arizona, at the prestigious Barrow Neurological Center where royalty comes for back surgery.

Barrow gave me a bunch of scans, and and I waited in the surgeon’s office for a verdict. After a very long time (famous surgeons leave you waiting in their examining rooms for hours while they make rounds, talk to students, etc), I couldn’t sit on the examining table anymore, so I got down on the floor and began doing the back exercises from the room’s only reading material, the “back exercises” pamphlet.

Halfway through them, the surgeon entered with his entourage, and gestured toward the lightboard with my scans mounted on it. He gazed at them for several seconds, and said to me, “we’ll get you scheduled for surgery next week.” I was still on the floor. I raised myself slowly with much pain, and asked him for details about the surgery. He said I had spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, and that if I didn’t have this surgery right away I’d be in a wheelchair and/or incontinent. I asked him how long that would take to happen, and he opined “probably within the year.”

In the blur that followed, all I remember is “cage… screws… pins…brace… six months.” The terror was indescribable. But I didn’t know what else to do, so I scheduled the surgery.

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Do you have questions about back surgery or some other treatment option being discussed by your physician? We have put together a Patient Guide that discusses many of the various back surgery procedures, along with other, more conservative back pain treatment, in more detail. If you would like access to these informative and easy to understand Patient Guides, just click this link and we’ll make sure you get your copy today. Patients’ Guide To Back Surgery and Other Treatment

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