I am constantly reviewing new research focused on solving chronic pain. As a result, we are able to provide more successful treatment for patients with chronic back, neck and joint pain than ever before. It is very unusual for a patient not to find relief if they come to our clinic.
Some of the things that have helped boost the success of our patients in their search for real relief without drugs or surgery are the result of recent developments in the research on what actually causes pain and how the problem can be successfully addressed.
Surprisingly, many of the commonly held beliefs among patients and medical professionals alike have been found to be inaccurate by new research findings. One of the most exciting results is that patients rarely need drugs, injections or surgery to address back or neck pain, pinched nerves or sciatica.
One of the most important discoveries in the past few years is the profound importance of the spinal disc in the discussion of back and neck pain. Recently at a national meeting of spine doctors I was attending the keynote speaker remarked, “All roads lead to the disc.” His comment was calling attention to the fact that it is critically important to consider the health of the spinal disc when trying to solve spinal problems.
One of the most frequently repeated comments in medical literature is “Spinal issues are notoriously difficult to treat.” I agree that traditional medical treatment is often not very effective in resolving spinal problems. In my experience, this is a direct result of trying to solve a physical and biomechanical problem with chemistry. It just doesn’t work.
Most spinal problems are related to actual physical damage, changes in the structures, or function of the mechanical parts of the spine. Yet, for some unfathomable reason, the patient complaining of back or neck pain, sciatica or a pinched nerve often receives only a prescription or an injection — a chemical answer for a physical problem. That brings up the question, “Which one of these pills or shots is going to un-pinch a pinched nerve?”
Certainly, powerful opioids, steroids and other drugs can sometimes relieve pain and reduce swelling, and can bring about temporary relief for all kinds of issues. But if that is the only answer provided, the underlying physical problem is ignored and allowed to progress to a more severe problem.
The subtle, ongoing progression and recurrence of back problems is the root of the most severe back pain and pinched nerves. In my clinic I often see severe disc problems that have been largely ignored for decades. The patient has experienced back pain or other related symptoms, succeeded in covering up the symptoms with drugs temporarily, then experienced recurring pain until at some point the pain becomes unbearable and will not respond to the drugs.
That is the point where the patient often comes to our office. After 30 years of success in treating moderate to severe spinal disc problems we tend to see more of these kinds of cases. The patient’s examination and imaging often reveal a badly damaged disc-joint complex that has been slowly, quietly getting worse for years. In a way this is like the patient going into the hospital with sudden severe chest pain and discovering they have undiagnosed heart disease that has been silently progressing for years, seemingly without symptoms until they are at risk of sudden death. Instead of a heart attack, disc patients experience a “back attack”. Like the heart patient, their condition has been getting worse with each episode of “temporary back pain”.
Research has shown that physical solutions work best for spinal problems in the early or late stages after it has become severe. Early on when a person is experiencing simple back pain, we can provide spinal manipulation along with treatments such as acupuncture to resolve the pain as well as improve function of the spinal joints and help the disc stay healthy.
If the patient comes to us after the problem has advanced to more severe stage involving disc bulging, protrusion or herniation, we can provide non-surgical spinal disc decompression to help the discs recover, become more hydrated, reduce pressure on the sensitive nerves and slow the progression. This can save patients from needing spinal surgery. New advanced drug-free pain treatment technology available in our office can reduce pain without drug side effects or risk of dependency while the disc is recovering and the patient is getting stronger and more active.
Research is shedding light on one of the most common problems seen in doctors’ offices; disc injury and damage that leads to back and neck pain and pinched nerves including sciatica. This research leads the way to better solutions that can save patients from unnecessary spinal surgery and the inherent risks of those procedures.
Dr. Mark Kestner is a licensed chiropractic physician in Murfreesboro. His office is at 1435 NW Broad St. Contact him at mkestner@DrKestner.com