Why You Should Avoid Back Surgery

Every year thousands of people undergo surgery on their neck and lower back.  Many of these could and should have been avoided. Surgery on his spine is very aggressive, has a long recuperative time, various complications, and most importantly in many instances does not result in long-term improvement of the condition. I will discuss some of the more common operations on the spine.  These include discectomies, laminectomies, and fusion operations.  Discectomies are for intravertebral disc abnormalities and involve removing part of the disc that provides normal cushioning of the spine. Laminectomies involve removing bone that surrounds the spinal cord.  Fusion operations involve removing part or entirely the intravertebral disc, and replacing it with bone and usually screws.

The problem is that most of these operations are over utilized, unnecessary, and have not been proven to result in long-term benefit over more conservative therapies.  A discectomy is truly indicated if there is such nerve impingement resulting in numbness or weakness in an extremity.  A laminectomy is necessary for spinal stenosis only when there is such spinal cord compression, resulting in severe pain and weakness. A fusion operation may be wanted when severe disc collapse is such that it results in similar disability.  However, many of these surgeries are being performed simply to alleviate pain, and many times they don’t work.  And worse, these surgeries leave the spine in a weakened state and alter the normal functioning, which can lead to future problems down the road.  I have seen many patients improve temporarily, but overtime have recurrences that, due to the surgery, are very difficult to treat.

There are better, more conservative, and less risky alternatives to surgery. Aggressive physical therapy and traction, combined with injection therapy, can improve intravertebral disc abnormalities.  Pain from spinal stenosis can be treated with medications, and a more conservative MILD (minimally invasive lumbar decompression) procedure.  Pain due to disk collapse can be treated with medications and spinal cord stimulation.  There are both conventional and regenerative treatments available. More information can be found this website and my regenerative site www.regenpainnj.com.

Dr. Todd Koppel

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