My opinion on this matter, as a chiropractor, is clearly biased. It has been rare that a patient under our care has progressed to spinal surgery. Clearly it happens, but far more often we get patients who have had spinal surgery prior to coming into our office and likely could have avoided surgery.
The problem with spinal surgery is that it really is a crap shoot. Some do better. Some notice little change. Some do worse. And the ones who are worse after the surgery are much, much more difficult patients to manage. Problem: No one knows who is going to fall into what category. Sure–the surgeon may tell you they expect a good outcome, but these statistics frequently seem to be bloated.
This particular study gives a little bit more background on the outcomes after a lumbar decompression surgery for a disc herniation. Researchers looked at patients who underwent lumbar decompressive surgery at non-federal hospitals in the state of Washington from 1997-2007 that had to go through a second surgery.
The first surprising aspect is just how many patients had to have a second surgery within 4 years. The numbers ranged as high as 24% re-operation rates at some hospitals. Given that it probably wasn’t very fun the first time around, we can all guess the second time is not a party, either.
Now, to be fair, it is not uncommon for a patient to present to our office and be successfully treated for a lumbar disc herniation. Some of them (never figured out the percentage) even return for care within the next 4 years. But let’s compare both the costs and the impact of surgery on a patient’s life versus 2 episodes of chiropractic care. Funny how some insurance companies view chiropractic care as a “cost” at all, rather than the hundreds of millions of dollars we save the system.