You never know what the long term effects of any invasive treatment will be. Whether it is taking a new drug or undergoing a new procedure, there is no guarantee that it will reduce pain. There is always new information coming out about the long term effects of some treatment or drug that was previously thought to be safe.
I have always felt that it is easier, and safer, to prevent low back pain than it is to get rid of it once it flairs up. There are many treatments for low back pain, but the effectiveness of these treatments can be spotty at best.
Low back surgery has a success (or failure rate, depending on your perspective) of 50%. There is a 50% chance of being no better off or worse off than before the surgery.
There is a diagnosis called “failed low back surgery syndrome”. This syndrome occurs when someone has the same, or more, back pain following a surgery than prior to it. Most of the drugs that are prescribed for low back pain won’t really address the cause of pain, just the symptoms. And these drugs will all have side effects, ranging from mild to severe.
A new study that was presented last week suggests that epidural shots increase the risk of spinal bone fractures, and researchers say patients with bone loss should be warned about this risk. This research was presented last week at the annual meeting of the North American Spine Society in Dallas.
This research was done at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. It examined 6,000 patients who were treated for low back pain between 2007 and 2010. Half of the patients were treated with at least one epidural shot and the other half never had the injection. Epidural shots are steroid shots injected straight into the spinal cord, which can relieve back pain. Bone fractures in the spine are most common with those who suffer from osteoporosis.
According to the American College of Rheumatology, 50% of women over the age of 50 will suffer from osteoporosis and 1 in 6 men will suffer from it as well.
Osteoporosis is a painless disease, causing the bones to become more fragile and less dense, and therefore more easily broken. The pain associated with osteoporosis only comes into play when there is a fracture.
“For a patient population already at risk for bone fractures, steroid injections carry a greater risk than previously thought,” said researcher Shalom Mandel, MD of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
It has long been accepted that corticosteroid shots will cause bone loss or further increase bone loss. They are injected into painful and arthritic joints throughout the body while the epidural shots are injected into the spine. Other steroid treatments such as oral and IV treatments, have also been linked to bone loss. It was thought that since the epidural shot was injected into a specific region of the spine that it would not affect bone loss.
The analysis proved that spinal fracture risk increased by 29% with each steroid shot. The researchers say that this does not prove cause and effect.
The lead researcher, Dr. Mandel, said that he will still refer patients out for epidural shots and has even had one personally. Other medical professionals have said that more research will be needed to prove these findings.
This has happened with many different medications and many different treatments. How many medications have been taken off the market because they cause worse side effects than previously thought?
Just because more research is needed to prove this initial finding, doesn’t mean this finding is without merit. I feel that we should save invasive procedures like epidural injections and corticosteroid shots and surgery as a last resort. You never know what the long term effects of any of these treatments will be.
Just last week an outbreak of fungal meningitis was linked to epidural steroid injections that has killed 24 people across the US. I have seen many people who have gotten infections in their spine from having an epidural injection. No procedure or medication is 100% safe, there are always risks involved.
There is an old joke that a minor procedure is a procedure done on someone else.
Much of back pain can be avoided by taking care of yourself. By doing the right exercises and eating healthy. This doesn’t mean joining an expensive gym and spending an hour a day 5 days a week there along with hours planning menus and preparing foods.
It is very possible to set up a workout routine that can be easily followed at home with only buying a few hand weights. The Pain Free Lifestyle program is setup to be followed at home. There are easy to incorporate exercises and eating choices that won’t drive you crazy or take up your entire life.
The trick is doing exercises that target the right muscle groups that will stabilize the areas that cause back pain. I have worked with back pain and the muscles that cause it for many years. I have set up exercises that are easy on the body and target the trouble spots that cause back pain.
Eating unhealthy foods can feed into the back pain cycle and can easily flair up any arthritic or muscular problem. Eating processed and bad for you foods will increase the chronic low grade inflammation that is present in so many people’s bodies. This low grade inflammation will make your problem areas painful and exacerbated. It is like throwing fuel on a fire. Bad nutrition won’t create a problem, but it will certainly make a problem worse.
The Pain Free Lifestyle program slowly incorporates eating healthy into your lifestyle. It slowly gets you to cut out those sweets and fried and processed foods in a way that you won’t miss them. And if you reach a point in the program where it’s getting too intense and you are having trouble following it, than stop at the level you are currently at. You can stop at any point in the program and just keep following the directions for that level. You will still be getting benefits, as long as you continue to with the program at any level. You don’t have to progress, but you have to keep following the program consistently. Consistency with eating and exercise is key.
Walking 20 minutes three times a week for the rest of your life is better than doing nothing. And eating fried foods or fast foods twice a week for the rest of your life is better than eating it four times a week for the rest of your life.
If you can eat healthier and get into even a mild exercise routine that you can follow consistently, you will be able to reduce pain and increase your activity levels. And you will be able to avoid any of those procedures and drugs with all their known and unknown side effects.
Preventing a problem and controlling a problem through exercise and eating right is great, and doing it in a way that is easy to incorporate into your lifestyle is the Pain Free Way.