Do you have a chronic pain issue related to your spine? Maybe you have a stiff achy back or shooting pain and numbness in one or both legs. Perhaps your back pain and associated symptoms are so involved that it’s a struggle to get through a day at work, sleep through the night, or take care of yourself or your loved ones.
When your symptoms are so intense, it may start to feel like back surgery is your only option. But before you consult with a surgeon, we encourage you to talk to your doctor about physical therapy first. Or, simply call Blue Ridge Physical Therapy today to find out how a physical therapist can help you get meaningful relief and avoid going under the knife. Because the truth is, there are some important things you to think about before considering surgery.
5 Things to Consider Before Undergoing Back Surgery
1. Many people feel no better (or even worse) after back surgery.
This may be surprising to hear, but research shows only about half of first time back surgeries are considered “successful.” Additional surgeries fare even worse, with only 30, 15, and 5 percent of second-, third-, and fourth-time back surgeries yielding a good outcome.
The sad reality is that many people end up having no relief from their symptoms after their surgery. In some cases, they may even feel worse or notice new issues that they didn’t have before. This can lead to long-term disability, increased healthcare utilization and cost, and understandable frustration and depression.
2. Back surgery requires a lot of downtime.
The techniques, approaches, and tools used for back surgeries today have advanced considerably. But even minimally invasive back surgeries can require a significant amount of downtime and recovery. For you, this may mean missing out on important life events, lost wages, or reduced productivity.
Physical therapy requires no downtime. Your physical therapist can meet you where you’re at and provide treatment right away that can help you start feeling and functioning better soon, without the risk of serious adverse effects that come with any type of surgical procedure (including bleeding and infections).
3. Back surgery may not always address the underlying cause of your symptoms.
Let’s say a doctor tells you you need surgery to correct a herniated disc. A surgical procedure like a discectomy and fusion may correct the herniated disc, but it won’t help you figure out why your disc herniated in the first place.
Was your posture, body mechanics, core muscle strength, and coordination involved? Are tight hip flexors pulling on your pelvis and increasing stress and pressure in your lower spine? Is there something else in your lifestyle contributing to impaired disc health, such as a sedentary lifestyle, low nutritional status, or smoking?
These are all questions a physical therapist can help you explore and answer. That way, you’ll be able to address the underlying causes of your pain while also relieving the pain itself.
Keep in mind, sometimes there IS no clear cause of your back pain. For example, did you know that many people are walking around with disc herniations or disc bulges yet experience no symptoms? Meanwhile, some people may have “perfect” spines on radiographic imaging but struggle with disabling chronic pain. For these people, surgery often fails to provide any relief.
However, even “idiopathic” cases of back pain (where the underlying cause is not clear) are shown to improve with physical therapy.
4. Physical therapy is actually considered a first-line treatment for most types of chronic pain.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes physical therapy and other non-invasive, non-drug treatments as the preferred option for treating and improving most types of chronic pain. Not only is physical therapy cost-effective, but it’s also safe for people with a wide range of health backgrounds, many of whom may not be appropriate surgical candidates due to increased risk of complications.
5. Physical therapy works!
Decades of research show that physical therapy is effective in improving back pain. In many cases, working with a physical therapist can provide you with as much relief as pain medications (but without the unpleasant side effects). Our physical therapy treatments can reduce your symptoms, improve your tissue health and healing, and prevent recurring problems. We get you feeling better so you can resume exercise and get more active, which we know is one of the best ways to alleviate chronic back and joint pain.
Whether you need to learn how to improve your body mechanics and posture, improve strength, endurance, and coordination of your core muscles, gain flexibility in your shoulders or hips, or need some soft tissue massage and other joint mobilization techniques, a physical therapist has the skills required to support you on your path to a pain-free life.
Are You Looking for a Non-Surgical Solution to Your Back Pain?
Contact Blue Ridge Physical Therapy today to schedule an appointment and start seeing how a physical therapist can help you feel better and stay out of the operating room.