What You REALLY Need to Know
If you’re dealing with severe, chronic back pain, and medications have failed to give you relief, you may have been advised to consider spinal fusion surgery.
But there are important facts you must know before you go under the knife …
What is Spinal Fusion Surgery?
During spinal fusion surgery, which is typically a three- to four-hour procedure, two or more bones in your spine (the vertebrae) will be essentially “welded” together so they form a single bone that can no longer move.
“Spinal fusion eliminates motion between vertebrae. It also prevents the stretching of nerves and surrounding ligaments and muscles. It is an option when motion is the source of pain, such as movement that occurs in a part of the spine that is arthritic. The theory is if the painful vertebrae do not move, they should not hurt,” the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons writes.[i]
This invasive surgery is often recommended to treat:
- Chronic low back pain
- Degenerative disk disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Spinal weakness
- Spine deformities
- Broken vertebrae
During the procedure, a bone graft will be placed between vertebrae or over the back part of your spine to fuse the bones together permanently. Rods, screws, plates or cages may also be used to keep your spine from moving until the bone grafts have fully healed, a process that can take several months.
As you might suspect, when you fuse together vertebrae in your spine, it impacts the flexibility of your spine and may, in some cases, actually increase spine degeneration. According to the Mayo Clinic:[ii]
“Because spinal fusion surgery immobilizes parts of your spine, it changes the way your spine can move. This places additional stress and strain on the vertebrae above and below the fused portion, and may increase the rate at which those areas of your spine degenerate.”
No More Effective Than Rehab and Serious Proven Risks …
Rates of spinal fusion surgery have increased 137 percent from 1998 to 2008, when there were more than 413,000 such procedures performed.[iii] This notable increase is alarming when you consider spinal fusion surgery is often unsuccessful and even debilitating. Writing in the journal Spine, researchers noted:[iv]
“Patients should be informed that the likelihood of reoperation following a lumbar spine operation is substantial.”
Further, far from improving patients’ quality of life, spinal fusion surgery is associated with a significant increase in disability, opiate painkiller use, and prolonged inability to work.[v] One study also found that it was no more effective than intensive rehabilitation in reducing disability among people with chronic low back pain.[vi] The latter option, however, would be far preferable because it carries none of the considerable risks associated with spinal fusion surgery, which include:
- Persistent pain at graft site
- Recurring symptoms
- Pseudarthrosis, a condition where there is not enough bone formation and a second surgery may be required
- Nerve damage, which may lead to pain, loss of sensation, weakness or bowel and bladder problems
- Blood clots
- Damage and stress to the vertebrae above and below the fusion, increasing your risk of additional future back problems
- Potentially deadly cardiac events (there are nearly 7 cardiac complications per 1,000 lumbar spine surgeries[vii])
“Too much fusion surgery is done in this country and often for inappropriate reasons,” said spine surgeon Dr. Charles Rosen.[viii]
When you consider that one spinal fusion procedure can cost up to $90,000, it’s fairly clear what these inappropriate reasons may be … As reported by NBC News:[ix]
“Allegations of kickbacks to spine surgeons for using products and questionable financial arrangements to doctors as consultants have plagued the multibillion-dollar industry. One company, Medtronic Inc., reached a $40 million settlement with the U.S. Justice Department in a whistleblower case that included allegations the company paid doctors to use its spine surgery products.”
Steroid Injections May be Even Worse …
Each year, an estimated 5 million to 9 million people receive epidural steroid injections for back pain, a procedure that is often regarded as preferable to surgery. But though it may be less invasive, it, too, carries steep risks and questionable effectiveness.
During this procedure, a mixture of steroid and numbing medications are injected into your lower back. Epidural steroid injections provide only short-term relief, which generally wears off in six to eight weeks, and is estimated to be effective in only 50% of patients. This may be why, despite a documented 629 percent increase in Medicare expenditures for epidural steroid injections, no correlating improvement in patient outcomes or disability rates have been found.[x]
Serious risks are common, however, and include bone fractures, inflammation of the membrane surrounding your spinal cord, adrenal insufficiency, spinal headache, meningitis, seizures, nerve damage, paraplegia and more.
The Congress of Neurological Surgeons and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons have even issued a recommendation against the use of steroids immediately following an acute spinal cord injury, citing evidence that suggests “high-dose steroids are associated with harmful side effects including death.”[xi] This begs the question … if they’re not even recommended for serious spinal cord injuries, why on earth would steroid injections be advised for simple back pain?
Rehab for Back Pain is Good … But This is Even Better
An intensive rehabilitation program is a far preferable and much safer approach to spinal fusion surgery, or steroid injections, for back pain. However, an even BETTER option is to address your pain’s underlying causes using the Lose the Back Pain System.
Physical dysfunctions develop over time — the result of poor posture, repetitive stresses, sitting too much, and so on – and are the direct result of imbalances between various muscle groups, i.e. “muscle imbalances.” Your body is then forced to work each day with this dysfunction and eventually this creates a condition, like a herniated disc or a pinched nerve, for example.
Then the condition causes lumbar pain, and maybe associated pain in your upper back, buttocks, legs, shoulders and neck, and as you know, pain is your body’s way of alerting you to a problem that needs to be fixed …Â and the solution starts at the foundational level with your original muscle imbalances.
With the Lose the Back Pain System, you’ll first identify the causes of your dysfunctions and muscle imbalances, then implement proven strategies to help reduce and manage your pain so you can focus on correcting the dysfunction(s) that are causing it. You will work on treating the causes and also implementing additional treatments and strategies that are specific to the condition you may have been diagnosed with.
Remember, the position and curvature of your spine is determined by the amount of balance in numerous muscle groups including your thighs, hips and torso. When muscle imbalances pull your spine and body out of alignment, the level of stress on certain muscles, bones and joints increases.
Even the smallest muscle imbalance can over time pull you out of balance and place tremendous amounts of uneven pressure and wear and tear on your body… especially the vertebrae, discs, spine and its supporting muscles.
The Lose the Back Pain System is a powerful 3-part program consisting of DVD’s … audio CD’s … and an easy-to-read reference manual:
- The 2 educational DVD’s walk you through a series of self-assessments designed to help you pinpoint which physical dysfunctions and muscle imbalances you have. You’ll receive your very own notebook to help you keep track of your findings — and keep track of your progress.
- Once you’ve identified your physical dysfunctions, you’ll discover a customized series of corrective exercises, stretches and self-treatments that are unique to your condition.
- Each of the 3 audio CD’s contains the latest, clinically proven recommendations, techniques, and treatments that have been clinically proven to help you STOP pain BEFORE it starts!
- The Lose the Back Pain System also contains an in-depth reference manual that many of our patients refer to as their own personal “back pain” Bible. All of your personal corrective exercises, stretches, and pain-reduction strategies are included in ONE extensive manual for easy access – whenever you need them! Plus, you get diagrams, photos and charts that illustrate every step of each technique so you don’t forget how to perform each exercise properly.
Please, before you even consider spinal fusion surgery or steroid injections, give the Lose the Back Pain system a try.
Written By: Updated: June 5,2013