Avoiding Back Surgery – 4 Potential Alternatives

March 13, 2012 by  

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Sensing the locations for inserting the needles, Charlotte Stuart preparing to treat a patient with acupuncture moxibustion in Nelson, New ZealandIf you have recently developed back pain, and have the fear of facing back surgery, you are not alone. Or perhaps you have been suffering in silence for a while now, because you don’t want anyone talking you into having major surgery with a long recovery time.

Many people have to deal with back pain at some point in their life. Some of it can be quite debilitating for a while. Dr. Jeff Echols, a doctor of Chiropractic Medicine, says that approximately 80% of the population will experience back pain in their life.

However, not everyone needs surgery to get back to a normal routine. Actually, most people don’t. There are several options to consider when dealing with the pain. At one time, surgery was the probably a much bigger option than it is today. With the advances in technology and medicine, doctors are opting for other methods for many of their patients.

I am going to share some possible options that you can learn more about, and bring to your doctor’s attention to see if it’s an option for you and your particular condition.

1. Spinal Injections

One non-surgical treatment would be spinal injections. Of the options I’m going to share, this is probably the most invasive, if you call a little needle invasive that is. These are typically used to reduce inflammation, and are often used in addition to other therapy, to take care of the problem, rather than just the symptoms.

There are two common injections, with one being a Facet Joint Injection. This is small dose of steroids that is injected right into the joint to relieve some of the pain. It is often done to make physical therapy more tolerable for patients.

The Epidural is a bit more complicated and often performed by an anesthesiologist at the hospital. You would need some imaging done ahead of time before the procedure. You might be familiar with the term and procedure if you have ever had a baby.

2. Chiropractic Treatments

Chiropractors can use various treatments to help with back pain, including manipulation, applied pressure, massage therapy, as well as other treatments to help align the vertebrae of the spine.

According to Dr. Echols, a common back ailment is nerve compression. This can be due to several reasons such as vertebrae slipped out of place, rotated, or a disc bulging. If it suddenly gets worse with coughing or sneezing, it’s a good sign that the disk is bulging.

The pain can be fairly severe, but Dr. Echols says that he has seen many patients with this back pain, and that approximately 80-90% of chiropractic patients respond well to treatment.

A Chiropractic office might have a variety of options for patients for overall health such as massage therapy, or herbal supplies.

3. Physical Therapy

Perhaps one of the most popular options given to avoid back surgery is physical therapy. With physical therapy, there are various methods, broken down to basically two groups. The first is called passive physical therapy. They are thought of as passive because the treatment is actually done to the patient, rather than the patient doing the work.

Some of the passive therapies include:
•    Hot Packs
•    Cold Packs
•    Ultrasound
•    TENS Unit

The other group of physical therapy treatments is called active physical therapy. This is basically as it sounds, where the patient is physically active in their own treatment. This could include:
•    Various stretching exercises specifically for back pain
•    Various exercises for strengthening muscles to support the back
•    Low-impact aerobic exercising

Your doctor will most likely write a prescription for you to go to physical therapy, and the therapist will take it from there.

4. Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can be utilized in a couple different ways. The first is the standard Swedish massage that feels good, and can be rather relaxing. However, there isn’t any real therapy to it, other than relaxing. I know, after a stressful week…that sounds pretty good.

The second form of massage therapy is a medically based therapeutic massage that can actually work on the issues of back pain and help to relieve some acute and chronic pain. What it can do is increase your blood circulation, to help promote healing.

It can also increase your range of motion, by loosening up tight muscles. If I have a massage for therapeutic reasons, I have learned to expect a little bit of pain with it as well as feeling really good at the same time. I know that might sound odd, but it’s what works for me, because I know they are getting the ‘knots’ out.

Finally, a good massage can increase your endorphin levels, which work to help block pain signals. It has become a great source of relief for patients suffering with chronic pain.

In Closing

These are just a few options for you to discuss with your doctor. For me, I will avoid surgery at all cost, so I have actually applied a couple of these in my own life to help with some back pain that I have experienced. Is it reasonable to think that every case of surgery can be avoided? Not really. But, many can, and a good doctor will help you find the alternative path.


Melissa Cameron is a freelance writer who is writing a series on back pain, with the assistance of a group of Phoenix Chiropractors. She lives with her husband and children in Texas.


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One Response to “Avoiding Back Surgery – 4 Potential Alternatives”
  1. Cheryl says:

    Good thing I don’t have any serious back problems yet. A good back massage always works for me.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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