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Aug 11 2017
Low Back Pain: Surgery vs. Chiropractic Care?

Low back pain is a common problem, and also the single leading cause of disability throughout the world. Over half of all working Americans admit to having symptoms of back pain each year. It is estimated that as much as 80% of the population will experience back problems at some point during their life. Thankfully, the majority of episodes back pain that people will experience resolve without treatment.

For those patients whose pain persists more than a few days, the decision as to where to seek help oftentimes becomes confusing. While there is overlap in the treatment methods used by different types of healthcare providers, their different focuses and skill sets can help to provide more comprehensive care for the back pain patient.
Doctors of chiropractic and orthopaedic spine surgeons are two groups of providers who spend a large percentage of their time treating back pain patients. Doctors of chiropractic employ spinal manipulation as a mainstay of their treatment protocols. Spinal manipulation has been shown to be a safe and effective of treatment for pain and, in many cases, is able to decrease the need for medications. Research has demonstrated that there is strong evidence for spinal manipulation for back pain provides just as effective relief as a combination of medical care and exercise. There is as well moderate evidence demonstrating that it is just as effective as prescription Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) combined with an exercise program.
Orthopaedic spine surgeons employ a variety of surgical techniques and their treatment of patients. While the vast majority of patients with back problems will never require a surgery, there is a small amount of patients for whom surgery is their best treatment option. Among these patients are those who experience intractable lower extremity pain, lower extremity weakness, persistent lower extremity numbness or tingling, bowel or bladder dysfunction due to nerve compression. Other patients that may ultimately benefit from surgery are those with spinal instability, tumors or infections, or those patients with spinal deformity such as scoliosis.
There is no single practitioner specialty that has a monopoly on effectively treating patients with back pain and spine problems. By combining the varied skills and knowledge sets of providers with different specialty training backgrounds, employing an integrated, comprehensive team approach is the most effective way to return back pain patients to an active lifestyle.

Thomas Sylvester, MD, is a board­-certified orthopaedic surgeon with HFM Lakeshore Orthopaedics. Dr. Sylvester completed a fellowship in cervical and lumbar spine surgery. He is a specialist in the surgical management of back and neck disorders. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Sylvester at Lakeshore Orthopaedics, call (920) 320-5241 or visit


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