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Back Pain: Conservative Care vs. Surgical Care

Back Pain: Conservative Care vs. Surgical Care

October is National Chiropractic Health Month, hosted each year by the American Chiropractic Association to promote the advantages of seeking out chiropractic care first. Before choosing a medical procedure to manage back pain, patients should exhaust all non-invasive approaches, including chiropractic care. Though they may not work for every individual patient’s needs, research has shown that is worthwhile to attempt safer procedures first. Learning about all available options will help you to make an informed decision about what method will best improve your back pain.

Conservative Care Options

The back is a sensitive and delicate part of the body that should be treated very carefully. When you are experiencing back pain, it can be tempting to look for a quick fix solution. Being patient, however, will make your treatment experience less expensive and decrease your risk of possible dangerous side effects. The majority of cases of back pain resolve after several weeks. While you are experiencing pain in this time period, there are several conservative options available to make the healing process more comfortable. These include:

  • Medication: Depending on the medication prescribed, it can reduce inflammation around the pain site. This makes it easier to perform certain exercises to strengthen your back and rehabilitate. It can be difficult to begin the recovery process if the pain is debilitating.
  • Spinal Manipulation: Chiropractors perform spinal manipulation to realign vertebrae that are causing pain. The chiropractor thrusts his or her arm on the vertebrae, relieving joint pressure. Usually, this process is painless. If a patient is experiencing pain, they might need to seek other treatment options.
  • Injections: In contrast to ingested medications, injections work directly at the site of the pain. Generally, injections for back pain are steroidal, and can decrease or eliminate pain for varying amounts of time. This treatment option, like medication, is helpful when patients have difficulty with mobility because of the pain they are experiencing.
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapists can help patients with back pain by demonstrating exercises that strengthen the muscles around the spine, providing support. Stretching and performing exercises also promote flexibility, which can prevent further injury.
  • Lifestyle Adjustments: One of the most essential aspects of conservative care is that it empowers patients to direct their own treatment plans. Being active and eating a healthy diet is one of the ways that patients experiencing back pain can make changes themselves, without needing the help of any medical intervention. Having an active lifestyle will make you both less inclined to experience injury in addition to expediting your recovery time.
  • Spinal Decompression Treatments: With treatments taking place over six to eight weeks, patients with herniated discs and other back conditions can experience pain relief. The treatments gently separate vertebrae from each other, creating a vacuum inside the discs.

Spinal Surgery Options

If no conservative methods improve how you feel, the next step might be talking to your doctor about what surgical methods are available to you. Though this is a much more difficult process than the previous methods mention, sometimes patients are left with no other choices. Learning the most you can about all the different surgical options available, as well as discussing them with your doctor in as much detail as possible, will help you to make the most informed decision about improving the health of your spine. Surgical options vary depending on your condition and set of symptoms, and also range in efficacy. Some of the options for open surgery include:

  • Posterior Pedicle Screw Fusion: Pedicle screws help the spine become more stable. During the surgery, bone is grafted and once it grows, the rods and screws are removed.
  • Posterior Cervical Spine Fusion: This surgical procedure fuses vertebrae in specific segments to stop motion and promote stability. During the procedure, surgeons remove the damaged disc material and insert a bone graft creating the fusion.
  • Anterior Cervical Spine Fusion: For those experiencing herniated or degenerative discs that have not gotten relief from minimally invasive procedures, this surgery is performed through an incision in the front of the neck, with two of the vertebrae being fused together to promote stability.

These procedures are all considered open surgery, meaning that the incision must be large enough for the areas to be accessed, and that during the procedure the structures are exposed to the air. Though helpful for some patients, a more conservative approach to the surgical procedures would be getting a procedure that is minimally invasive. These are available for spine surgery and include:

  • Endoscopic Spine Fusion: Uses a small camera during the procedure to see the affected area. This procedure creates a smaller incision.
  • Percutaneous Disc Nucleoplasty: This procedure does not require an incision at all, and is done using a needle. The needle is inserted into the herniated disc, which then conducts radiowaves to dissolve the damaged part of the disc.

Though conservative care is always considered the safest means of managing back pain, in some cases it is not enough. After patients have exhausted every other means possible and are still experiencing painful symptoms, the next step needs to be taken. Minimally invasive procedures are ideal if surgery is required, as the smaller incisions are safer, have less risk of complications, and enable you to recover faster. Each patient is individual and his or her treatment plan should be tailored to the presenting symptoms. If you are interested in learning more about all the different options we offer for patients with back pain at Montvale Health Sport & Spine, call us at 201-391-8282.


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