Jan 2013

Want to Avoid Surgery? Visit your Chiropractor first!

Unless you are abnormal, you will experience back pain in your lifetime. Most back pain has a self limiting component, meaning it will resolve without any intervention. But what if it does not? Who should you see to help assist you in the alleviation of your pain?

Most individuals will see their primary care physician, an orthopedic surgeon or a chiropractic physician when they experience back pain. Obviously the type of care will differ greatly depending upon whom you see. In a recent article from the journal Spine that was electronically published ahead of print, the authors confirmed that if you want to avoid surgery, you should see your PCP or chiropractor.

This particular study evaluated over 1800 patients with work related back pain. The authors wanted to know if the patients had a greater chance of surgery dependent upon which provider they saw first. They hypothesized that those who saw a surgeon first had a greater chance of surgery. The results of the study confirmed the authors thoughts. Out of those who saw a surgeon first, 43% of those patients had surgery within 3 years. Of those who saw a chiropractor, there was only 1.5% of those had surgery within 3 years.

There may be several reasons for these results, perhaps the surgeon saw more severe back pain that was due to a herniated disc or some other pathology. Even if the surgeon did, unless the patient has severe signs of neurological compromise (muscle weakness, loss of bowel/bladder control), there was no reason to perform surgery unless the patient had failed 12 weeks of conservative therapy. But the doctor of chiropractic likely had these results because we deal with mechanics. If there is a herniated disc, we can alter the amount the disc is bulged or herniated with specific exercises. In a case study from the journal Manual Therapy, an MRI done before and after therapy revealed the reduction of a disc herniation one month of therapy using patient specific exercises (McKenzie Therapy).

The cost of caring for back pain has dramatically increased over the past decade, part of that reason is the increase in surgeries that are occurring. Based on this study, and what I see in practice everyday, I would take the odds of going to a well trained chiropractic physician before a surgeon any day, especially if it meant decreasing the odds of low back surgery.