Why Back Surgery May Be Unnecessary or Ineffective

//Why Back Surgery May Be Unnecessary or Ineffective

Why Back Surgery May Be Unnecessary or Ineffective

Every year there are over half a million back surgeries in America but some research is turning up that many of these back surgeries are unnecessary or ineffective. With such an aggressive form of treatment, you owe it to yourself to make sure that surgery is your best and only option for recovery.

Some of the most common types of back surgery are:

  • Discectomy: The partial removal of a herniated disc and the removal of the back portion of a vertebra
  • Laminectomy: The removal of the bone covering the spinal cord
  • Fusion: The connection of two or more vertebrae
  • Implantation: The installation of artificial discs

Back pain is extremely common, in fact, it is one of the top reasons for individuals on disability. Nearly 80% of Americans suffer from some amount of back pain in their life. While back pain may come and go or fade away over time, many individuals suffer from chronic recurring, pain. It’s usually these individuals who look to surgery as a means to stop their pain. Since 2001, spinal fusion procedures have increased by 70%.

Mounting Evidence Against Back Surgery

What they may not realize is that back surgery may not actually be the answer for them. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Back surgery can help relieve some causes of back pain, but it’s rarely necessary,” and that “back pain is extremely common, and surgery often fails to relieve it.”

Several studies have been conducted on spinal fusion and the effect it has on relieving the pain of its patients. These results of these studies have concluded that the surgery was no better option than alternative nonsurgical treatment options including exercise, physical therapy, and chiropractic care. The pain was reduced or completely went away for both patients of surgical and nonsurgical options.

A clinical trial conducted by the Stockholm Spine Center in Sweden, and later published in the New England Journal of Medicine, compared the results of patients with spinal stenosis, pinched nerves caused by the narrowing of the spinal canal. About half of the patients also had spondylolisthesis, or a slipped disk. The patients either underwent spinal fusion surgery (the connection of two or more vertebrae) or were assigned to undergo a less complicated, decompression surgery (which opens the spinal canal by removing of the lamina, the back part of the vertebra that covers the spinal canal).

Two to five years after the surgery, there was no significant difference between the quality of life or the ability to walk between either group. The only difference was the patients who underwent the fusion surgery had a longer stay in the hospital (7.4 days versus 4.1 days), spent a longer time on the operating table, lost more blood during surgery, and spent more on the cost of the surgery.

Another study published by Spine, data from the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation database was reviewed. The data showed that there were 1,450 patients with disk degeneration, disk herniation, and/or nerve disease. Close to 50% of these patients were treated by spinal fusion surgery while the other half did not undergo surgery. Two years after treatment, only 26% of the patients who had surgery were able to go back to work and 67% of those who did not have surgery returned to work. In addition, 41% of those who underwent spinal fusion saw an increased use in painkillers.

Before Committing to Surgery

Be sure that you have asked your doctor the following questions and do not be afraid to seek a second opinion. 30% of those who have sought a second opinion found that the second doctor disagreed with surgical treatment recommendations.

  • What kind of operation is it? What will be done during the procedure?
  • Why is the operation necessary?
  • What are my risks and benefits of having the surgery?
  • Are there other, more conservative, treatment options available?
  • What are the risks and benefits of seeking other treatment?


Typically, individuals seek their primary care doctors when in pain and from there are referred straight to a surgeon while will advise you to have surgery. And with the mounting evidence against the success or need for back surgeries, a chiropractor should be your first visit. Chiropractors are experts in musculoskeletal conditions while primary care doctors usually are not. It is the goal of chiropractic care to correct problems of the spine by correcting the misalignments in the vertebrae that are pinching the nerves in your back. An upper cervical chiropractor is a chiropractic doctor who focuses on the upper vertebrae in your spine, the atlas and the axis. Corrections made to these vertebrae will cause the rest of the spine to follow suit – and the corrections are made without any popping, cracking, or twisting. Treatment is generally pain free and has a far better success rate than surgery.

Please note: This post is intended for educational purposes and is not meant to be used in place of medical advice.


About the Author: