BPS #045: Is It Time for Back Surgery?


Hey guys, this is Robin Wakeham from the Back Pain Secrets podcast. And today guys, we are going to talk about surgery surgery on your back.


Should you have the surgery or shouldn’t you have the surgery? I get a lot of questions regarding this. With surgery on your back if you should have it or not. And I get a lot of Facebook people who are contacting me on Facebook, on Youtube, on Twitter, on Instagram. It’s crazy. Also in the office here, that’s one of the most common questions I get every day – should I have the surgery or should I be certain you’re okay.


I understand it’s a nerve wracking thing too to make a decision around. So I’ve talked about this a few times on the podcast before, but still the questions are still there. So if you heard some of the information, I’m mixing it up and going a bit deeper today.


So bear with me. To give you a more concrete example, I’m going to talk about Tom. And I met Tom who’s a patient of mine a few months back. That’s not his real name. I made the name up, to cover his identity, but Tom is an art ass okay. He’s in a band. He sings, he’s in his 50’s. He’s quite, successful. He also, paints, he’s a painter. He, is, an artsy fartsy guy. He loves the arts.


He’s all natural and he doesn’t like to take any pills and he’s not into visiting doctors nor did he want to even visit me, but he’s in pain, big pain, massive pain and back pain. It could be any condition in your back. It can be a slip disc and, it can be a herniated disc and can be many different back pain conditions. But in Tom’s case, it was a herniated disc at level l four l five. And that’s in the lower part of the back. And he was struggling with it. He had radiation down his left leg. All the way down to his, to his toes.


He had weakness in his legs. He had tingling sensation between these legs and he had big problems with the coordination. He didn’t trust himself to run because he tripped quite often also when he was walking up and down the stairs, that was also hard for him. So he was struggling with sleep, also a big thing, he had problems sleeping. He was taking some pain medication, but he, didn’t want to take too much of that.


So he was, very nervous, regarding this. So he had been around a few orthopedic surgeons, three I think. And two of them told him that they recommended him to have the surgery and one told him just to hold off. Then before that, he visited a bunch of these therapists and chiropractors and osteopaths, and everyone had their 2 cents about it.


So he came to me because my podcast was recommended by a friend. So we booked an appointment, he lives here in Stockholm, Sweden and he came up and we had a chat about it. So basically what he wanted me to answer, was he wants me to give him the pros and cons for, operation and what I thought.


So he told me his story and I told him, “Hey Tom, I can’t really make that decision for you. And that’s true for all of you guys. No one can make you have back surgery. But there is some, some indications that you should have surgery and some indications for not having surgery. And that’s what I’m going to go through.”


And that’s what I told Tom. S first off, some reasons to have surgery is – if you’ve been suffering from back pain, I mean really suffering for three to six months. And I mean, the pain is crippling. I mean you can’t sit, you have problem sitting, you have problem standing, you have problem walking around. Your sleep during the night is horrible. Okay. And this has been going on for many months. That is an indication that you should, you should absolutely like think about surgery at least.


Also, if the time aspect, I told you like three to six months and I mean that’s a long time. If you’ve been in pain, serious pain for three to six months, that will be affecting , your whole being. You get depressed, you get sad, you get sort of an anger inside of your body because you’re not sleeping and you’re just frustrated over the whole situation.


That’s also an indication that you might be thinking about surgery at least. And also the big thing is if you feel like this pressure on the nerve root that’s causing this radiation down, your leg is getting worse. I mean, you feel like the weakness in your legs getting worse. You feel the coordination meaning, you have problems. Like when you’re moving around, you’re not really trusting your leg is getting worse and you have these radiation feelings just increasing day by day.


That’s also an indication that you should really be thinking about like listen to the orthopedic surgeon at least. If you’ve been doing your exercises regularly, everyday, you know you’re going for your walks, you’re going, you’re standing up or work, you’re trying everything but nothing is working okay. And you’ve done that over a period of time, then you might be like leaning against the thought to get surgery.


Then there is absolutely some reasons not to get surgery. First off, I mean it’s, delicate part down here in the lower back. Okay. A lot of stuff, a lot of shit can go wrong. And I’m not saying that to scare you because that’s a fact. So I mean, when you visit your orthopedic surgeon, I mean most patients that visit them that they recommend you not to have surgery at all.


And that’s good advice. They don’t want to do something hastily. So that’s like the first tip, you know what I mean? I mean if,you, get like a acute herniated disk and that you are in a lot of pain, don’t do anything drastic. You need to let it go a period of time, maybe three to six months, try to, to walk, try to stand up, try to mix it around.


Try to change your lifestyle a bit, to have this naturally without getting your hair back cut open. Then there’s the reason enough to get a surgery is over the long haul. They’ve done a lot of studies. So like if you have surgery, if you have two people and one have surgery and they have the same condition and then one person doesn’t have any surgery and you have like your period of time, it’s between five to 10 years.


If you see it over the long, long term. There’s not any like big, big difference between the person that had surgery and the person that didn’t have surgery. But obviously there is, if you have surgery and most people have surgery because they’re in so much pain.


They can’t take the pain. So there’s good stuff and bad stuff to consider them. So I told Tom to be very concrete hair tall. First off, you’ve been in pain for three to six months.. And that’s, that’s quite a long time.. You’re telling me that, that you have problems with urination and, and go for a pee and poop basically you can’t hold it, then you need to go more often. You have like a scratching feeling inside of your thighs. You have weakness in your legs and that’s actually increasing.


And he confirmed that was correct. He had problems walking up and down stairs. He didn’t trust his leg. He sleep was horrible. I mean, he was sleeping like two or three hours every night and his mood was, was getting worse and it was definitely affecting me as at work because he can travel with his band or, or what he needed to do. So I definitely told him, you don’t, Hey Tom, you, you should, you should like I’m leaning towards obviously he’d been doing all of these exercises that he got from his different physios as well, so I told him, to go back to the orthopedic surgeons that recommended this surgery and you write all down the questions. You have all your affairs around the, operation.


And you should think about it seriously maybe to have the operation. And he was asking me, those questions? And I told him, “Hey, I’m not on that level. ”

That’s also something that you guys that are thinking concern, considering surgery and it should think about, don’t get the answers to your questions from a person like me. I’m not standing with the knife. So like a chiropractor, osteopath, physio, therapist, friends, families, fools, don’t listen to what they have to say – they can actually hurt you.


You need to ask those questions to the people, the man or woman that’s actually standing and giving you surgery. That’s very important. I hope that helps. I’ve rambled a bit, but this is a complex, problem that many people have especially back pain sufferers, so take care. I’ll talk to you tomorrow and guys, remember you’re just one step away from healing your back pain. Bye Bye.

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Robin BackPainExpert

Physiotherapists & Back Pain Expert

Twenty years ago I was lucky to survive a serious hockey injury. In a sport where big men zoomaround on hard ice and solid wood sticks are slung furiously, a difficult back injury is what every player fears.
It took a long time for me to climb back to a normal life. But when I did, I was determined to spend the rest of his life helping back pain victims everywhere.
As a physiotherapist and back pain expert I have treated thousands of patients over 20 years, built a respected back pain clinic, created the site BackPainSecrets.Com and authored the book “Back Pain Secrets.”
Learn more about me here.