Contributed by Dr Razmi Rahmat, Orthopaedic Surgeon. About 80% of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives. Fortunately, most of these cases will get better. But because back pain is a common ailment, there are plenty of different, sometimes even contradictory, hearsay that many people believe about it. Here’s the truth about back pain—the myths and the facts.
Myth 1: I need surgery for my back pain.
Most people will experience back pain at least once in their lives, to varying severity and for different reasons. But only a small percentage will require surgery. Furthermore, surgery may not be successful for everyone, especially if they undergo surgery after a prolonged period of back pain. For these people, their brain would have already been imprinted with the pain signal, and would require a long time to reset. That’s why surgery at an early stage can be less complex. The bottom line is that it varies for everyone, depending on their individual condition.
Myth 2: There’s something abnormal in my MRI back scan. It needs to be fixed.
Abnormalities shown in your MRI scan may not be the cause of your back pain. In fact, many people who experience zero back pain have abnormalities in their MRI scan, including herniated disc (slipped disc) or degenerative disc. Your MRI back scan may show problems, but what really matters is the real cause of your back pain. The two are not always the same.
Myth 3: Back surgery is dangerous.
With any surgery, there are complications. But the good news is, with today’s sophisticated equipment and highly accurate imaging systems such as the MRI and CT scan, doctors are able to conduct extensive surgical planning. That means a safer surgery, speedy recovery, and less pain.
Myth 4: All slipped discs require surgery
The truth is, only 10% of patients with slipped disc require surgery. Most slipped disc patients will see improvements within six weeks. Many specialists also agree that non-surgical treatment should be tried first.
Myth 5: I will be disabled if I undergo a back surgery
Most back surgeries do not involve the spinal cord, so paralysis—what most patients fear—is very unlikely. Most people return to their original work after back surgeries and only heavy lifting and impact activities are prohibited.
Myth 6: My smoking habit and weight does not affect back surgery
Wrong. Factors like obesity, smoking, and litigations due to injuries among others, have a big impact on the success or failure of spinal surgery for back pain.
Myth 7: There is a standard cure for most cases of back and neck pain
Just like how every individual is different, every case of back pain is just as unique. Diagnosing and treating back problems is not a step-by-step, standardized approach. There could be multiple treatment options available for your back pain, depending on your spine specialist, and the cause.
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