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I just had the chance to interview a leading spine surgeon, as well as an active business executive who benefited from state-of-the-art surgery. The executive had lost his ability to play golf, tennis, work in the yard, and even easily sleep through the night. However, minimally invasive surgery stabilized his spine and took away his pain.
I was fascinated because my bent is to avoid back surgery at all costs. For many people with back pain, it has clearly been done too many times without taking away the pain. More conservative doctors will recommend physical therapy, anti-inflammatory pills and possibly injections.
I’m learning, however, patients' willingness to undergo minimally invasive spine surgery could truly allow them to be very active once again. And a new field of regenerative medicine allow stem cells and other approaches to help a patient’s body regrow bone. That can add strength to the spine and make relief from pain more lasting.
Traditionally, orthopedic surgery has been about joints and screws, big incisions, blood loss, and long hospital stays. Certainly surgery is not to be taken lightly, and there are infection risks, to be sure. But when it comes to living with debilitating pain that erases your ability to have an active life – to play tennis or golf or go on a bike ride – there is new hope.
If you want an active life back, some new surgical approaches should be discussed. And this is an area where second opinions count.
If you or someone you care about has been laid low with pain, certainly starting with the most conservative approaches makes sense. But today, in the hands of our leading spinal surgeons, for some conditions, there are surgical approaches that make sense and have a track record of providing relief. It’s worth investigating rather than suffering or settling for giving up the activities you love.
About the author: Andrew Schorr is a medical journalist, cancer survivor and founder of Patient Power, a one-of-a-kind company dedicated to bringing in-depth information to patients with cancer and chronic illness.