Today, surgery is a widely accepted part of medical science. The techniques that are used are often very successful. It therefore seems logical that surgery on the spine should be no different. In terms of its clinical outcome, however, spinal surgery usually fails. The patient is frequently (if not invariably) worse off after the operation.
Even the surgeons admit that a high chance of failure exists so much so that Failed Back Surgery Syndrome is a recognised, and serious, condition amongst their patients (characterized by intractable pain and varying degrees of functional incapacitation).
Please take this advice seriously.Once you have had surgery, there’s literally no going back; the effects are 100%, completely irreversible.
Amongst other things, the high rate of failure can be attributed to the fact that surgeons focus their attention on the spine, when the cause of the problem is often not local. For example, if a patient has short-leg syndrome (where one of their legs is shorter than the other, typically by more than 5mm), it is quite common for them to experience back pain. Obesity is also an extremely common cause of back pain, but neither of these two conditions is solved by operating on the spine.
Indeed, most operations on the spine either aggravate the condition, or generate new ones. A fusion, for example, increases the stress on the spine because the normal range of vertebral motion is destroyed (the stress at the point of fusion is sometimes removed, but the overall load is increased, simply transferred to surrounding areas).
Surgery is also incredibly invasive. It is quite common for the surrounding muscles, ligaments and nerves to be damaged during an operation. By its very nature, surgery tends to limit the blood supply to these structures (ischaemia), and this heightens the risk of injury.
If the spinal nerves are damaged the effects are potentially very serious. For example, damage to the S1 nerve root can result in paralysis of the foot, a condition known as ‘foot drop’. On the other hand, damage to the nerve roots from S2-S4 may affect the bladder, bowel, or sexual organs. In all cases of nerve root damage there will be sensory or motor symptoms.
In addition to this, it is very common for the spine to become damaged in the months following on from surgery. The anatomical structures of the back are invariably traumatised by surgery to the spine; in addition to this, ischaemia can often be a permanent outcome of surgery, and bleeding and infection are also possible. All of these factors contribute to the formation of abnormal scar tissue, or adhesions, that literally stick two parts of the body together. This might not sound too bad, but adhesions are a major cause of post-operative pain, stiffness and crippling disability and they are often permanent.