There are often situations where a patient who has back pain will go to a physician for help. The physician then sends the patient to a specialist, who does a few tests and suggests that they undergo surgery. Whenever someone hears the word ‘surgery’, it’s sure to grab their attention. It can often be hard for patients to determine whether they should seek other options before deciding to undergo surgery.
This is a very difficult subject to tackle, so I’ll talk about a patient that I saw recently in the hope that it will give some information on the subject and shed some light on what can be done.
This particular gentleman was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which is narrowing of the spinal canal and the holes where nerves come out of. There were no significant imaging findings of anything emergent, however. This man was around 68 years old and he had suffered from low back pain on and off throughout the years. It didn’t really limit his activity or prevent him from doing things that he wanted, but it hurt enough for him to make a visit to the doctor. Imagine his surprise when he was recommended surgery.
In the past, I’ve spoken about how I’m an advocate of surgeries when indicated. However, I think that surgery should be the last option, if possible. Of course, if you have a foot drop, weakness, bowel or bladder dysfunction, or other similar circumstances, it may be best to have surgery immediately to resolve the issue.
In this gentleman’s case, he didn’t have reticular pain in his lower extremities. He just had diffuse low back pain. Many surgeons here in Tulsa will give him the following answer, which I really happen to like. They will say that you are going to know exactly when you need surgery. In other words, the physician has evaluated the condition and determined what the problem is. The patient is able to perform daily activities without much difficulty. When the day comes that these activities are no longer possible, that’s when it’s time to have the surgery.
Like I told this patient, there are many different options available before deciding that surgery is the necessary step. There is chiropractic therapy, physical therapy, exercise, self-management strategies, or steroid injections that are all available as options. At the very end of the line is surgery. There is very limited (if any) risk with many of these options, so the only downside would be the work and time that must be put into them. In this gentleman’s case, his best course of action would be to give these strategies a chance before deciding to undergo surgery.
In some instances, there isn’t the same magnitude of choices available. Surgery is the best course of action. By no means am I saying that patients should go against a surgeon’s advice. Instead, I think that we need to go on a case by case basis to figure out the severity of the problem and look into the best treatment options as indicated.
More scientific research is coming out and our culture is constantly becoming more educated. There are cases where some surgeries can result in multiple subsequent procedures in order to deal with complications and other problems that arise. It’s refreshing when patients go to a surgeon that walks them through all their available options before suggesting surgery.
If you have low back pain, don’t procrastinate about getting it checked out. Sadly, we can tend to be stubborn because our lifestyle might not make it convenient to get help. We may mistakenly think the pain will just go away. Years later, when the pain persists and becomes more frequent, we’ll finally get someone to look at it. At this point, it may already be difficult to do the activities that used to come easily. Instead of waiting until then, it’s always best to get it checked out immediately. Within a couple of visits, we can usually get patients returning to the activities they want to do with no limitations.
If you’re experiencing back pain, have it checked out by the team at Tulsa Spine and Rehab. We’ll give you an honest assessment of treatment options, and make sure you understand your condition and what can be done. Contact us today at (918) 743-3737.
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