Approximately half a million low back surgeries are done each year in the United States of America. Some may wonder why the number is so high especially when you consider that low back surgeries have such poor long term outcomes.
The article Alarming Escalation of Fusion Surgery written in 2016 by Dr. Ron Feise, D.C. states that between 1993 and 2008, spinal fusion surgeries increased by 773.8%. To put this into perspective, that’s only a 15 year time frame.
My patients who have had failed back surgery (or surgeries) often ask me why their doctors didn’t tell them about my treatments instead of operating. An average low back surgery costs around $100,000.00 when you take into account MRI imaging, therapy, anesthesia, the surgery itself, transportation and pharmaceuticals often required during the process and after.
They also ask me why their surgeon wouldn’t tell them about my treatments after my protocols have helped them and they are completely perplexed and disgusted at what they have been through (often for years or decades) before finding me and finally getting relief.
Back Surgery is Big Money
For years, I’ve shared my thoughts and beliefs about why surgery is done so often: The plain facts are that back surgery is big business. Millions, no billions are spent each year for back surgery.
I have a patient, Buddy, who has had multiple spinal fusions in his neck and his low back. When I met Buddy (a couple of months ago) he explained how much pain he has been in over the last 20 years since he was in an accident and subsequently had his first cervical and lumbar spinal fusion surgeries.
Buddy shared with me all of the years of struggling with his pain and how he missed church or had to leave early. Actually, Buddy is a deacon in my church. He told me that the day that my family and I joined the church, he had to leave early because his low back was killing him.
I actually met Buddy for the first time in my office. We didn’t meet at church, we met in my clinic where he shared with me all about how miserable he had been over the last 20 years.
He tearfully shared how he became addicted to pain medicine and how his wife sat him down and told him that the pain pills had made him into a different person and that he needed to quit.
I explained to Buddy my treatment protocols and methods for helping spinal fusion patients and he decided to move forward his treatment protocol.
Side Effects of Back Surgery
One of the main side effects of spinal fusion surgery is decreased range of motion. Remember, Buddy had multiple fusions in his neck and also multiple levels in his low back. Therefore, he had very limited range of motion in his cervical spine and lumbar region and he couldn’t stand up straight either.
The main issue about spinal fusion surgeries is that the first one isn’t usually the only one. The reason that additional spinal fusion surgeries usually follow the first one is because of the torque involved.
The torque created by a surgically fused spinal segment goes into the spine above and below the fused segments breaking them down more quickly. It’s like having a long handled wrench that wears down the adjacent disc spaces over time.
How Long does a Spinal Fusion Last?
In my experience, after someone has the first spinal fusion surgery, it’s very common to have a second spinal fusion about 3-5 years later. This is because of the increased wear and tear on the remaining disc spaces.
Buddy was a complex case. He was in tremendous pain and couldn’t move very well at all. The truth is that most of my patients are complex cases and that is why people travel from great distances to see me.
Everyone in my clinic was so excited after Buddy’s first 2 treatments because he immediately had improved cervical range of motion. He was able to turn his head left and right much better and also had more extension and flexion.
After a couple of weeks of treatments, he told me that he was able to look up at our pastor during his sermon. He described how he previously had to keep his head straight forward and couldn’t look up at the pulpit before he began care. He was so happy.
It was a wonderful feeling when several members of my church came up to me and thanked me for taking care of Buddy. They said that they could see a big change in him and that he was much happier and getting around better.
Two weeks ago, Buddy came in for his treatments at the clinic and didn’t have his cane. He told me that he went to church without his cane and that people at our church asked him where it was. He said, “I left it with Dr. Currie”.
At the beginning of last week, Buddy came in for his treatment and I saw that he didn’t have his cane. He told me (with a big smile) that he has lost it but that he doesn’t want to find it. I told him how happy I was for him.
A couple of days later, Buddy smiled as he stood up with a big smile and said, “Look how straight I’m standing.” Buddy has been a joy to treat and watch as he has been progressing very quickly.
As a doctor, that’s all you really want for any of your patients. You want to see them thrive and have a love for living again. I’m so thankful that Buddy is getting not only better but a lot better. He’s a genuinely good person that deserves to have a good quality of life.
He has a good family and they all deserve to get to see a happy husband, father, and grandfather. He is a valued member in the church and now he can be a blessing to others in the way that he would want to be.
Before coming to see me, Buddy was a prime example of a condition called “Failed Back Surgery Syndrome”. He also had Failed Neck Surgery Syndrome. He had the double whammy. He was so miserable and now he is happy and living his life again.
Forget what the average low back or neck surgery costs monetarily. Most of the time, insurance picks up the majority of the tab. Usually, people have a 10% or 20% copay and they are willing to pay it under the guise that the surgery will help.
What is the cost for many people in additional lost quality of life. So many people come to me and explain the major downturn their life took following surgeries similar to Buddy’s.
One thing I discuss with my patients over and over again is that once you have surgery, you can’t go back. Things have been changed permanently. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get help but the natural healing process of any cut is to form scar tissue.
There is always going to be some scar tissue. Always. Sometimes, the scar tissue can cause big problems and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s there in every case of surgery. On an MRI report, scar tissue is termed “encapsulation granulation tissue”.
I called Buddy today to ask his permission to write this article. He told me that I most certainly had his permission because people need to know how much relief he has had over the last 3 weeks.
He told me that he went to the V.A. hospital in Searcy, Arkansas today. He said that he was looking around and saw all of the people be “gimpy” and that he wanted to stand up and tell them that they needed to go see Dr. Keith Currie.
That was a huge compliment and something that I really appreciate. There is no greater compliment that one of my patients can pay me than to refer a family member, a friend or someone else who needs my care.
My best advice to any person or patient is to avoid surgery at all costs. If someone is having paralysis or loss of bowel or bladder function, surgery may be indicated but otherwise, seek out every possible natural alternative.
Health is Happiness,
Dr. Keith Currie