As your Grand Rapids Chiropractor I feel that it is my obligation to pass along the results of a recent study regarding failed back surgeries: Did you know that complicated spine surgeries that involve fusing two or more vertebrae are actually on the rise? You may find it surprising, or even shocking, to discover that experts estimate that nearly 600,000 Americans opt for back operations each year, and according to a study published in Spine several months ago, in just 15 years, there has been an eight-fold jump in vertebrae fusion operations. That statistic has most chiropractors, many public health experts, and even some surgeons concerned. In fact, Dr. Charles Burton, medical director for The Center for Restorative Spine Surgery in St. Paul, MN, said that spine surgery and fusion has gotten way beyond what is reasonable or necessary, and that there are some areas of the country where the rate of spine surgery is three or four times the national average. What’s worse, according to the study, in many cases surgery can even backfire, leaving patients in more pain!

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine reviewed records from 1,450 patients in the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation database who had diagnoses of disc degeneration, disc herniation or radiculopathy, a nerve condition that causes tingling and weakness of the limbs. Half of the patients had surgery to fuse two or more vertebrae in hopes of curing low back pain. The other half had no surgery, even though they had comparable diagnoses. After two years, just 26 percent of those who had surgery returned to work. That’s compared to 67 percent of patients who didn’t have surgery. In what might be the most troubling study finding, researchers determined that there was a 41 percent increase in the use of painkillers, specifically opiates, in those who had surgery.

Researchers reviewed records from 1,450 patients in the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation database who had diagnoses of disc degeneration, disc herniation or radiculopathy, a nerve condition that causes tingling and weakness of the limbs. Half of the patients had surgery to fuse two or more vertebrae in hopes of curing low back pain. The other half had no surgery, even though they had comparable diagnoses.

After two years, just 26 percent of those who had surgery returned to work. That’s compared to 67 percent of patients who didn’t have surgery. In what might be the most troubling study finding, researchers determined that there was a 41 percent increase in the use of painkillers, specifically opiates, in those who had surgery. The study’s lead author, Dr. Trang Nguyen, said that the study provides clear evidence that for many patients, fusion surgeries designed to alleviate pain from degenerating discs don’t work.

I have said it before (many times before), but it bears repeating: Before choosing surgery to get rid of your back pain, call your chiropractor for conservative chiropractic treatment first. Your chiropractor is a spine expert who is committed to helping back pain sufferers get out of pain through natural, non-invasive procedures. Call today. You have nothing to lose but your back pain!