If you have pain from a back spasm or neck injury, you may be starting your search for a spine specialist. But where do you start?
Before you start your first back treatment safari, it’s important to understand all the trap doors that lie in front of you.
Back and neck pain is an expensive, disabling problem for everyone involved.
About 500,000 spine surgeries are performed each year in the United States. Some experts believe that as many as 50 percent of these may be unnecessary. There seems to be an excess of spine surgeries over nonsurgical treatment options particularly in the U.S.
Part of the problem is that as Americans, we are conditioned to look for a quick fix particularly one that involves as little effort as possible. We want a magic pill, treatment or surgery to instantly relieve pain. Another issue is that providers that manage back pain cases often bring to the treatment process inherent biases from their disciplines that favor one type of treatment over another.
The back or neck pain sufferer may understandably resort to surgery when poorly designed, nonsurgical treatments fail. However, if a surgeon does not have extensive experience in spine, surgery can create a larger, more expensive, permanent problem — failed back surgery syndrome. These people become doomed to a life of chronic pain, medications, injections and doctor shopping. What begins as a simple case of back pain can evolve into a massive problem, even when treatment providers have the best of intentions.
This fragmented, biased treatment approach adds up to one big, frustrating problem for those who have a vested interest in successful spine care, including the employer, the managed care company, the worker’s compensation insurance carrier and, most of all, the patient.
Prizm Development has found the answer to the problem of back and neck pain. This solution involves an educated health care consumer.
By providing a wealth of information for back and neck pain sufferers, people can make more informed decisions about their health care.
The spine centers of excellence in this site have all accessed Prizm’s educational tools and clinical outcome reporting system for the purpose of improving the spine care they provide to back and neck pain sufferers. All these spine centers subscribe to the belief that non-surgical options should be exhausted first, before spine surgery. All believe that spine therapy needs to be active, rather than passive. And they share the belief that a well-informed patient is the best patient of all, because they will be likely to comply with treatment recommendations for exercise, movement, weight loss, quitting smoking and other strategies that promote overall health.
All of these spine centers produce at their expense 36-page home remedy books that feature pain-relieving exercises. All of these spine centers have paid to set up online encyclopedias on back and neck pain with exercises, information on symptoms and medical illustrations for the benefit of patient education.
We all believe that educated patients are better equipped to play an active role in their recovery from back or neck pain, as well as in the prevention of future problems.
A center of excellence approach represents the future of health care and the solution to the frustrating problem of back and neck pain.
If you’ve been told you need spine surgery, beware! Experts note that in the U.S., half of spine surgeries are unnecessary. The best spine centers of excellence have non-surgical spine doctors who can help patients recover from symptoms without surgery.
About 80% of back and neck pain symptoms can go away on their own with special exercises. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that if you are in the other 20%, you need to get informed about how to manage your care. That’s because in spine it’s very common for various spine care providers to be biased to the treatment they were trained in. While surgeons may be biased toward using surgery as a quick way of repairing a damaged disc, non-surgeons can also be excessively biased to waiting and delaying surgical intervention for six months or more. The patient then becomes frustrated with constant, disabling pain.
Is it possible to wait too long to have surgery? Perhaps. Pain that radiates into a leg or arm, can be addressed with watchful waiting, up to the point that the patient can’t endure the discomfort any longer.
Watchful waiting should NOT be used when the symptom involves numbness, tingling or weakness in a leg or arm. While the difference may seem subtle to the patient, it is extremely different. Weakness, numbness and tingling is a neurological sign that the disc herniation may be causing permanent damage to the nerve root. If the patient doesn’t address this quickly, that numbness or tingling in the foot or hand could become permanent.
Consequently — if you’ve been diagnosed with a herniated disc, and non-surgical options don’t appear to be working — it’s a good idea to consult a spine surgeon to become educated on your surgical treatment options.
Even with radiating pain, waiting beyond six months may not be good either. Some research in the spine community theorizes there may be a window of time where the disc responds best to surgery. A nerve root can act like a garden hose. A herniated disc can press on the adjacent nerve root interrupting circulation, like a car parked on top of a garden hose lying in the driveway. The theory is that if you leave the car on that hose for six months, even after you move it, there may be a permanent crimp in that hose.
Consequently, watchful waiting may be okay for radiating pain but NOT for weakness, numbness or tingling. And waiting longer than six months with radiating pain may compromise how well eventual spine surgery will be at relieving symptoms.
Click to any of the web sites of the spine centers featured on the U.S. Map of Spine Centers on the main page at www.SpineCenterNetwork.com and click to the SYMPTOMS page to find out more about what symptoms mean and when you should see a doctor.
Prizm is NOT a medical provider and has no control or responsibility over the provision of professional medical and other health care services at any center. Prizm is solely a consultancy that helps physician groups and hospitals who desire to provide educational information to patients, track outcomes and ultimately improve the quality of the services they provide. The centers featured in this web site only share common characteristics of physician specialization and training, along with patient education efforts and outcomes tracking. Patients who self diagnose themselves do so at their own risk. Consult with your family physician before making healthcare decisions.