In June of 2021, I was referred to Dr. Todd Weitzenberg, the head of the sports medicine department at Kaiser, Santa Rosa. This was after numerous physical therapy appointments, home exercise sessions and excruciating traction procedures failed to lessen my various pain symptoms. I requested a consultation with the best sports medicine doctor because I was a superbly conditioned athlete (even at 70) and I wanted nothing less than to have my athletic ability restored. I didn’t want a treatment that would take away the pain yet leave me with compromised mobility that constrained me to the couch.
Dr. Weitzenberg explored my options and recommend spinal decompression surgery. The more I learned about this surgery, the more reticent I became. It is highly invasive, operating on nerves, bone and muscle with a long recuperation period and a less than stellar success rate. Something going wrong could cripple me permanently or require follow-on surgeries to fix failures. Failures for this type of surgery are so prevalent that there is a syndrome, FBSS – Failed Back Surgery Syndrome recognized in medical literature.
The final nail in the coffin, so to speak, is that certain preconditions, such as a history of depression, disqualifies a patient from being a candidate for these surgeries.
So, after considerable research, I decided against back surgery. I will admit, I have vacillated on days of extreme pain, but the articles included below have reassured me that I made the right assessment.
email message from Ned
Sent: October 27, 2023
Subject: Validating my choice to decline back surgery
A doctor who I follow online just published two articles describing the poor outcomes of conventional medicine treatments for spinal pain.
Why Isn’t There a Safe and Effective Treatment for Neck or Back Pain?
- https://www.midwesterndoctor.com/p/why-isnt-there-a-safe-and-effective (part 1)
- https://www.midwesterndoctor.com/p/the-many-dangers-of-spinal-surgery (part 2)
I left this comment on his article:
Despite being in agonizing daily pain for four years now, I believe I made the prudent choice in declining “spinal decompression surgery.” After a sports injury, I shifted L4 twenty percent forward over L5. MRI shows “severe central canal stenosis,” “exuberant arthropathy” disc degeneration, bulge, facet arthropathy. I declined gabapentin (it made my mom bedridden for 3 months)
I use lots of CBD, and for several months, 2400mg ibuprofen daily, but now have dropped down to 400-800mg daily. After reading your article, I think I’ll drop that to zero. Also taking 4.5g turmeric supplement daily, and eat an anti-inflammatory diet recommend by an RDN. I alternate cold/hot packs for limited relief.
I have physical therapy exercises, yoga exercises, Pilates, walks in nature, acupuncture, Reiki, cupping, e-stim, full-spinal manipulation/adjustments, intense deep-tissue bodywork (90 minutes every week) and frequent SMR (Self Myofascial Relief) sessions. My life is dominated by pain-mitigating activities.
However, I have increased the time I can stand or sit without pain from about 15 seconds to about 10-15 minutes. It’s taken me 3 years to get this far, but I still believe I’m making better progress than had I opted for surgery.
November 6, 2023 update: I did drop my ibuprofen intake down to zero the day after I sent that email. Now it’s been about nine days, a bit bumpy with sharper pain perceptions but I seem to be managing well without it so far.