Chronic back pain affects millions of Americans. It is reportedly the leading reason that people miss work. When a person has pain that continues for several months, or years even, they may have a nagging question in the back of their minds: “do I need to have back surgery?” We see patients face this dilemma frequently. Their preconceived notion about what it must be like to have back surgery keeps them from objectively measuring the pros and cons of various treatment options. Instead of engaging in conversations with various professionals, including a spinal surgeon, most people instinctively rely on medication to control pain.
If pain medication fails to achieve adequate improvement, the next logical step is to seek chiropractic care or physical therapy. There are merits to both modalities. However, there are also limitations, just as there are limitations to pharmaceuticals in the treatment of back pain. The question is not necessarily “which treatment is best?” but “which approach is needed at this time?” The answer may be different for everyone. One person with moderate disc herniation may respond well to physical therapy and other nonsurgical modalities, where another may be an ideal candidate for surgery. To determine this, it is necessary to consult with both a physical therapist or pain management specialist and a spine surgeon. Doing so, a patient obtains a broad comparative opinion to help inform their decision regarding medical care.
One of the most common assumptions that people make is that a spine surgeon will want to operate on their spine. This is a misconception and one that could impose months of needless pain. The role of the spinal surgeon is to reach clinical conclusions using diagnostic imaging and a thorough medical examination. Based on the findings, the physician can then make a confident recommendation as well as prognosis. Surgery is the recommended approach in situations such as a torn or ruptured disc, as this is the only way to alleviate pressure on nerves. Spinal stenosis, in which the channels that the nerves pass through have narrowed, also requires surgery.
There is no way to identify the value of any given treatment for chronic back pain without comparative research. To understand the nature of your back pain and the therapies or procedure that may resolve it, schedule a consultation at Princeton Neurological Surgery. Call (609) 890-3400.