It’s a War Out There
If you or your friends are experiencing a battle with your spinal health, you will need a strategic plan to find your way back to improved wellness and function. This story about Steve’s battle with back pain might help you understand your best options for spinal care.
Steve, now 70 years old, was born with a significant spinal curvature, and he has had episodes of back pain since he was in his mid 20’s. Has Steve ever consulted with a chiropractor for evaluation and management? No. His treatment for back pain has always come from the medical profession.
What do medical doctors typically recommend for back pain? The answer: MD’s give medication for pain management. When Steve consulted with his medical doctor the recommended treatment was anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants. Did prescription drugs help Steve? Maybe a little, but medication did not address the underlying cause of Steve’s chronic lower back pain. No one is experiencing back pain because of a Tylenol, aspirin, ibuprofen or oxycodone deficiency.
After repeated episodes of chronic back pain and sciatica (leg pain), Steve decided to consult with an orthopedic surgeon. What does a surgeon recommend for back pain? The typical answer: surgery, because that’s what surgeons do. The orthopedic doctor recommended a fusion of the 5th lumbar and sacrum, and Steve opted to accept the surgeon’s recommendations for care.
Did Steve’s spinal surgeon tell Steve that a lumbar spine fusion carries with it a 70% post-surgical incidence of sacro-iliac degeneration within a 5-year period? No. Did Steve’s surgeon tell him that the discs above the fusion will degenerate within a short period of time? No. Did the surgeon tell Steve that the spinal curvature and pelvic imbalance was still going to be there after surgery? No.
Did Steve’s surgery help? It did for a short time. However, the improvement didn’t last for long. Approximately one year after the fusion, Steve began to experience bi-lateral sacro-iliac pain along with bilateral leg pain. Steve went back to his surgeon for advice. Because the doctor knew that more surgery was unlikely to help, he recommended a referral to a pain management clinic.
What do pain management doctors typically recommend for back pain? The answer: stronger drugs and cortisone shots. Are epidural steroid injections (ESI’s) effective? According to medical literature, these shots are seldom effective on a long-term basis, and there are many potential side effects, including death, paralysis and infection. However, there is great incentive to give these shots because of the lucrative reimbursement for the procedure.
What did the pain management doctor recommend for Steve’s continuing back and leg pain? The answer: Three epidural spine injections. Did that procedure help? Yes, for a short time. But, the back and leg pains soon returned, and the recurring episodes were even more severe.
At this point Steve decided to try the only remaining option; a chiropractor. Is it possible that chiropractic care could now help?
During our initial consultation, this is what I told Steve. “I can’t cure you. These discs are not going to grow back, the spinal curvature isn’t going to go away, and the rods, screws and bone fusions are there to stay. However, there are a still a lot of things that we can do to help you reduce and manage the pain.”
We began his care with a few simple spinal adjustments, a heel lift to balance the pelvis, and some simple rehab exercises, including a walking program. Within a month the pain was reduced from a 10 (most severe) to a 1. For the first time in a year, Steve was able to function without incapacitating pain. How much do you think that pain relief was worth to Steve? The answer: priceless.
”THERE’S A WAR OUT THERE.” There is a battle when it comes to the proper treatment of back and neck pain, and too many people are making the wrong choices.
Instead of trying the most common sense approach, conservative chiropractic management, many patients are looking for the “magic bullet” to get rid of pain. Are you hoping for the magic shot…the miracle drug…or the latest laser spine surgery that will instantly cure your pain? I will advise you that any hope for a miracle cure is unlikely when it comes to the management of chronic back pain.
What is the best way to get rid of back and neck pain? The simple fact is this. If you have a pinched nerve, you have to un-pinch the nerve to get rid of the pain.
If your finger is pinched in a doorway, the only effective way to get rid of the pain is to open the door. Chiropractors specialize in “un-pinching” nerves with specific spinal adjustments and spinal balancing procedures. Does chiropractic care always work? No, but if one is experiencing back or neck pain, it’s certainly the most common sense place to start.
This is my personal advice. If you really want relief from chronic back and neck pain, I would suggest that you put an excellent chiropractor on your health team. You may not have anything to lose except the pain that you are experiencing.
In better health,
Dr. Craig W. Brue, DC