Spine and low back painChronic low back pain can be a nightmare.  That persistent ache.  Those sharp pains down your leg.

You want it fixed, and you want it fixed now!

When you are in pain, surgery can seem like a very attractive option.  So…

Is surgery for chronic low back pain a good idea?

Let’s look at the research.  A study published in the Spine Journal in 2011 looked at the long term outcomes of lumbar fusion and it’s effect on chronic low back pain.  Here are some of this studies conclusions

  • Only 26% of those who had surgery returned to work within 2 years.
  • 67% of those who did NOT have surgery returned to work in 2 years.
  • 36% of surgeries resulted in significant complications.
  • 27% of those who had surgery had to be re-operated on due to symptoms and/or complications.
  • Chances of permanent disability increased 500% with surgery compared to no surgery.
  • Daily opioid use increased 41% after surgery and 76% of surgical patients continued opioid use after surgery.

The conclusion of the study.

“The lumbar fusion for the diagnosis of disc degeneration, disc herniation, and/or radiculopathy in a worker’s comp setting is associated with significant increase in disability, opioid use, prolonged work loss, and poor return to work status.”

Nguyen et al. 2011  Long-term outcomes of lumbar fusion among workers compensation subjects. A Historical Cohort Study. Spine 36 (4) pp 320-331

Another study found in the Spine Journal and authored by the head of orthopedics at Stanford University says this,

Lumbar fusion for common degenerative changes appears to offer relative benefits, if any, over intensive non-operative management…  There is no convincing evidence to support the use of dynamic stabilization devices in the management of chronic low back pain…  There is still no clearly defined clinical practice guidelines related to surgical intervention for chronic low back pain in the absence of serious structural disease such as instability, infection, or neoplasm.

Don & Carragee.  Evidence-informed management of chronic low back pain with surgery.  The Spine Journal (8) 2008 114-120

Information from these studies suggests that unless you have instability from trauma, infection, or cancer… surgery for chronic low back pain is not the answer.

The best, obvious first choice for tackling chronic low back pain is a non-invasive approach.

Chiropractic is a surgery free and safe approach to chronic low back pain that is effective, cost effective, and evidence based.