The top 10 questions clients ask about back pain, including avoiding surgery

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You bent over to pick something up, felt something catch in your lower back, and was put out of commission for a week. A couple of months later, the same thing happened but worse, and you found yourself in the doctor’s office because you’re worried that you’re going to blow your back out again in a year’s time.

When you hear your doctor saying, “Surgery,” there’s bound to be lots of questions going through your mind. Do I really need this? Will it be painful? Am I going to be pain-free after that? How long does it take to recover? I’m scared of invasive surgery – is there another way for me to get relief?

When you hear your doctor saying, “Don’t lift weights,” you start worrying. How am I gonna carry my kids? My grandkids? What about running? Am I just going to be doing bodyweight exercises for the rest of my life? 

Conservative care should ALWAYS be tried before surgery, unless it is a medical emergency and absolutely necessary.


We’ve got some questions that we hear all the time in the clinicians room, and we’re answering them for you today.


1) What’s the success rate for spine surgery?

“Failed back surgery syndrome” is an actual diagnosis, and is when the outcome of back surgery does not meet the expectations of the surgeon or the patient (in terms of pain, daily function, and activity goals). This can affect 10%-46% of spine surgeries which is a huge number. 

Conservative care should ALWAYS be tried before surgery, unless it is a medical emergency and absolutely necessary. Conservative care can include physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, etc. but it should always involve ACTIVE rehabilitation where your clinician is working together with you to get you back to your goals!

 

2) When do I need an X-Ray? MRI? Further referral? 

If you were involved in an accident, had a fall, the pain has not reduced over the course of 4-6 weeks, or are having night-pains with sudden weight loss, an X-Ray or MRI is recommended to rule out fractures or tumours. If the pain is worsening after 2 weeks, accompanied with a fever, and sudden weakness in the arms or legs, referral to the hospital is required. 

 

3) At what point do I need to seriously consider spine surgery?

Surgery is considered when there are severe neurological symptoms (such as changes in your bladder/bowel function with problems urinating or defecating, your walking is suddenly affected because of weakness or paralysis, and the inability to feel your genital areas or arms/legs). Such symptoms following an accident, fall or traumatic incident requires immediate referral to the hospital. 


4) Can I be cured? Will my disc bulge ever go back “in”?

Many studies have shown that a large percentage of herniated discs resorb! And that larger disc extrusions (meaning more disc material which ‘bulges’ out) actually have a higher rate of resorption. This suggests that conservative care should be chosen first to focus on getting you stronger, as your body continues to heal itself. 

 

5) What other alternative treatments can be done? I’ve heard of cupping.

Many alternative treatments such as massage therapy, cupping, traditional medicine can be beneficial to help relieve pain. However, your practitioner should ALWAYS make sure that your condition is cleared of any red flags and that it is safe to proceed.

 

6) How long will it take for me to see results? 

It depends on the severity of the condition, but your clinician should always work together with you to have a plan on how to progress with your condition to get you to where you want to be and more. In less severe cases, improvements should be seen within the first 4-6 weeks!

 

7) Is a back brace necessary?

It depends. Back braces may be required if you have a spine fracture, but that can only be determined through specific assessments with your doctor. In the absence of any serious injury, it may be recommended in the initial week to help support your body and reduce muscle tension, but it is not a long-term solution. Active recovery is always the key. 

 

8) Are there special diets or supplements that I should take to help? 

A well-balanced diet helps your body to heal. Long-term intake of alcohol or cigarette/nicotine use, as well as being overweight, affects healing rates. The most commonly prescribed supplement for back pain is a Vitamin B complex, but always consult with your doctor first before taking in any types of supplements.

 

9) Is it safe to be taking painkillers for my pain?

Constant use of certain types of painkillers in the long-term can cause stomach bleeding and stomach ulcers. You may also develop tolerance to the dosage, and require higher doses over time, which can lead to kidney damage. Always consult with your doctor when you’re taking painkillers. 

 

10) Will I ever be able to go back to lifting weights or running again? 

Working with a specific goal in mind means working to get you back to lifting weights or running again, if that is where you want to be. It may take time, but with consistent work and commitment, we believe it is absolutely possible. 

 

 

If these questions helped answer some of your questions, share it with friends and tag us at @spinefitchiro.physio, with the hashtag #AreYouSpineFit. Got more questions? Feel free to hit our DM’s and we’ll be more than willing to answer them. Unsure if your pain is something we can help with? Hit those DM’s as well to get started on leaving those recurring problems behind to smash your productivity goals without being pulled behind by pain.

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