Americans spend $86 billion dollars a year on their aching backs, which is almost as much as spent on cancer, yet the back aches are not going away. When an operation doesn’t improve a patient’s condition the term is called “failed back surgery syndrome,” penned because a large amount of back surgeries do not provide long term relief, or does not improve the condition of the back.
More than 1,150,000 people go under the knife annually to fix an ailing back which is a rate double that of most developed countries and five times that of the United Kingdom. Yet according to experts a large percentage of people suffer with failed back surgery syndrome. Why? What exactly has gone wrong?
Finding out what has gone wrong with your back is not always easily diagnosed. Part of the problem lies with the same thing that potentially can help us: Modern technology. When a doctor gives you an MRI or an x-ray scary things show up as images on the screen. MRI’s very often uncover bulging discs and other back abnormalities. However, it is not always the abnormality which shows up on the screen that is causing the problem. The problem is often misdiagnosed, because the abnormality present is assumed to be the villain causing the pain.
Techniques which might be a good idea for a few people are not always the wisest choice for the majority of back sufferers. Many people tend to think that they should reject the less invasive procedures and go for the gold, invasive surgery. However, this decision can back-fire which is proven by the rate of return. Two years after the first surgery 8% of patients are undergoing another surgery, and ten years later the rate jumps to 20%.
The first line of back defense is being aware of how precious your back is, and take steps to protect it. Good posture and exercise is a must for a healthy back. If there is any indication of a minor back issue, seek the assistance of your Massage Therapist or Chiropractor early. Learn stretching and Yoga techniques, as well keeping your abdomen strong is a great back protector because the muscles which surround the abdomen also support the back.
When you do throw your back out the pain can be intense, and this is another time that you will want to seek the relief of a Chiropractor. The Doctor will likely advise the following measures:
*For the first 48 hours bed-rest is advised, but after that it is walking that will ease the pain. Depending on where the injury is it sometimes helpful to lie on your side with a pillow under your neck and a pillow between your legs.
* Take Anti-Inflammatory medication such as Aleve or Motrin, and if these bother your stomach it is okay to take Tylenol but it won’t be as effective as an anti-inflammatory.
*Ice is a natural pain reliever, and if you apply an ice pack it will make your blood vessels constrict which will reduce inflammation. After 48 hours apply heat because you want the blood flow to increase in order to assist in the healing process.
Pain is actually your friend because it is telling you something that you need to know, but what is it telling you? Sometimes back pain is like a puzzle that needs to be put together, and when some of the pieces are missing it is difficult to put the whole puzzle together, so careful analysis with a doctor or Chiropractor is essential.
Some types of pain that might be misunderstood is:
*Morning stiffness and pain. Many think that this stiffness is a back problem, however back pain is usually made better with rest and is worse after a days activity. So, if you suffer morning stiffness and pain you might be having an attack of inflammation caused from arthritis.
*You are moving a heavy piece of furniture and you get a pain so bad that you think you’ve broken your back. No, in reality it is most like a strain, spasm or sprain. This is probably the most common cause of back pain. Fortunately this kind of pain will generally disappear within two to six weeks. This pain resides in the muscles.
*A herniated disc is when one of the discs of the backbone bulge out of place, or they start losing the gel which helps lubricate between the discs. If this slipped disc happens to hit a nerve it can be very painful. Sometimes it will hit the sciatic nerve which runs down your leg. Fortunately, herniated discs tend to shrink on their own so the pain is not usually permanent but may last for up to three months.
*There are joints in your back which allow for the bending and twisting movements, these joints can be affected by arthritis, causing pain and swelling, which is often felt in the neck and lower back.
*A bone spur is a growth on the vertebrae that can be caused by arthritis, a herniated disc or just from the regular consequence of aging. For some people this doesn’t cause any problems, but others may develop chronic back pain
Some people swear on acupuncture, others rave about Chiropractors but what matters is what works for you. I always like to try natural remedies before heading off to the doctor, but when it is time to pick a professional here are a few choices:
*physical therapists: this structured form of exercise may be all you need, as these trained professional provide excellent treatments.
*Massage Therapists: This is a very soothing form of medicine which can often relieve minor back pain. The massage can ease the feelings of stress which help you to relax, and when you are relaxed you suffer less pain.
*Chiropractors: A Doctor trained in spinal manipulation can often be the best thing you can do for your back.
*Pain specialists: Physiatrists offer non-surgical approaches to rehabilitation and pain relief. This is often the first measure attempted. These trained professional use medications and injections when they are needed.
*Surgeons: Neurosurgeons and Orthopedic surgeons both treat the spine, and these are highly qualified and skilled professionals.
Often your primary physician can assist you in choosing the professional which would be of the most benefit to you according to your individual need. It seems as if people are turning to pain centers sooner rather than later, and the pain professionals have devised strategies which help acute pain sufferers not escalate to chronic pain. Some of these strategies are:
*Limit your use of narcotics like Percocet, Vicodin, OxyContin, and others. These do not help heal your back, and they can be very addictive.
*Don’t be too embarrassed to visit a therapist for depression, because depression tends to make pain worse.
*Set realistic goals, and set out to accomplish them; determining a minimum amount of (your kind of) exercise and spend time breathing therapeutically such as Yoga, as an example. Reaching our goals can be very invigorating both mentally and physically.
*When choosing a doctor go to your states website and type in gov and then look for links to physician licensing to assure yourself that the doctor you choose has his current license.
Back pain is a distressing problem for many people, and the staggering numbers prove it. Many people have over-come back pain which proves that even excruciating, life-limiting pain can be overcome. You may try a number of approaches before you find the strategy that works best for you.
If you have a healthy back, and are experiencing no pain be grateful and thankful, but take steps now to protect your back for your future. Exercise, maintaining good posture and strengthening your abdominal muscles are a few things which can keep your back healthy. Remember when it comes to issues of the back, except for short periods of about 48 hours, movement will make you feel better, not worse…so get up and go!