AARP: Think twice before going under the knife

I recently read an article in the recent issue of AARP The Magazine, 4 Surgeries to Avoid: Reasons to think twice before going under the knife, that talked about 4 surgeries that should be avoided. Personally, I think they were being kind by only listing 4, however one of them in particular caught my attention. Complex spinal fusions for Stenosis, where surgeons take a piece of bone and used it to fuse two other spinal bones together.

The most common reasons for spinal fusions are back pain, herniated discs and spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal due to degenerative changes in the spinal bones). Sadly, study after study has shown that surgery for back pain usually has poor long-term results.

Yet for some reason more surgeries are being done every year to address this very problem. Insurance companies willingly shell out tens of thousands of dollars for each procedure. Back pain sufferers think it’s a great deal because they only have to make a co-payment and the rest is covered. They must expect that the surgery will fix whatever the problem is instantly and they will never again be plagued by back pain of any type.

In fact, according to the AARP article:

Previous studies have also found that most fusion patients experience no more relief from their chronic back pain than those who had physical and behavioral therapy. “There is even some evidence that [complex fusion surgery] is worse than other surgeries,” says Floyd J. Fowler Jr., Ph.D., senior scientific advisor for the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making (FIMDM). “The vertebrae right above and below the fusion have to do a lot more bending, and it puts stress on your back above and below.”

I also have to question the motives of the doctors doing the procedures. After increasing evidence of failed back surgeries, I wonder if they just are hoping to make their money and run!

My advice is, even if you can get a back surgery at the bargain price of a $50 co-pay, don’t do it. There are multiple options to surgery and the studies all point to a better prognosis than if someone takes a knife to your back.

At The Back Care Center of Dumont, NJ, I use state-of-the-art non-surgical decompression for herniated and degenerated discs. I also use a combination of chiropractic adjustments, soft tissue work on the muscle, tendons and ligaments, and rehabilitative exercises. Our results are spectacular and have none of the risks associated with spinal surgery.

If I leave you with only one thought, I’d like it to be this: surgery is a permanent and life-altering process that you can’t undo. Consider trying non-surgical spinal decompression therapy and chiropractic care first. If it doesn’t work for you, there will be plenty of time to let somebody cut into your back and fuse your bones together later.