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The ultimate guide to
Back pain is a thief that steals your quality of life and makes everyday tasks harder. But, you don't have to suffer. There’s hope for getting back to feeling normal with customized treatment.
The first step is to identify what is wrong. Our ultimate guide to back pain relief will help you recognize your problem, understand what your pain means, where it comes from and what treatments are available. Whether you’re in the first stage of research or you’ve already decided to have back surgery, this guide includes answers to common back pain questions and examples of real patient success stories.
Back pain is your body’s way of telling you to slow down and notice that something is wrong. In most cases, back pain is due to a sprain or strain.
It is important that you pay attention to back pain. When left untreated, back injuries tend to compound, causing other injuries. Sprains lead to strains. Strains lead to sprains.
Constant aching pain
Limited range of motion
Numbness in your legs or feet
Shooting pain down your leg
Increased pain due to lack of movement
Bowel and/or bladder changes
Has back pain caused you to miss work? You’re not alone. The number of people suffering with back pain is on the rise. In fact, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cite low back pain as the second leading cause of disability in the United States, and the latest numbers indicate that an estimated 31 million Americans are experiencing low-back pain at any time, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
Recovery starts when you seek help and figure out what’s wrong. Meet with a back doctor to start a personalized treatment plan to help you get back to living pain free.
In some cases, non-surgical strategies can help reduce back pain, including: several non-surgical strategies that can help reduce back pain symptoms.
Read article: Should you talk to an orthopedic doctor about back surgery?
Looking for ways to alleviate some of your back pain symptoms without surgery? Consider making these lifestyle changes to improve your overall health:
Use this pre- and post-operation checklist for successful back surgery recovery
Reducing most back pain symptoms doesn’t require surgery. You can use nonsurgical means and experience successful results. Sometimes, identifying and stopping any activity that is causing your back pain for a few weeks is enough to alleviate minor back pain problems.
Download this flowchart
Physicians who specialize in non-operative spine care use medication, physical therapy and interventional procedures to help reduce pain and get back to your normal routine.
“Non-operative spine physicians work very closely with the spine surgeons in the same clinic,” explains OrthoIndy spine surgeon, Dr. Kevin O’Neill. “It is not uncommon for them to walk down the hall with an X-ray, knock on the door and have an immediate discussion about treatment options.”
If back surgery is necessary, pain management spine physicians can assist with back pain treatment options during the interim.
Read article: Surgical and nonsurgical options for back pain
Surgical emergencies for back pain are extremely rare, but they can occur. If you experience a medical emergency such as loss of bowel and/or bladder control or if you develop progressive weakness or numbness in your legs, please make an appointment to see a spine specialist right away.
The spine team consists of spine surgeons and non-operative spine physicians.
Meet the doctors
In most cases, surgery is considered only when you’ve gone through all the non-operative treatment options and you haven’t had significant or lasting improvement. Deciding on surgery often has to do with pain levels, the amount of disability, the length of time you’ve been in pain and what treatments you’ve already tried.
Elective back surgery is always your choice. But, some back pain problems will only get better with surgery. Your back doctor will work with you to make sure you make an informed and educated decision.
“If we can look a patient in the eye and say that this surgery is the only way to lead a pain-free life, then that is the conversation we want to have,” shares OrthoIndy spine surgeon, Dr. Greg Poulter. “We want to replace fear and lack of understanding with a clear communication about treatment goals and a plan for getting better.”
Spine surgery is recommended to treat the following conditions:
Pros and cons of back surgery
Planning back surgery starts with understanding your goals. Talk with your back surgeon about what your idea of success looks like and describe your ideal post-surgery outcome. Make sure your back doctor understands your expectations for recovery and beyond.
With all of this personal information, your spine surgeon will be able to give you a realistic idea of how likely surgery will reach your recovery goals. “We are advocates for our patients,” says Dr. Poulter. “Recommendations are based on our research, training and experience, and we take the time to explain what you can expect.”
For most patients, the primary goal of back surgery is to reduce pain, increase mobility and improve quality of life. However, living pain free is just the beginning. It’s amazing how something like back pain can make the every day so much more difficult. Many find that after successful back surgery, they sleep better and their mood improves, too.
Read article: What level of success should I expect after back surgery?
In most cases, the benefits of having surgery far outweigh the potential complications or risks. As serious as back surgery seems, most people who undergo back surgery experience no complications. Modern techniques and technological advances have improved the safety of back surgery. Your back doctor will work with you to reduce the possibility of any complications
Recovery begins before you head into the recovery room. Recovery is about making sure your body and your environment is prepared to help you heal.
“When it comes to aiding recovery, I can’t overstate the importance of a good diet, exercise and not smoking,” says Dr. O’Neill. “When a patient is unfit, surgery can amplify problems and slow recovery.”
Proper nutrition can make recovery easier. Eating health-promoting foods with the right nutrients enhances your immune system which speeds up the healing process. When you eat foods rich in antioxidants and protein, your body’s muscles mend more quickly and you’re more likely to avoid problems with infection. During recovery, one of the best things you can do to prevent inflammation is to avoid eating sugary foods and instead choose complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, that are rich in fiber.
Becoming active before and after surgery provides advantages during your healing process. During recovery, your spine physician will have you move in very specific ways to strengthen your core muscles. You’ll even get specific instructions for turning in bed to avoid damage.
Finally, consider using your back surgery as a reason to stop smoking. Smokers have an increased risk of complications during and after surgery. Experts recommend trying to quit smoking four to six weeks before your surgery. And, don’t stop there. According to the American College of Surgeons, if you can resist lighting up a cigarette after your surgery, then you’ll lessen your potential for wound complications by 50 percent too.
Read article: 9 ways to speed up back surgery recovery time
After surgery, you’ll be up and walking within the first 24 hours. During your hospital stay, you’ll see a physical therapist each day. He will teach you how to sit up, roll over in bed and get out, walk, stand and use a walker. Your physical therapist will also be one of the decision makers who helps assess when you’re ready to go home. .
You may notice some swelling. This will diminish over the next two days. Your back doctor will have you use an intermittent pneumatic compression device or have you wear compression leggings, called TED hose. Both of these help prevent blood clots while you are immobile
You know you have to have surgery, but the cost of medical expenses can be worrisome. The following tools are helpful when comparing the cost of surgery and quality of care between hospitals.
First, it’s important to check with your insurance provider to ensure OrthoIndy is in your network. OrthoIndy and OrthoIndy Hospital participates in most major insurance networks. Many insurance companies have pricing tools that take into account your benefit plan. Visit your insurance provider’s website to see if this is available to calculate surgery costs.
Does OrthoIndy take my insurance?
Another resource to review surgery pricing is the mycareinsight.org website. The Indiana Hospital Association (IHA) developed the website using data that is reported to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Indiana State Department of Health. The data reported on this website includes measures of care provided in the hospital, including patient satisfaction, readmissions, infections, deaths, birthing outcomes, hospital charges and more.
According to the mycareinsight.org, spine surgery at OrthoIndy Hospital costs less than the state average for inpatient spine procedures. Nationally, OrthoIndy Hospital performs better than average for patient experience and has low hospital acquired injections and readmission rates.
Visit mycareinsight to compare hospital pricing for spine surgery.
Justin Ochoa is an active father, husband and personal trainer in Indianapolis. When back pain began to hinder his job and overall quality of life, he knew it was time to seek help.
After landing on her neck during a gymnastics routine, Madison had neck surgery at OrthoIndy and returned to gymnastics less than six months later.
Sue Arnold has worked with the OrthoIndy doctors through back surgery and multiple injuries to get back to a normal life.