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You are probably reading this page right now because you have back or neck pain. Or perhaps your husband, wife, child, mom, or dad has back pain and you are trying to sort out what to do about it. If you are a back or neck pain sufferer yourself, you are probably afraid of what the future may hold for you. Are you going to be paralyzed? Are you going to end up in a wheelchair? Is there something seriously wrong with your back that may require surgery? Will you ever be able to play your favorite sport or enjoy your favorite activity again? Or will you even be able to go back to work and make a living?
Back and neck pain can cause these and other fears and doubts to race through your mind. Pain can stop you from doing anything physical, for fear you will hurt yourself even more. So, you do less and less. This lack of activity in turn causes muscles and tendons in your back to become weaker and less flexible, so they are susceptible to strain from simple things like bending over to pick up your child or adjust the TV set. The less you do, the more simpleactivities hurt, a vicious cycle that can drag you into a disability spiral.
The unknowns are particularly difficult to cope with when suffering from back or neck pain. Therefore, here are some "knowns" that you may find immediately comforting.
The "80 Percent" Rule for Back and Neck Pain
1. Eighty percent of Americans will have back or neck pain at some time in their lives.
2. Eighty percent of back and neck pain is muscle related.
3. Eighty percent of back and neck pain will go away on its own over time with a little help from Mother Nature.
There are a lot of people hurting, so you are not alone. For most of us, the pain is temporary, is not permanently damaging to the spine, and will go away on its own.
But how do you get from where you are now back to activity? And what if you are not among that lucky 80 percent? What if you are one of that terribly unfortunate 20 percent whose back or neck pain is more serious than just muscle strain? What if you are among that 20 percent of people whose back or neck pain has not gone away on its own?
This book is for both groups: the 80 percent and the 20 percent. It will help you learn what may be causing your back or neck pain and what to do about it. You will learn about a wide variety of potential cures and treatments for your back pain, many of which you may never have heard of before. Some may sound unusual. Some are cures people in other countries use successfully to recover from back pain. We have tried to provide an overview of many types of nonsurgical cures for back and neck pain-with comment but without too much judgment. Our premise is that virtually any nonsurgical treatment that will not make you worse may be worth a try before you resort to surgery.
The small number of people with back pain who may actually need back or neck surgery will also benefit from this book because they will learn how to select a surgeon and how to make sure they are getting the right type of surgery. They will also learn the right rehabilitation procedures to follow after surgery.
Pain Relief, then Prevention
Our hope is that this book will be a godsend for those people who have had back or neck pain for sometime, have struggled to find a long-lasting solution, are relying on medication, or are considering surgery as a permanent solution.
Our first goal is to help you get past your current pain symptoms. Our second goal is to help you to prevent your next back pain attack.
Let's assume we can provide a nonsurgical alternative treatment for you that relieves your pain. To prevent that back problem from returning tomorrow, you must change the musculature in your spine. You must make your back stronger, more flexible, and more injury resistant.
In this book you will learn specific exercises that can strengthen your back or neck and make it more flexible and injury resistant. Knowing the right way to lift, push, or pull can also eliminate the common motions that cause a back strain. Just as you alter your diet to improve your cholesterol level, you can take action to lower your risk of back pain in the future. We will show you how.
Through this book, you will learn that surgery isn't the cure to explore first, as some doctors may lead you to believe. Surgery is the cure to explore last. We'll tell you why and reveal the kinds of surgical complications that most people don't learn about until it's too late and they have reached a point of no return.
Can My Back Pain Go Away with Exercise?
About 90 percent of back pain sufferers get better within a couple of months. Unfortunately, studies estimate that, at any given time, about 8 percent of Americans suffer from chronic pain, of which a large part is back pain. The bad news is that for those people whose back pain does not go away over the first six months, it may persist off and on for years. Liberty Mutual has noted in research about disability that the longer a person is off work because of back pain, the lower the chance of them ever returning to work. Only 50 percent of those unable to work for six months from a back injury return to work. After two years of disability, the odds of someone returning to work are virtually nil.
Worse still, once a person falls into the chronic pain abyss, they sometimes fall victim to other health problems. Some researchers observe that 75 percent of chronic pain sufferers complain about multiple health problems.
Who Is at High Risk for a Back Attack?
Is there any way to tell if you are a back attack waiting to happen? If you are middle-aged and work, you have a bull's eye on your back. That's because back pain is a middle-aged, working person's problem. It cuts across all demographic and occupational groups, from college professors to nurses to garbage collectors. The age when most of us are at risk for back pain is between thirty-five and fifty-five-prime working age. Men and women are at equal risk for lower back pain, and in women there is some indication that there is increased prevalence of lower back pain after menopause.
While men and women suffer from back pain equally, research done in the United States by Prizm Development, Inc., shows that 60 percent of people who seek help for back pain are female. Women don't have more back pain than men; they are just more likely to go to the doctor for their problem, while men may put off going to the doctor out of fear.
Researchers note that physical condition is not a predictor of risk for lower back pain, but they also note that if a person is physically fit they are likely to recover more quickly after a pain episode.
What You Will Learn from this Book
In this book, you will learn that even before you have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or other diagnostic test, you can know your odds of having a herniated disc.
You will learn that if you live in the southern United States, your likelihood of having back surgery is significantly higher than if you live in California.
You will learn the best treatment for various back and neck problems, even though this may be different from the treatment you are currently receiving from your doctor.
You will learn that, compared with the United States, other countries use surgery half as frequently to treat back or neck pain.
You will learn alternative methods of back care that will get you active again without surgery. These include mainstream treatments that are widely accepted by the best spine centers in the world. Also covered are nontraditional methods that may help you relieve back and neck pain-all without surgery.
You will learn how to evaluate and treat your back pain with home remedies and a customized exercise program that you can do in your home, in the gym, at work, or on the golf course.
You will learn what symptoms indicate the need for professional help and how to search for a spine physician who will give you the care you need to treat your back without surgery. And if you do need surgery, you will learn how to find the kind of surgeon who can increase your chances of a successful surgical outcome. You will even learn how to check your surgeon's credentials in advance on the Internet.
Finally, the most important thing you will learn from this book is that there is really only one person you can trust with your welfare-you. When it comes to back or neck pain, and especially back or neck surgery, you must quickly become an educated health-care consumer. You cannot abdicate responsibility for your health to someone else. You must play an active role in your care and in your recovery.
Your selection of a back or neck doctor will have a tremendous impact on the rest of your life. For this reason, it is critical to find a doctor who is open to all possible nonsurgical treatment alternatives available for back or neck pain.
If you don't become an educated consumer when seeking back and neck pain treatment, as with any other professional service, you may be taken advantage of. Some spine physicians estimate that half the back and neck surgeries that are performed in the United States may be unnecessary. And making the wrong decision about back treatment is not like making a bad decision on a new car purchase-you can't exchange your back if you make the wrong choice. You could be stuck with a bad back for life. It is truly amazing how people will immerse themselves in researching the purchase of a new car, VCR, or big-screen television, yet they will trust their spine care to anyone in a white coat.
Back and neck pain, like chest pain, is a signal from your body to your brain that something is wrong. We all know that chest pain is not something you ignore. Chest pain could mean a heart attack, and that could be fatal. While a "back attack" won't be fatal to your life, it could be fatal to your lifestyle. Instead of leading a full and active life, you may become couch-bound.
The Authors' Perspectives
Together, the authors have played key roles in developing the nation's largest spine center of excellence-the Texas Back Institute. In 1995, ten thousand spine patients traveled to the Texas Back Institute. One in five had previously had unsuccessful spine surgery. Many patients, in fact, had multiple spine surgeries elsewhere. For example, one patient had twenty-four back surgeries before coming to the Texas Back Institute.
Texas Back Institute physicians have seen tragedies up close. In some cases, patients should never have had a first surgery, let alone a second.
Unlike other books on back pain, which are often written by an expert with an inherent treatment bias, this book has a balanced and healthy perspective on back and neck pain.
The first perspective is that of a spine surgeon who has performed several thousand spine surgeries during a career at the Texas Back Institute and has helped tens of thousands of others find relief without surgery. Interestingly, as a long-term back pain sufferer himself, Dr. Hochschuler has never given in to surgery. Every back attack has been defended against with a dedication to nonsurgical cures and the belief that over time, with perseverance, the symptoms will go away. Perhaps you too can find nonsurgical relief with the medical information Dr. Hochschuler provides in this book.
The second perspective we offer is that of a consumer advocate. Bob Reznik holds a master's degree in business administration with a specialization in the area of health-care management and quality systems. Mr. Reznik, as president of Prizm Development, Inc., helps quality-minded physician groups improve the way they take care of patients. Prizm believes strongly that to get the best quality from the health-care system, the consumer must be educated and well informed. Prizm, in the course of its business, has had extensive meetings with more than one hundred HMO medical directors and employee benefit managers at large companies across the United States. You will learn how these large insurance and health-care purchasers and providers, who are shopping for quality, look at the field of spine care. Significantly, most managed care organizations and large companies are increasingly demanding a nonsurgical approach to back and neck pain.
Third, this book has been intentionally balanced with the input of specialists in pain management, physical medicine, and physical therapy, from the East coast to the West coast, who have contributed their insights to various chapters that relate to their area of expertise.
Not surprisingly, all involved believe that finding high quality in health care starts with the consumer. You must search for the right doctor and then play an active role in your treatment and recovery. You must ask questions at every turn.
Through this book, you will learn the questions to ask.
Through this book, we hope to help you understand what may be causing your back or neck pain and how to find relief without surgery.
Let's say you have just had an MRI scan, and now you are waiting for the results. Let me be the first to break the bad news to you. Hang onto your hat. It's fairly safe to say that you have a herniated disc, or at least a bulging disc, in your spine. How do we know that, not having seen you? Let's just say we have inside information.
In fact, if you are over sixty, we'll bet you hands down that you have an "abnormal MRI." We can make that bet with the calculated assurance of a Las Vegas MBA who resets the odds on the slot machines in the casino lobby every Sunday before the vacationers leave for the airport.
In a study published in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, researchers performed MRI scans on sixty-seven healthy people who had never had back pain. The scans were then interpreted independently by three different neuroradiologists, the best possible specialists to read MRI scans. None of the three radiologists had any knowledge of the absence or presence of back pain symptoms in the scanned patients.
The results? One-third of all the healthy people were diagnosed with a spine abnormality such as a herniated disc. Of those under age sixty, 20 percent had a herniated disc. Of those over sixty, 57 percent had a spine abnormality, 36 percent had a herniated disc, and 21 percent had stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal. Even in the youngest group of healthy patients, those twenty to thirty-nine, 35 percent had a degenerating or bulging disc. And of those over sixty, all but one had a degenerating or bulging disc.
The researchers found that before a surgeon comes to the conclusion that a person's back pain is caused by a disc abnormality that shows up on a MRI scan, they should consider that, as we get older, more and more of us look abnormal on film. Just as a camera catches all of our outside imperfections, it's fair to guess that nobody looks perfect on the inside either. All of which underscores the need to consider a nonsurgical approach before giving up and opting for surgery.
Remember, a lot of healthy people have herniated discs. Even if you have back pain and a herniated disc, that does not necessarily mean that you need surgery.
For over twenty years, CT (computerized tomography) and MRI scans have provided physicians with the technology to look inside our bodies, and, as one would expect, it's not always a pretty picture. When a patient complains of back or neck pain and an MRI scan reveals a herniated disc in that area, it is logical to associate one with the other.
From 1979 to 1990, the period that CT and MRI became commonplace in most cities, the rate of back surgery increased 55 percent, rising from 1.02 back surgeries per thousand people to 1.58 per thousand. The greatest increase was for spinal stenosis surgery, which more than quadrupled.
Some physicians will give back or neck pain sufferers drugs to mask the pain and a sheet of paper with home exercises to follow as their physical therapy program. Guess how many people fail with this nonsurgical treatment program. With such a half-hearted effort at nonsurgical resolution, it's not surprising that a lot of people never get better and are eventually moved along by the surgeon into the operating room.
Excerpted from Treat Your Back Without Surgery by Stephen Hochschuler Bob Reznik Copyright © 2002 by Prizm Development, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted June 9, 2013
No text was provided for this review.