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Avoiding Back Surgery

Dear Dr. Caraotta,

My nephew just had back surgery and the doctor said that his problem came from the type of work that he was doing. I do a lot of heavy work in my job and was wondering if you could give some tips on how to avoid back surgery.


Dr. Caraotta's Response

The most common cause of back surgery is due to a herniated or "slipped" disc. This injury usually comes from performing activities of daily living in less than optimal biomechanics or posture.

From a preventative standpoint, lets quickly review some basics:

  • NEVER lift an object when twisting at the waist.
  • ALWAYS keep the objects that you are lifting close to your body.
  • MAKE SURE that you are never bending at the waist when performing a lift.
  • USE the three point stance (kneeling on one knee) when lifting.
  • DO NOT sleep on your stomach.

If a person already has a slipped disc, from a conservative rehabilitation standpoint there are several things that could be done to avoid surgery. The first priority is to decrease the inflammation or swelling in and around the disc and nerve root utilizing anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy modalities such as diathermy. As the inflammation is decreasing, it is paramount to relieve nerve pressure via various forms of chiropractic and orthopedic techniques.

As the pressure is relieved and the nerve pressure is reduced to a tolerable level, introducing range of motion and core strengthening exercises to bring stability is crucial. Certain individuals may benefit from a steroid or cortisone injection to give a massive anti-inflammatory effect.

Typically, rest, time and proper treatment will resolve most disc injuries and in our Chiropractic-Orthopedic practice, we can avoid surgery for 96 percent of patients with disc syndromes. The ONLY indication for surgery is intractable pain, loss in bladder or bowel function, or progressive leg weakness.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jacob G. Caraotta