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How to Avoid Back Surgery

The number of patients taking the step to receive spinal fusion surgery has increased by a staggering amount over the past few decades.  According to the Washington Post, between 1994 and 2011, the number of these surgeries jumped from 56,000 to 465,000 respectively. That is an 8 times increase in the rate of back surgery in 7 years!  In Europe and other countries, back surgery rates are more than 4 times lower than those rates in the U.S.

So why is there such a big difference?  The Washington Post surveyed 125,000 patient charts in 2013 and found most of those people were choosing to have surgery before trying more conservative measures like physical therapy.  Physical therapy is far less costly than spinal fusion surgeries, which can typically cost more than $80,000.  In contrast, the average cost to get physical therapy treatments for four weeks runs about $1,100.

What can you do to help reduce your back pain?

Most back pain is mechanical back pain.  This describes the abnormal movement, or lack of movement in certain parts of the spine.  It can happen because of poor posture, lifting injuries, accidents, and wear and tear on the joints in the spine.  The vast majority of people suffering from mechanical low back pain can have significant improvement, and in most cases, complete relief.  Here are some tips to get rid of your back pain:

  • Improve your spinal joint mobility.
  • Improve your spinal, pelvic and leg strength (core muscle groups).
  • Improve your spinal muscle coordination.
  • Improve your balance and proprioception (your body’s ability to know where it is in space).
  • Improve your health (no smoking, proper nutrition, manage your weight and hydration).
Why pain pills can make back pain worse:

Many people take over the counter medication, such as Advil or Tylenol to get through their day with back pain. Millions of people nationwide take stronger prescription pain medicine, which has strong side effects. However, what most people do not understand is that pain pills only mask the pain; they don’t fix the underlying mechanical problem. It’s like turning the radio up in your car to drown out the squeaking noise from a bad car part that needs fixing.

With pain medication many people actually have worsening pain over time, because their mechanical problem gets worse. In fact, it is very common to increase injury to the spine, because you do not feel the pain. Pain is your body’s natural way of telling you to stop stressing the area.

How to relieve your back pain:
  • See a physical therapist, preferably one that does hands-on therapy and has a spine program.
  • Work with your doctor and physical therapist to restore your normal spinal motion, strength, coordination and balance.
  • Follow the recommendations after your pain is better to maintain a healthy spine.
  • Improve your workstations and home ergonomics to protect your spine, moving properly to do everyday tasks.  Physical Therapists teach you how to do this.
  • Finally, with the right physical therapy, you can eliminate or reduce your dependency on medication.

While in some cases, surgery is absolutely needed, the vast majority of people just need Physical Therapy to get rid of their low back pain and start an active, healthy lifestyle.  At Loudoun Sports Therapy Center, we have a team of highly-trained experts who can address your back pain.  They can design a customized treatment plan that will help you get back to the activities and movements you need to perform everyday.  Call LSTC today at 703-450-4300 and take the first step to start LIVING LIFE PAIN FREE!