Disclosure: This post is for informational purposes only. All opinions are based upon my own chronic low back symptoms. Please use this post as a guide to making an informed decision about your own care.
Do you struggle with chronic low back pain? Does your pain keep you from enjoying the things that you once enjoyed? I would say that I am glad that you stumbled upon my post but as a chronic low back pain suffer, I totally understand how draining it is to live with chronic pain. For those who haven’t read my story yet, I was in a car accident in 1998 and injured my back in three spots. I sought treatment a few hours after the car accident and the x-rays didn’t show any significant damage. Well needless to say, my body was never able to fully heal after this initial incident. Up until 6 years ago, the pain would come and go and I used to be able to get by on a few Motrin a day plus rest. Then about 6 years ago, I was digging up some grass in our yard so that I could put down some rock edging around the tree in our yard.
I didn’t think anything of the task but the next day I woke up in excruciating pain. From that day forward, things have never been the same for me. I went to the orthopedic doctor and was told that I had a bulging disk at L5-S1 and arthritis up and down my spine. Before I even considered having back surgery, I wanted to make sure that my problems weren’t treatable or manageable first. To think of someone operating on my spine unless there isn’t any other treatment options available first scares me to death.
Over the last year, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in addition to my chronic low back pain. Each day is a constant struggle and at the beginning of the year, I decided that it was time to take another look at my back and work with my doctors to determine the best treatment method for me. After several more treatments, my doctor is recommending major back surgery and I wanted to share with you some tips on how to determine when surgery is a smart option.
Consider Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is a great way to help strengthen your surrounding muscles and could potentially even relieve some of your pain. A good physical therapist will tailor a rehabilitative program to your specific injury and condition. The goal is to help keep you mildly active so that you can continue to do a limited amount of daily activities. Here are my favorite stretches that help keep me moving.
Invest in a Good Tens Unit
A tens unit can be purchased without a prescription and they are fairly inexpensive. You simply place the electrodes over the area that is painful and turn on the machine. The Tens unit is designed to help increase blood flow to the area and help reduce the pain signals to your brain temporarily.
Try Acupuncture First
Most people don’t want to go under the knife and are willing to try just about anything including acupuncture for chronic low back pain. Experts think that acupuncture helps release endorphins (your body’s natural pain-killing chemicals), release immune system cells in the body, releases natural opioids, or causes a change in your brain chemistry by altering the release neurotransmitters and neurohormones (helps dampen pain signals). If this doesn’t, help you might consider having surgery.
Can’t Function Normally
As you age it is totally normal to lose some of your mobility but if your mobility is severely impacted then it might be your body trying to tell you something is truly wrong. If you opt for surgery before things get too bad, you might be able to correct your issues entirely or at least improve your ability to function somewhat normally.
Your Condition is Worsening
If your back condition is constantly getting worse, it might be worth considering back surgery in Palm Beach Gardens. Your doctor has probably already explained to you that osteoporosis will continue to deteriorate over time. Work closely with your doctor to monitor your condition and make sure that you are open and honest about how much your injury affects your life. Be open to other non-invasive treatments, they may give you temporary relief and help delay surgery as long as possible. Don’t be afraid to bring up discussions about treatment options including surgery so that you can make an informed decision if your condition takes a significant turn for the worst.
The Quality of Your Life is Impacted
Quality of life is a big influencer for me personally and this was why I decided to seek out advice for a third orthopedic spine surgeon (my doctor’s life was cut short due to a tragic car accident). My life over the last 5 years has changed drastically and there are so many things that I can no longer do that I used to enjoy. Daily chores are a huge struggle for me and I don’t feel like I am giving my kids everything I have. I used to be so active and often dream of the things that I loved doing. So if your condition is greatly affecting your daily life, you should talk to your specialist to determine the best treatment for your condition.
All Other Treatment Options Have Failed
If you get a surgeon who wants to operate on you without trying other non-invasive treatment options, run away as quickly as you can unless you were in a life threatening accident that requires immediate treatment. However, if you have tried a wide variety of treatment options and none of them help improve your overall health, then you should consider surgery.
Don’t Wait if You Have Symptoms of Nerve Damage
Nerve damage could cause permanent damage which would leave you disabled so if you think that you have potential nerve damage you will want to have it checked out immediately. Make sure that you let your doctor know if you have tingling or numbness in your arms or legs. Also, go to the nearest emergency room if you lose control over your bowels or bladder. This is a sign that something is pressing on the nerves in your spinal cord and you need immediate treatment.
Just remember that you are in control of your health and that you are your own best advocate. As a chronic pain suffer, I totally get that opting for spinal surgery is a huge commitment. Use these tips to help you determine if back surgery is a smart option when dealing with chronic or recurring back pain. Over the years, I have tried a number of non-invasive treatments on my back and they have all failed including my most recent spinal block to determine if the disc in my back was pushing on my nerves. In my case, the disc wasn’t pushing on my nerves and doing a non-invasive surgery wouldn’t fix my problems. My doctors have also asked me to consider a spinal cord simulator to help block the pain signals from reaching my brain in addition to having a major back surgery. The plan is to remove my L5-S1 disc and for my doctor to build a cage to help fuse my bones together along with several screws.
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