An image showing a man holding his lower back because of pain. Are you considering back surgery?

Are you considering back surgery?

At the moment, people are lying in bed dying of back pain. Is surgery their only option or can the Chiropractor help them?

What is an intervertebral disc?

The intervertebral discs lie between the vertebrae of the back and neck and act as a kind of shock absorber so that the vertebrae do not rub painfully against each other. The disc consists of a tough fibrous outer ring and a gel-like core.

The twenty-three intervertebral discs enable your spinal column to bend (a bent vertebral column is sixteen times stronger than a straight spinal column) and hold the spinal column together. The intervertebral discs also contribute to your height. In the morning, the intervertebral discs are a quarter to half the size of the night before. This is because the discs enlarge during sleep and shrink again during the day.

The cause of back pain

Today, researchers agree that a damaged or irritated intervertebral disc is the most common cause of lower back pain.

A bulging and sagging intervertebral disc

It is miraculous, but even at the age of fifteen, an intervertebral disc can show signs of wear and tear. As we grow older, the intervertebral discs lose some of the gel-like fluid and small damage can occur to the outer ring. Blockages, a twisting in the spine (which can be corrected by the chiropractor) can further accelerate this process. If the gel-like centre slightly deforms the outer ring, a bulge is created. If the bulge causes a small bulge, we call it a hernia. If the bulging disc is pressed into the spinal cord or causes extreme pressure on the nerves, we call it a disc prolapse. A prolapse of an intervertebral disc can cause so much pain that sitting, standing, walking and lifting become almost impossible. Other symptoms that may occur are: pain when urinating, defecating, sneezing and coughing, paralysis in the legs or feet and loss of muscle control.

On an X-ray the intervertebral discs cannot be seen. The best way to detect intervertebral disc problems is through an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or CT scan. These can show the complexity of the pain. There are people who have a lot of pain, but for whom the above examinations show that they do not have an intervertebral disc problem. But there are also people who have no pain, while the examination shows that they have a huge herniated disc.

Results of disc degeneration

A degenerated intervertebral disc can cause damage to the nerves of the spine and contribute to a worse condition of the back and the surrounding area. Some of the resulting problems are: inflammation of the endometrium, infections (bladder, vagina, kidneys), difficulty or inability to urinate, prostate problems, miscarriage, infertility, impotence, menstrual cramps and constipation. It is not unusual for some people with chronic back pain to also suffer from one or more of the above problems.

The medical approach

The medical approach to intervertebral disc problems often consists of a combination of painkillers, muscle relaxants and physiotherapy, which may include cold or hot packs and baths, traction, electrical stimulation and surgery.

Is back surgery effective?

Dr Mendelsohn’s observation is further highlighted by a recent study by two doctors who found that non-operative methods of treating herniated discs have a ninety-six per cent success rate. Back surgery, usually performed by an orthopaedic surgeon, is sometimes justified, mainly in the case of Caudal Regression Syndrome. The symptoms of this syndrome are paralysis or loss of strength in the buttocks and/or legs and bladder and bowel dysfunction.

Surgery can be very effective for some patients suffering from lower back pain or sciatica, but the results of such an operation vary widely. A study showed that the results of back surgery, including the reduction of pain, can be short-lived, as six months to a year after surgery there was little difference between the symptoms of the group of patients who had surgery and the group of patients who did not undergo surgery.

A neck hernia occurs much less frequently than a back (lumbar) hernia. The successes of chiropractic care for neck hernias are described in the medical literature.

What the US government discovered

In 1994, the entire medical world was startled by a public announcement from the federal government declaring Chiropractic to be the preferred and most effective method for acute low back pain in adults.

A panel of medical experts studied nearly four thousand cases over two and a half years and reported that expensive tests (such as MRI and CT scans) and therapies typically used to diagnose and treat low back pain (ice, heat, massage, di- thermal) are largely useless. Instead, the experts praise the drug-free chiropractic approach: “The therapeutic goal of manipulation involves symptomatic relief and improvement of function.”

The panel also announced that prolonged bed rest (longer than four days) can be detrimental and that muscle relaxants and surgery can be unnecessary and in some cases even harmful. A good example is the fact that surgery is considered helpful in one out of every 100 cases of lower back pain, but causes more problems in others.

Failed back operations

A hernia operation should be seen as the very last option, because surgery is a procedure with a high failure rate. Failure of back surgery is so common that the phenomenon has even been given its own medical name, namely: Failed Back Surgery Syndrome. The average failure rate for back surgery is fifty-three per cent.

The chiropractic record

A good anatomical structure between the discs, vertebrae and other structures in the spinal column is essential for healthy intervertebral discs. This is also the reason why Chiropractic has such a high success rate with people with intervertebral disc problems. The Chiropractor often saves them from the somber prospect of having to undergo surgery. A large study documented one thousand four hundred and fifty five cases of lumbar disc prolapse, which were reduced by chiropractic care.

A controlled randomized study showed that manipulation is better for people with a herniated disc than heat, exercises and posture improvement.

How to prevent back problems

Chiropractic care can help protect your spine from deterioration and your intervertebral discs from herniated discs. Can Chiropractic care also help you if you have already had surgery? Yes! The Chiropractor can help to relieve the pain and frustrations of the operation and to prevent further operations.