Discectomy Pain

Discectomypain.comCoping with Pain Before and After Back Surgery

Degenerative Disc Disease

The stiff, aching and often burning sensation in my lower spine started in my late twenties and ten years later, when I had my first MRI, it was clear that Degenerative Disc Disease was one of the root causes of my lower back pain.

It’s said that as many as 80% of healthy adults experience some sort of back pain between the ages of 30 and 50, however Degenerative Disc, the loss of fluid in the discs between each vertebrae are padding for the spinal column, and without them every step can send shockwaves through the spine, making healthy living a real challenge. Age, poor posture, and injury can weaken discs between vertebrae, causing tearing along the disc walls.

To treat DDD, many medical specialists first recommend conservative, non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy or chiropractic treatment in an effort to stretch the space between discs and relieve the pressure on surrounding nerves.  Manual manipulations on a decompression table can lift and separate discs to ease the strain on the lower back and some doctors may also recommend non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the burning sensation that often builds up when there’s no separation between vertebrae caused by collapsed discs.

Surgical options to reduce the pain of DDD include:

Discectomy:  the surgical removal of herniated disc material that presses on a nerve root or the spinal cord. The procedure involves removing the central portion of an intervertebral disc, the nucleus pulposus, which causes pain by stressing the spinal cord or radiating nerves.

Laminectomy: surgery that creates space by removing the lamina — the back part of the vertebra that covers your spinal canal. Also known as decompression surgery, laminectomy enlarges your spinal canal to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.

Spinal fusion: a neurosurgical or orthopedic surgical technique that joins two or more vertebrae. This procedure can be performed at any level in the spine (cervical, thoracic, or lumbar) and prevents any movement between the fused vertebrae.

Lumbar Total Disc ReplacementWith artificial disc replacement, pain relief is brought about by removal of the painful disc and motion is maintained with the use of a prosthetic implant made of metal (with or without a plastic bearing surface). This is more similar in theory to the artificial hip, knee, and shoulder joints that orthopedic surgeons have been using for more that 35 years to maintain motion and relieve the pain of arthritic extremity joints. However, there is a significant difference in that only one of the three joints that are present at each vertebral level is being replaced, whereas a hip or knee joint the total joint is replaced.

In recent months, restorative types of treatment have emerged to repair damaged vertebrae discs.

Mesoblast Cell TherapyAll therapies for progressive, severe and debilitating pain due to degenerating intervertebral discs treat the symptoms of the disease, but are not disease-modifying and thus do not address the underlying cause of the disease.  This type of treatment involves a single intra-discal injection of 6 million MPCs resulted in meaningful improvements in both pain and function that were durable for at least 36 month.  For more information regarding this new therapy, please check out this link.

Platelet-Rich Plasma TherapyA clinical study of 49 patients who underwent intradiscal platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections for low back pain found significant improvements in pain and function through two years of follow-up. Dr. Gregory Lutz, Founder and Medical Director of the Regenerative SportsCare Institute, and Physiatrist-in-Chief Emeritus, Hospital for Special Surgery, presented the two-year results at the Interventional Orthopedics Foundation’s Annual Conference in Broomfield, Colorado last month.

It’s also worth mentioning that a recent publication in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that ‘patients with degenerative spondylolisthesis and spinal stenosis treated surgically showed substantially greater improvement in pain and function during a period of 2 years than patients treated nonsurgically’.

For simple, home-use products, Dr. Dan Perez outlines a few options and the advantages / disadvantages of each:

 

Here’s a video describing What Degenerative Disc Disease Is, Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Easy@Home Handheld TENS Unit

If you’ve bounced around between as many physiotherapy clinics as I have, it’s possible that you’re going there just for the the whacky gear.  You know, like the slightly modified gym equipment, the rack of tiny weights, the wide selection of bouncy balls, ropes, pulleys and elastic bands.  Oh, and of course, the gentle, soothing  pulse of the TENS unit.
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Spinal Decompression Therapy (IDD)

As spine treatment centres pop up in my city, I’ve noticed that many of these facilities (usually run by chiropractors), offer Spinal Decompression Therapy to relieve pressure on herniated or degenerative discs.

The basic premise of SDT involves laying on some sort of traction table, hooked up to a computer with electronic pulses stimulating certain muscle groups.  By taking pressure off the disks, which function like gel cushions between the bones in your spine, the bulging or herniated disks can retract, taking pressure off nerves. With less pressure,  the spine can move more freely increasing the movement of water, oxygen, and nutrient-rich fluids which promotes healing.

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Yoga and Backpain

Wellness and mindfulness are definitely buzzwords these days that tap into an eastern philosophy of establishing awareness on the present moment.  After cycling through surgeries, medicines and traditional forms of Western therapies, I’ve begun exploring yoga, meditation and natural remedies and so far, these alternative approaches to healing have had a positive impact on how I manage chronic pain.

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5 Must See Ted Talks On Back Pain

Ted talks are at the top of the list when it comes to expert advice on Science and Technology delivered in a way that everyone can understand.  Here’s my Top 5 talks from medical and engineering research leaders who discuss the root causes of back pain and how to alleviate (or at least cope with) a sore, achy or damaged spine.

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Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting On the Road to Recovery

After six years of research and over 600 interviews, author Cathryn Jakobson Ramin has released what I would describe as the laymen’s comprehensive guide to navigating the murky waters of back pain remedies.   As a human guinea pig, Ramin explores dozens of treatments from acupuncture, chiropractors, osteopathy, to finding the perfect office chair, all in an effort to relieve pain from herniated discs and degenerative disc disease.

Ramin’s exhaustive investigative research uncovers some of the dubious motives at the centre of traditional healthcare modalities, and provides statistical data that backs up her claim which strongly suggests that those with back pain need to think twice before signing up for multiple sessions of chiropractic / physiotherapy treatment, epidural steroid injections or far more invasive procedures such as spinal fusions.  Though some of these treatments may help, her advice is to start with the far more obvious routines such as exercise, constant movement, and innovative often un-reported practices such as Rolfing, Feldenkrais and the Alexander Technique.  Oh, and my personal hidden gem in preventive spine-aching office furniture…something called the Locus Workstation.

Ramin says that “People in pain are poor decision-makers” and her book helps us understand the real limitations of the medical systems approach to back problems and that most overlook the obvious solutions such as diet and exercise. She points to Stuart McGill’s encouraging results on the “Big Three” exercises that many back pain sufferers can do daily to increase their chances of rehabilitation.

Buy it Here on Amazon:  Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting On the Road to Recovery

 

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