Back Surgery Alternatives
Surgeons Recommend Other Options

A great variety of back surgery alternatives are available to those suffering from back pain.

While there are problems such as a severely ruptured intervertebral disc which require surgery, many orthopedic surgeons are recommending that their patients consider more conservative approaches for less serious issues.

Methods such as Trigger Point Massage Therapy and other approaches such as my Home Lower Back Pain Remedy series are providing viable options and doctors are beginning to take notice.

Often extremely simple strategies, like very gentle and targeted lower back stretches, can relieve pressure and pain.

The reason for increased caution regarding spinal surgeries is due to the fact that many are simply not necessary. Some estimates suggest that as many as half of all spine surgeries may be unnecessary.

Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

Also known as FBSS, Failed Back Surgery Syndrome is a term often used to describe the condition of patients who do not experience relief of pain as a result of back surgery.

FBSS is not really a syndrome at all but a post-surgical state many patients experience that occurs frequently enough to have acquired a name with an acronym.

The two primary functions of back surgery are to...

1. decompress a pinched nerve root or

2. to stabilize a painful spinal joint

If one’s back pain is not being caused by one of these problems, then surgery will not be the answer. The most common cause of Failed Back Surgery Syndrome, by far, is that a problem within the spine was not the cause of pain to begin with.

Muscular Strain and Spasm Cannot Be Healed by Back Surgery

Back surgery alternatives are being sought and embraced by surgeons because the great majority of back pain is not caused by spinal problems requiring surgery but by muscular strain and spasm.

To be sure, muscular strain or spasm has the potential to produce blinding pain, but you cannot cut out this type of pain. Such pain must be addressed at its source: the musculature.

Unfortunately, X-rays and MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) cannot reveal the presence of muscular strain or spasm. This must be assessed by human eyes and touch.

The technological focus of medicine has lured doctors away from becoming expert at this type of hands-on evaluation.

X-rays and MRIs are certainly useful to determine the presence of disc disease, disc bulging, or herniation. However, even if such tests come back positive, there are back surgery alternatives that can be pursued.

It’s no longer taken for granted that as soon as a bulging disc is present that you go ahead and schedule surgery to lop it off.

It is possible to test positive for a bulging disc but for that not to be the actual cause of pain. The source of pain may be the body’s compensatory muscular effort to prevent the bulge from worsening.

When Your Doctor Has No Answers

If you’re experiencing severe and/or continuous pain, it’s essential to be evaluated by a qualified physician to ensure there are no serious issues.

However, if your X-ray and MRI come back normal, and/or your doctor is unable to provide satisfactory answers as to why you’re experiencing pain, do not assume that’s the end of the story.

There are back surgery alternatives.

When doctors have no answers, chances are very good that the problem lies with functional and structural issues leading to compensatory muscular patterns.

Physicians are not trained to evaluate the body as a whole, but to look at isolated parts. This can result in not seeing the forest for the trees.

For example, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to a shortening of the hip flexors, which in turn might lead to a torsion of one side of the pelvis.

Such a torsion may create a functional leg-length difference causing the body to lean to one side when standing or walking. A chronic leaning to one side will almost invariably cause compensation in the back muscles.

Such constant compensation can result is very significant pain.

Sophisticated postural analysis such as this is not the expertise of the typical physician. You need to seek out a qualified Neuromuscular Therapist or other manual therapist who is well-versed in this type of evaluation.

If you feel you are a candidate for surgery, continue to Types of Lower Back Surgery.

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Stephen O'Dwyer, cnmt

Neuromuscular Therapist & Pain Relief Researcher

Stephen O'Dwyer, CNMT


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