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The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Studies Say Back Surgery Not Needed


Many back pain patients who come to me say the same thing; that they have gone for several opinions and were told each time that surgery was the only answer. However back pain, even chronic pain, sciatica and disc pain, are simple to stop with quick and non-surgical methods.

News articles are now reporting that back surgery is not more effective than non-surgical methods.

Patients are often told that if they don't have the surgery, they might become paralyzed. A recent New York Times article stated, "Many surgeons had long feared that waiting would cause severe harm, but those fears were proved unfounded." The Times article quoted Dr. Steven R. Garfin, chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery at the University of California, San Diego, "I think this will have an impact. It says you don't have to rush in for surgery."

More important to your health is what is not being reported. The Times article said, "No one who waited had serious consequences, and no one who had surgery had a disastrous result." It is important to know what is meant by, "no one who had surgery had a disastrous result." It is not considered "a disastrous result" if you go through the pain and fear of surgery and still have back pain, or are worse after surgery. It is not considered "a disastrous result" if you lose your job because of the time lost to surgery and recovery, and your family won't talk to you because they think you're a complainer. It is not considered a "disastrous result" if the medicines given during and after surgery cause problems you didn't have before, or worsen existing problems, and then you are given more medicines to counteract the first ones, each with their small (or large) health drawbacks. It is not considered a "disastrous result" if you get far more out of shape and gain large amounts of weight because you could do less after your surgery, and your overall health declines from it.

There is no national database where people who have the same or worse pain after surgery are counted. There is no clearinghouse where people who get new problems because of the surgery are counted or helped. Often, there is no way for surgeons to know that their patients still have pain years later.

Patients may be referred to physical therapy but as their pain, disability, and misery grow, they "are lost to follow-up." I hear these things every day because these patients show up in my office and e-mail me everyday saying they have no money left and will I please help them. They are at the end of what they can endure.

Exercise programs for back pain often fail because they do not stop the cause of pain. Personal trainers and Pilates instructors come to me all the time as patients with herniated discs because they do unhealthy bending and stretches for their exercise. There are far better exercises and stretches you can do instead. Some of my patients are doctors. Their own doctors said there is nothing else to do but live with pain. People often tell me, "You don't understand, I *HAD* to have the surgery, because of the pain." I do understand, and you can stop the pain without surgery, often better and faster.

  1. My posts The Cause of Disc and Back Pain and Sitting Badly Isn't Magically Healthy by Calling It a Hamstring Stretch show you how easy it is to avoid and fix pain from bad discs and sciatica, and give better exercises to do instead.
  2. Understand how to stop the root causes of pain in the posts Breasts Causing Upper Back Pain is a Myth and Disc Pain - Not a Mystery, Easy to Fix.
  3. Learn why it is not a matter of just strengthening abdominal muscles and realize what abs really do to help your back in What Abdominal Muscles Don't Do - The Missing Link and Change Common Exercises to Get Better Ab Exercise and Stop Back Pain.
  4. Read real stories of exactly how my patients fixed pain without surgery.
  5. Fix your back pain by Christmas - read Fix Your Own Pain Without Drugs or Surgery


Use The Fitness Fixer every day to change your idea of exercise from a bunch of artificial moves, to real health that is built-in to your daily life. You don't have to have back pain, and you can be stronger and healthier than before - without surgery.

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Photo by akeg.

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About the Author


M.Ed, PhD, FAWM

Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.

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